Summary and structure

In this section, you can find the summary and structure of “No Witchcraft for Sale” by Doris Lessing.


When the Farquars have their first and only child, Teddy, their cook, a native man named Gideon, feels immediately fond of the little boy. When the boy is six years old, and a snake spits venom in his eyes, Gideon saves him from going blind by using some roots known only to the local native people.





The title of the story illustrates in an ironical way the main morale of the narrative. “No Witchcraft for Sale” refers to the African natives’ refusal to share with the white population their knowledge about the healing power of local herbs: “The magical drug would remain where it was, unknown and useless except for the tiny scattering of Africans who had the knowledge...” (p. 3, ll. 30-32)



The story begins with a lengthy exposition, introducing readers to the characters and the setting. We find out the story concerns the Farquars, their son Teddy, and their cook Gideon:



The rising action presents the interactions between Gideon and Teddy. A tension point is introduced when, to Gideon’s disappointment, Teddy is aggressive with an African child (Gideon's child):

‘Why did you frighten him?’ asked Gideon, gravely reproachful.
Teddy said defiantly: ‘He’s only a black boy,’ and laughed. Then, when Gideon turned away from him without speaking, his face fell. (p. 1, ll. 35-37)

The most important tension point in the story is introduced when a snake spits venom into Teddy’s eyes, potentially leaving him blind, and causing his mother to panic: “ ‘He’ll go blind,’ she sobbed, holding Teddy close against her. ‘Gideon, he’ll go blind!’” (p. 2, ll. 7-8)

Gideon’s actions prevent Teddy from going blind. The man saves Teddy by healing him with some local root plant. Soon, the word spreads in the local community about Teddy’s recovery until it reaches scientists in town who decide to send someone to visit the Farquars : “Anyway, one morning there arrived a strange car at the homestead, and out stepped one of the workers from the laboratory in town, with cases full of test tubes and chemicals.” (p. 3, ll . 1-2)



The ending of the story includes the falling action and the resolution. From the falling action we find out that the Farquars continue to make inquiries about the root plant among the native workers: “The Farquars made inquiries about the root from their laborers. Sometimes they were answered with distrustful stares.” (p. 4, ll. 27-28)


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