Topic: Post Colonial Analysis of “Country Lovers” Submitted by: Group 4, Department of English Language and Literature, Islamic International

University, Islamabad

Submitted on: May 10, 2012.

Nadine Gordimer is a South African writer, political activist and the receiver of Nobel Prize. Her works bring to light the themes of racism, oral issues and Apartheid in South Africa. She was a staunch proponent of the rights of the Blacks in South Africa. She was also an active participant in the anti apartheid movement. Gordimer questions the hegemony of the power controllers in most of her works. She greatly highlights the plight of the Blacks who are under the domination of the Colonizers. Nadine Gordimer also focuses on the repercussions and their horrible impact on the colonized land. “Country Lovers” is a story that deals with the theme of inter racial love or the forbidden love, racial biasedness, female exploitation etc… The characterization of Gordimer is remarkable. She vividly portrays all the characters with all their negative and positive aspects. We will examine the following post colonial elements in the story: representation, resistance, nationalism, problematics of language and gender studies. The story starts with a racist issue: the discrimination between the Blacks and the whites. Right at the inception of the story we find that the fine line is drawb between the two races. The story states that when the children are small then they are indifferent to the racial differences but as soon as they grow up, the sense of superiority creeps in to them and they stop playing with the Black children, “the farm children play together, when they are small; but once the white children go away to school they soon don’t play together anymore” This also gives insight in to the fact that the problem lies with the schooling system. It is possible that the school induces in them the fake concept of social hierarchy, in which they are at the top of the hierarchy. It also throws light on the fact that the Blacks and the Whites had separate schools. Gordimer here is referring to the law of Apartheid, in which the racial segregation was made legal. This legislation legalized the white supremacy over the non white. The blacks and the Whites had separate schools. The schools of the Blacks provided low standard education. Their children’s vocabulary was “childish”. In contrast the vocabulary of the Whites was superfluous. They had ample knowledge about different subjects, which was incomparable to that of the Blacks, “there comes a time when the

white children have surpassed these with the vocabulary of boarding school.” This statement throws light on the difference between the education of the Blacks and the Whites and it’s consequences of this discrimination are also made apparent here. The major cause of the discrimination is the difference in the color of the two people. The colonizers are white and the colonized are the Black in color. The discrimination, on the basis of complexion, is further highlighted when the author refers again and again to the color of the people. The author refers to Thebedi, most of the times, as ‘the black girl’. The darker aspect of Thebedi is once again highlighted , when Paulus commented on Thebedi and said, “her dark face”, “her big dark eyes” etc… Paulus also pointed her blackness when he made the comparison between her dark body and the clear transparent water dripping from it, “the drops of water beading off her dark legs the only points of light in the earth smelling- deep shade.” We observe that in marked contrast the farmer’s son is often times referred to as, “the White young man.” So this difference in skin color creates a dichotomy which is the root cause of the issue of racism. The social standing of the Blacks and the Whites also creates a sharp difference among the two races. A fine boundary line is there between the two races. The Blacks were mostly poor. They were laborers on the big farm houses of the White people. When the rich were involved in merry making then the poor were also devoid of the bare necessities of life. Paulus used to give gifts to Thebedi and Njabulo, who was a poor boy, yearned for money so that he could also give gifts to Thebedi, “There was a boy in the kraal called Njabulo who said he wished he could have bought her a belt and ear-rings.” Thebedi’s poverty is evident from the fact that she used to wear the old clothes of Paulus’ sisters, as the narrator says that, “she was recognizable in his sisters’ old clothes.” Moreover the poor Blacks used to live in huts while the White people lived in grand farm houses. This is evident when Gordimer refers to the occasions on which Thebedi and Paulus met. After the meeting, “each returned home… she to her mother’s hut, he to the farm house.” Njabulo is also a representative of the lower strata of the society. He was so much poor that he was even unable to pay the bride price, in the form of cows, “he had no cows

to offer, he was a laborer on the Eysendyck farm, like her father.” Njabulo was taught brick laying by a white man ,so he used to do this work to earn some living, “old Eysendyck had taught him brick-laying and was using him for odd jobs in construction, around the place.” The affluence of Paulus on the other hand was remarkable and incomparable. He used to live in a big farm house where all the luxuries of life were available. His father was a rich farmer and so were the fathers of Paulus’ friends, “these girls who were the daughters of prosperous farmers like his father.” The settings and decoration of the farm house of Paulus also indicates that they were rich, “the kitchen was its lively thoroughfare, with servants, food supplies.” In short there was an unbridgeable gap between the two classes. The story, Country Lovers, revolves around the story of a white boy and a black girl, who belonged to two different races, who fell in love with each other. So the basic theme of the story comes out to be inter racial love, which was considered to be a social taboo and was totally unacceptable in the society. The love started from the friendship of childhood, when like other children, they used to play together. The friendship grew stronger and the two gave gifts to each other. Paulus gave to Thebedi a painted wooden box, a plastic belt and earrings. Thebedi gave him a bracelet that she had made by herself. However both of them lied that who gave them the gifts. Paulus used to tell that the natives on the farm made him the bracelet and Thebedi used to tall her father that the missus had given those things to her in reward of something she had done. they lied so that nobody could discover their relationship. In the summer holidays they used to meet by the river bank. The meeting was never arranged as the narrator says, “they had not arranged this; it was an urge each followed independently.” Paulus used to tell her stories of the town and his school and she used to listen carefully and came up with various questions like a “good listener.” Then their friendship changed in to a sexual relation and this incident brought about the end of their relation. Paulus’ attitude changed towards Thebedi, “he did not tell her about school or town anymore, she did not ask questions any longer.” Now they only fixed the time of their next meeting. When Paulus used to be alone at the farm house then they used to stay

together. In the morning Thebedi used to go to her own hut before dawn so that the servants might not discover their relation. Paulus went to veterinary college for higher education. In the mean while Thebedi got married to Njabulo. After two months Thebedi gave birth to the daughter of Paulus. Paulus became too much angry on hearing this which is evident from his statement, “I feel like killing myself.” He murdered the baby. The baby was dug up by the police, soon after her burial, to investigate the cause of death. Paulus lied in front of the whole court that he had not murdered the baby therefore, he was declared, “not guilty” by the law. This shows the biased ness of the law towards the black people. Being a post colonial story, resistance is there in it. Some of the instances of resistance are: firstly, we observe that Thebedi resisted the argument of Paulus and told the truth. she “cried hysterically in the witness box, saying yes, yes, she saw the accused pouring liquid into the baby’s mouth. She said he had threatened to shoot her if she told anyone.” However this resistance diminished with the passage of time. Manichean Allegory is also there in the story. Paulus was white but he was actually an embodiment of evil. He appeared to be sophisticated and a fine man but he murdered the baby. He also lied in the court that, “he had visited the hut but had not poisoned the child.” Here Gordimer has inverted the stereotypes of Orientalism. Orientals are of the view that the Orient is savage. However, here the oriental is presented as a savage being. on the other hand, Njabulo and Thebedi are black yet they are full of good qualities. Thebedi forgave Paulus for murdering her daughter and declared in the court that, “She had not seen what the white man did in the house.” Njabulo accepted the child of Thebedi even after knowing that it belonged to Paulus and it was the result of a relation that was socially illicit. The judge also praised his greatness, as the author says, “the judge commended the honorable behavior of the husband who had not rejected his wife and had even provided clothes for the unfortunate infant out of his slender means,” Njabulo was also so kind and loving towards Thebedi when her baby died. “ he comforted her with words and caresses,” thus we observe that Njabulo was black yet he was a good and a kind man.

Resistance is also seen when the author once again inverts the stereotypes and presents the orient as modest and the oriental as erotic. This is evident from the following lines. Thebedi was dressed modestly, “she waded in as they used to do when they were children, her dress bunched modestly and tucked into the legs of her pants.” While the white women were immodest, “The schoolgirls he went swimming with at dams or pools on neighbouring farms wore bikinis but the sight of their dazzling bellies and thighs in the sunlight had never made him feel what he felt now.” The problematics of language also come in resistance. The author has rejected the British based Standard English. He has made appropriations. E.g sometimes she uses too long sentences which are difficult to understand and memorize, “when he was fifteen, six feet tall… the black girl, Thebedi.” This sentence is more than eight typed lines. She has also used some native words to emphasize the importance of the native language and culture, e.g, “bkmdc who put upliei long hail iatu a’kin’.” At some places she has also used punctuation marks extensively and at some places she has not used them which makes the sentence difficult to understand. Nationalism is also there in the story which portrayed through the culture and customs of the Black people. Two customs of the black race are mentioned in the story. One is the fixing of bride price in the form of cows, at the time of marriage. The second one is the custom that, “among her people it is customary for a young man to make sure, before marriage, that the chosen girl is not barren.” The custom of the Blacks that the young people, especially women, used to work in the fields while the old people stayed behind in the homes, is also mentioned by the author, “The women were away on the lands, weeding, as they were employed to do as casual labour in summer; only the very old remained, propped up the ground outside the huts in the flies arid the sun.” The imagery of the land or the specific plants is also related to nationalism. Gordimer uses the imagery of plants that are specifically located in South Africa e.g. Cactus, white stinkwood, cape willow trees etc..

The story is a Gyno text. Firstly, because it is written by a female writer, Nadine Gordimer. Secondly, because the story centers round the character of a female and highlights the female suppression and exploitation. Gender studies of the text shows that Thebedi was a passive, submissive and a modest girl, as compared to the females of the west. She was also kind towards Paulus. Double colonization is seen in the story as, Thebedi was not only suppressed and compelled to follow the colonizers but she was also dominated by the male members of the society. She feared her father on having relation with a white man. That’s she frequently lied. She was also afraid of the society because of the same thing. This shows that she was suppressed by her family as well as the society. Paulus also dictated her by saying, about the baby, that, “don’t take it out, stay inside, cant you take it away somewhere. You must give it to someone.”

In a nutshell, we see that Nadine Gordimer has highlighted the social realities of South Africa in her story as Magarey says that, “ this writer is considered by many as interpreter of South African reality, and many read her fiction primarily for, its vivid record of life in a controversial country.”


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