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White Women In South Africa: An Inferior Gender Within a Superior Race
Tamar M. Copeland
Carnegie Mellon University

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Copeland, Tamar M., "White Women In South Africa: An Inferior Gender Within a Superior Race" (1989). Dietrich College Honors Theses. Paper 48.

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White Women In South Africa: Inferior Gender Within a Superior Race

by Tamar M. Copeland Department of Carnegie Mellon History University

Table of Contents
Introduction The W o r k s of Olive Schreiner The Works of Nadine Gordimer An Inferior Gender: Consciousness of Colonial and Present-day White South African W o m e n A Superior Race: The Image of the African in the Novels of Olive Schreiner and Nadine Gordimer Conclusion Bibliography 1 5 32


63 71 76

Because of the social and cultural situation in South Africa, white South African w o m e n have had a unique experience in their struggle to c o m e to terms with their image of self a n d their options in life. T h e country's continuing history of social and

political repression has served to impede the d e v e l o p m e n t of not only black South Africans, but members of the white c o m m u n i t y as well. White w o m e n , living during the colonial period as well

as under present-day apartheid, have persistently tried and inevitably failed to create a meaningful definition of self. South

African society's ideologies on race and gender have continually inhibited these w o m e n from achieving a higher level of consciousness. Thus, the absence of a strong, positive image of

self affirms for these w o m e n that they have been and still are inescapably an inferior gender within a superior race. This study explores the mentality of Victorian a n d twentiethcentury white South African w o m e n in a broader attempt to reveal the role self-perception plays in understanding the past and creating the future of a society with such a flawed social order. The sources cited here do not reflect those commonly

found in a historical essay, for an accurate description of consciousness observers. must c o m e from actual participants, not just

Rather, the information chosen c o m e s primarily from

novels written by two white w o m e n w h o have lived in South


South Africa. in 1883 under the pseudonym Ralph Iron. Although unfashionable at the time. collective consciousness of such w o m e n . Schreiner a d v o c a t e d political and economical equality for all people in South Africa and died in South Africa in 1920 a devout feminist. she began writing novels at the age of twenty-one. The Story of an The book African Farm. 1 Carol B a r a s h . p p .Africa. 1987). emotional a n d intellectual resources. also brought her praise from a receptive public. Introduction to An Olive Schreiner Reader. Out of frustration a n d loneliness in an unhappy family life. In 1855 in Cape Colony. share their search for a higher level of consciousness and the experience of discovering their spiritual. She published her first novel. Olive Emilie Albertina Schreiner w a s born the ninth of Rebecca Lyndall and Gottlob Schreiner's twelve children. She also explored the status of w o m e n in her society through a series of political a n d philosophical essays. Through these novels the w o m e n of South Africa. (London. The fictional offer c h a r a c t e r s that t h e s e two writers so sensitively c r e a t e special insight into the psychological process of the unique. In the late 1880's and 1890's Schreiner wrote many short. both past and present. Her other two novels. Olive Schreiner and Nadine Gordimer. allegorical pieces which she published in periodicals. received international acclaim and prompted her to continue writing. Undine and From Man to Man (Or Perhaps Only). 1-20 2 .

1986). Lifetimes Under Apartheid. A d e m . July's Only) obviously provide Of her nine published People. Gordimer has written reviews on various publications of the late author's biography. the similarities between these w o m e n enforce the idea that the 2 N a d i n e Gordimer a n d David Rosenblatt. and the As one of Olive Schreiner's most avid readers and fans. over the years her books have been Gordimer has received periodically banned in South Africa. Schreiner's only three novels. Nadine Gordimer presently lives in South Africa and continues to write.Born in 1923 and also raised in South Africa. 2 A l t h o u g h written in different centuries. 3 . Nadine G o r d i m e r has spent much of her artistic life exploring the effects of apartheid-a system she abhors. She published her Days. novels do differ in relation to their respective time periods. The Story of an African Farm. novels. the novels of Olive Schreiner and Nadine Gordimer clearly d o c u m e n t the selfexploration of consciousness of white South African w o m e n . The Late Bourgeois World and Burger's Daughter represent a good mix of the range of characters The female characters in these Yet. The Lying since. in 1953 and has been writing ever Often controversial. ( N e w York. Gordimer so brilliantly creates. Undine and From Man to Man (Or Perhaps the best sources for this investigation. various literary prizes for her novels and short stories a m o n g them the J a m e s Tait Black Prize for A Guest of Honour Booker Prize in England for The Conservationist. first novel.

difference of a century has not eased the struggle of white South African w o m e n to c o m e to terms with their image of self or their options in life. 4 .

I said I had come to arraign my brother.The Works of Olive Schreiner / / thought I stood in Heaven before God's throne. Schreiner's c h a r a c t e r s feel dissatisfied with these alternatives and embark on an exploration of self. My hands are pure. p. His hands are red with blood. and given unto me. and thrust her out into to the streets. d e p e n d e n c y and inferiority inevitably meet the s a m e e n d . Reader. Man. 'He has taken my sister. Schreiner's characters in experience the conflicts of expressing individuality as w o m e n a nineteenth century society fully dominated by men. have few options in life. I am here to arraign him.'What has he done?' I said. and wounded her. Her w o m e n They can pursue marriage and motherhood or they can lead a disreputable life as a mistress or prostitute. because he is not worthy. Woman. she lies there prostrate. and God asked me what I had come for. self-awareness The results of their struggle for their and fulfillment leads these w o m e n to 3 O l i v e Schreiner. Through their search. confusion. and has stricken her. Most often. 3 The works of Olive Schreiner reveal the intense psychological process of a Victorian w o m a n ' s fight to discover and implement her full potential as a human being. that thy kingdom be taken away from him. God said. all of Schreiner's w o m e n encounter and feelings of isolation. 150 5 .

the young girl finds that the men in her life strongly support the idea of a w o m e n needing a man to serve and to obey. in finding him. A n d . stories with her characters as children and meticulously their psychological journeys through life until they reach ultimate e n d . The w o m e n considers the search for a man as her purpose in life and. In realizing the subordinate status of w o m e n in her society. but on finding a man to provide for her w h o she will in turn serve. At s o m e point in their early lives. but more often they die a psychological one. model or mother figure focuses her attention not on or spiritual enlightenment. Schreiner's w o m e n experience the first stage r e a l i z a t i o n at a very young age. in their search w h i c h manifests itself in five distinct They begin with r e a l i z a t i o n . In some instances her characters die a physical death. Schreiner's w o m e n undergo a unique and fascinating exploration of consciousness. she also finds her meaning. In seeking a male perspective. her characters acknowledge their status as a subordinate female in a male d o m i n a t e d society. in her awareness of her own 6 . All of Schreiner's w o m e n follow a similar c o u r s e stages. The young girl carefully observes the T h e role intellectual life ambitions of the female parental figure in her life. Her characters experience a series She begins her traces their of phases in their struggle for self-actualization. and then move through e x p l o r a t i o n b a t t l e . the girl perceives herself as an inferior being. r e s i g n a t i o n and finally end in d e a t h .death.

Yet. failing or unwilling to find their purpose a n d meaning in life through their male counterparts. she needs the acceptance of the male figure to continue her search. T h e s e w o m e n . In doing so. She either accepts her position in life and pursues the same path as that of her female parental figure or she rejects this imposed ideal and moves on to the next psychological phase. These negative reactions initiate the third stage b a t t l e usurps much of the character's newly revealed strengths. the young w o m e n leave the farms on which they grew up in the hope of further developing their newly found individuality. turn inward to continue their search. Unwilling to resign herself to live as an inferior and subordinate being. because of the which life options d e n i e d to the w o m a n and the repressive conditioning she received during childhood. conflicts e m e r g e with the male characters in the novels w h o can not and will not accept the w o m a n ' s struggle to achieve a new image of self. the girl makes one of two choices. Unable to gain approval from her male counterpart.inferiority. Feeling confined and stagnated by those at home. interests and strengths. the w o m a n fights every obstacle that inhibits her from achieving her desired level of consciousness. The second stage e x p l o r a t i o n usually lasts the greater part of the character's life. When Schreiner's w o m e n take their search away from the boundaries of the small w o r l d of the f a r m . they begin to discover repressed talents. the w o m a n internalizes the battle w h i c h 7 .

So. she can not win the fight to define herself.provokes her to question her motivation and which results in intense feelings of confusion and self doubt. the w o m a n withdraws from the rest of society into a In order to world w h e r e purpose a n d fulfillment need not exist.she gives up.. she brings 8 . She must resign herself to live the life she had fought She now knows she can not free herself of her Thus. release herself from constant pain and inner torment. Shortly afterwards. the fifth and final stage death occurs. The inner torment experienced by the w o m a n leaves her physically a n d emotionally exhausted. Lacking the means with which to acquire the necessary outlets for such self-expression and refused the help of those w h o have t h e m . They refuse to acknowledge their subordinate position by shutting out those that have denied t h e m their right to discover a unique and meaningful image of self. The fourth stage r e s i g n a t i o n occurs when the w o m a n can no longer struggle with the external and internal forces that prevent her from attaining her desired level of consciousness. dependency on her male counterpart. she ends the so hard to escape. She understands that in order to reach her full potential she must be allowed to implement her skills and strengths a n d share her inner knowledge. they do not accept the definition society has imposed. Although Schreiner's characters finally understand they can not escape their role in life as inferior humans. c o n f r o n t a t i o n .

offers to share it with Lyndall w h o has no legal claim. w h o will discuss their respective futures as g r o w n . Lyndall refuses the offeft for she believes that "[t]here is nothing helps in this world but to be very wise. the eldest of the two girls. but Em never experiences the struggle to achieve a higher level of consciousness. 13 9 . The Story of an African Farm. Seeking relief from the heat. In her first published novel. The girls begin to E m .u p s . as both were orphaned at a very young age. The story primarily focuses around Lyndall. Olive Schreiner takes the protagonist through such a psychological process. The novel traces the lives of two cousins of South Africa in the late growing up on the wide sandy Karroo 1800's. A n d for these w o m e n . and to know everything-to be c l e v e r . death of the body or the mind represents the ultimate f o r m of isolationthe only escape. " 4 Em verbally agrees this would be very nice but to her "it seemed a d r e a m of 4 O l i v e Schreiner. The Story of an African Farm.about her own self-immolation. T h e girls are raised as sisters by their Boer aunt Tant' Sannie. Our introduction to the young girls takes place late in the afternoon on a hot South African summer day. eventually inherit her father's f a r m . Schreiner follows the younger cousin through life as well. (Chicago. 1883) p. the cousins sit under a shelving rock on the side of the kopje furthest from the homestead.

" 5 And throughout the novel w e find Lyndall in pursuit of this d r e a m and Em content not to have one. Lyndall leaves the farm and Em to attend school at the age of seventeen and embark on an exploration of self. Em continues her usual life on the f a r m . the son of the German overseer of the farm. One night in bed after being punished by T a n f Sannie for her freshness. the younger girl never develops a desire 6 7 l b i d . may remain trapped in the role society has defined for her. p.quite too transcendent a glory ever to be r e a l i z e d . Lyndall makes the realization that she. Lyndall develops a close relationship with Waldo. T a n f Sannie laughs at the girl and says "[sjhe'll be a nice mouthful to the man that can get h e r . Farm . 67 10 . 5 Interestingly. Farm. Lyndall makes a promise to herself: "When that day comes. days. T a n f Sannie feels so desperate and unhappy without a man. In her quest for knowledge. p. Lyndall and Waldo talk for hours during the long summer She speaks to Waldo of her dismay at her aunt's She can not understand w h y When persistence at finding a husband. " 6 Through these discussions and observations. I will hate everything that has power a n d help everything that is weak. p p . 93 S c h r e i n e r . Lyndall confronts her aunt on the subject. 11-18 S c h r e i n e r . During LyndalPs stay at school. and I a m strong. as a female. ." 7 In her unwillingness to accept her inferior position as a subordinate w o m e n .

Farm . she verbally returns his love and agrees to the marriage. 167 11 . Without undergoing the full process of self-discovery. Thank you I* 8 S c h r e i n e r . to the farm as a hired hand. undiscovered spiritual a n d intellectual resources do constitute nonexistent ones. resignation represents a psychological death for E m . Gregory Rose. Eventually. p. some coffee!" and she would give him some. he would look about and say "Where is my wife? Has no one seen my wife? Wife. Instead of experiencing a discontent with her lack of options in life. Frightened by his aggressiveness and her own feelings of attraction. Em still reaches the final inevitable stage: Every day when Gregory came home. 7 am so glad! I do not know what I have done to be so glad. Em begins to see her desire to marry become a achieve a stronger image of self as does her cousin. Em hesitates in accepting Gregory's proposal. an Englishman. she surpasses the earlier stages in the process and moves directly to resignation. God!" she said. With Lyndall still away at school. "Oh. her For not arid then a mother for she knows nothing else. tired from his work. Em's little face grew very grave at last and she knelt up and extended her hands over the drawer of linen. She does not question her destiny to become a wife Yet. comes Within months of their meeting. Gregory writes home to his sister proclaiming his love for E m .

With her grateful thanks. Farm. 9 W a l d o d i s a g r e e s with this philosophy claiming that s o m e have power and the means with which to use it. 174-175 12 . Shortly after the marriage. She feels all w o m e n are cursed. Through her education. and women Lyndall concedes of in doing so enters the third p h a s e During her visit home. She has found significance a n d meaning not by discovering her own inner resources. She explains her philosophy of life to a puzzled and bemused Waldo: We all enter the world little plastic [sic?] beings. with so much natural force perhaps. Out of her confusion in her ambivalent feelings of hating those with power yet longing to 9 S c h r e i n e r . but for the rest-blank.. And so the world makes men and women. Gregory begins to develop more than brotherly affection for Lyndall. Lyndall returns h o m e to the f a r m . and the world tells us what we are to be and shapes us by the end it sets before us. has affirmed her o w n psychological d e m i s e .Em has accepted a life in which her very existence revolves around another being's needs and demands. p p . to this o b s e r v a t i o n battle. To you it says-Work! to us it says-Seem!. Lyndall's discoveries have made her bitter about her predicament in life. Lyndall has provided herself with an a d d e d option in life which has broadened her exploration of self. desires A n d she feels glad to have found some kind of purpose in life. Em. but by serving the spiritual and intellectual of another..

" 11 But she does care for him and. having power. 230 1 1 3 . Farm. p. During Lyndall's last stages of battle. with each act of cruelty a n d rejection. she accepts school and he had fallen in love with her. " 10 She wields this power to tease and torment Gregory w h o . Unable to win the desirable response from Lyndall and pained at hurting Em. Farm. but with less fervor and need. through the men w h o s e passions they feed on and by w h o m they c l i m b . covertly. 179 Schreiner. explaining: "You call into activity one part of my nature. the only method she has to use them like all w o m e n "who. a n d by stealth.use her o w n strengths. there is a higher part you never t o u c h . affections. Gregory leaves the farm with no definite plans of returning. but being denied the right to exercise it openly. she receives a male visitor from her past. accepts his proposal and leaves the farm to be married. she can not blame Lyndall for her destiny either. Lyndall once again refuses. ask her one last time to marry him. p. rule in the dark. in sensing his pain. the loss of Gregory with hurt but not hate. Lyndall has fully c o m e to terms She understands with the potency of her abilities as a w o m a n . ° S c h r e i n e r . As Em can not blame herself for who and what she has become. falls deeper in love. Lyndall acknowledges Gregory's emotions in a controlling and cruel g a m e . She had met the man during her stay at Lyndall returned his The man had c o m e to Thus.

she has not yet reached her state of resignation. And she resigns 14 . Her newly found power and selfShe begins to reevaluate her Without her male counterparts. The baby died only two hours W e a k a n d sick from the birth. She finally understands and. love a n d life. refuses to let him touch her and eventually rejects the man and the marriage. Lyndall can not affirm her self-conception and realizes her unrelenting need to identify herself through those f r o m w h o m she had fought so long to escape . arrival she gives birth to the child. understanding s e e m useless now. had lost those w h o made the purpose seem real. She believes she will achieve an even higher level of consciousness by leaving the farm and exploring previously unknown areas of South Africa.Although Lyndall has taken the most acceptable option for a w o m e n in nineteenth-century South Africa. she leaves her Eight days after her husband and travels to another village. Still pregnant. Lyndall discovers her The prospect of having a child and being responsible She quarrels pregnancy. self-worth a n d her individuality. her meaning in life just w h e n she thought she had found it. at She had lost She the s a m e time. Without the man or Gregory in her life and even the death of the child that frightened her so. However. during their journey. with her husband. detests herself for her dependency. Lyndall begins the fourth phase of her psychological process. later. for another h u m a n being frightens Lyndall terribly. Lyndall experiences a great sense of loss and solitude.

death. and her power is then most irresistible w h e n it seems g o i n g .. Upon discovering her absence he tells Em he can not stay there and that she may dispose of his belongings as she sees fit. wonders: A n d w h e n Lyndall finally dies Gregory ironically Had she found what she sought forsomething to worship? Had she ceased from being? Who shall tell us? There is a veil of terrible mist over the face of the Hereafter. He then Afraid she will refuse to see him. Farm. Sick from refusing to eat. 3 15 . 233 p. " 1 2 Lyndall stays in the hotel in which she gave birth to her child. Lyndall drifts in and out of She never notices the tall figure in w o m e n ' s consciousness. 285 also trace the lives of young w o m e n Schreiner.. S c h r e i n e r . clothing w h o stands watching her at all hours from the corner of the dark room.herself to this for "the beautiful w o m e n finds her fullness of bloom only w h e n a past has written itself on her. Olive Schreiner's first written novel Undine and her last and unfinished work From Man to Man (Or Perhaps 2 Only) p. 13 A n d Lyndall has discovered inescapable isolation. he disguises himself as a w o m a n and arrives at her hotel. Gregory returns to the farm expecting to find her there. The Lyndall he finds holds little She is half starved and near resemblance to the one he left. Published after her death.Farm. decides to look for Lyndall and spends months doing so.

. wicked a n d go to hell than be good only because I w a s afraid of going t h e r e . in life. and every man's against hers. love and sympathy would be denied her. Although their stories vary Schreiner's according to their individual c i r c u m s t a n c e s . A n d all meet a similar e n d . Undine directs books her enthusiasm towards reading fairy tales and philosophy she steals from her father's library. " 1 4 Much to the astonishment of her family and teachers. 1928) p. Because of her curiosity and outspoken nature. The protagonists in these two novels follow the s a m e kind of psychological progression as Lyndall in The Story of an African Farm. wherever she might go... They continually try to make her realize that unless she c h a n g e s her ways: wherever she might go her hand should be against every man's. T h e story of Undine begins with the young girl trying to reconcile her evil thoughts about God and her rejection of religion.. 18 16 . her tutors call her stupid and her family tells her she grows more vile and ungodly everyday. all of women must confront repressive Victorian ideals in their None a c h i e v e their ultimate goal struggle for self-fulfillment. she 4 O l i v e Schreiner.desperately searching for self-expression and self-actualization in colonial South Africa. Undine perceives G o d as cruel for he instills the fear of She feels she "would much sooner be hell in his believers. Instead of religion. Undine. (New York a n d London. Undine pities the devil for she believes that G o d destined him to a life of evil.

would have misunderstood to walk on right on to the alone. end. p. they are horrible and disgusting. Undine leaves the farm in the early stages of e x p l o r a t i o n to study in England and live with her cousin Frank's family. 1 7 Yet. She hates herself for Yet. 69 Adem. but not of the kind that her family had hoped f o r . S c h r e i n e r . alone 15 unloved. Undine refuses to give up She decides to take the only option offered to her 1 5 l b i d . feels she has been denied the right to develop her own beliefs and convictions and this has left her void of the knowledge she needs to achieve a higher level of consciousness. Undine finds no new options in this new country so she turns her self-hatred towards all w o m e n for the legacy they have left her. Undine internalizes her family's description of her and begins to feel as sinful as the image she projects. and I wish I had never been born rather than to be o n e .. Through conversations about her wicked thoughts with her young cousin Frank who refers to her as the "little w o m e n " . " her struggle. I hate w o m e n . 1 7 17 . she realizes that her ungodly She notions c o m e not from inherent evil.. Undine. Through her struggle to find a satisfactory image of self. 1 6 She perceives herself as others see her. 49 16 S c h r e i n e r . p. Undine begins to discover that the life role's imposed on w o m e n in South Africa exist in England as well. "[I] wish I was not a w o m a n . her w i c k e d disposition. Undine does make a r e a l i z a t i o n . but from ignorance. . Undine.

her child. Undine cares for her baby out of a sense of responsibility not of love. But. Undine undergoes this experience while still in the exploration stage. she finds work in 8 S c h r e i n e r . unhappily. Shortly after the death of While Undine feels relieved of an unhappy marriage. and lead a free rough life in bondage to no man?-forget the old lives and longings? live and and enjoy and learn as much as may before the silence comes? 18 Undine ends her journey in a suburb outside Kimberly. society in the hope it will aid her in her search. Like Lyndall. Undine leaves England and returns to South Africa to begin her b a t t l e . true life. her husband too passes. Undine. she can rebel against the ones that society has imposed on her. Without notice to her relatives. as a man may?-wander the green world over by the help of hands and feet. Instead she decides Undine chooses not to return to her family. unlike the other w o m a n . Undine directs her b a t t l e more towards society than any one particular person. Upon arriving in South Africa. gives birth to a child w h o dies soon after. and enjoy a wild. the loss of the child and the man triggers something in her psyche and initiates the next phase. 245 18 . Undine marries the father of the man who betrayed her a n d . Although she now knows she can not force the world to accept her ideas. Determined to survive and defy any restraints. to travel by ox w a g o n to the Diamond Fields in Kimberly thinking: Why should a woman not break through conventional restraints that enervate her mind and dwarf her body. free.

The man appreciates Undine's care and nurturing but. In her final stages of b a t t l e . Yet. no joy in her hard labor and impoverished life. she can not extract any happiness from her present state in life: "she had allowed her pride to keep her from her o w n class. Once again she finds work this time sewing children's Hungry and weak. She had fought every obstacle that stood in her way to becoming an individual. Undine nurses a sick Englishman back to health and eventually falls in love with him. 296 19 .a whole person w h o s e purpose and meaning had finally emerged from her own definition.a poor section of town ironing gentlemen's pocket and nightshirts. Undine. Undine's struggle has not brought her self-fulfillment. from the w h i t e . In her persistence. she works long garments for a wealthy w o m a n . One morning. S h e finds Although she finally has her freedom. p. Undine awakens to find her possessions and what little money she had gone. " 1 9 She feels confused by this awareness which only induces more misery.h a n d e d . already e n g a g e d to 9 S c h r e i n e r . Undine manages to save enough money to purchase an iron and board so she can independently earn her living. silver-voiced people of refinement and polish-that w a s the only reason she had fared so i l l . into the night only to have the w o m a n reject the product upon its completion. handkerchiefs She works hard and diligently through the long hot nights until utter exhaustion forces her to drop to the dirt floor of the tent she now calls home.

20 . a w o m a n w h o s e livelihood d e p e n d s solely on the existence of men. he returns to England upon regaining his married. not live with the image she sees. She understands his She too felt the same Shortly after his departure. In the stage of r e s i g n a t i o n . reflects that of servitude. She decides she can no longer fight these restraints for she realizes that she gave in to them years before. So. Undine finally accepts the liferole society defined for her as a w o m a n long ago. man she had loved long ago. And. Undine accepts his decision. Undine had struggled relentlessly to m a k e a full life for herself. Undine discovers he w o r k s for the The next time she sees the servant The overwhelming loss he informs her that his master has died. a well speaking English servant comes to pick up the ironing for his sick master. of the only two men she has ever loved forces Undine to make a final decision in life and in doing so she enters the next phase. But she now understands that very essence of her existence depends on the traits she so detests. she resigns herself to die with it. passion and inner longing for this w o m e n . After such a long and fierce battle. for the man w h o betrayed her long ago. a w o m a n can not escape the She can confines of the inferior status of all those of her kind. one free of inferiority. she has nothing but She sees a w o m a n w h o s e only skill her iron and her board. Although heartbroken and ill herself from the added w o r k of caring for him. subordination and dependency.

Free from pain.. what she had sighed for in days of emptiness-it had come at last. the fever. Rebekah refuses claiming she does not like the 21 . when her father asks her to screams of her mother. Undine retires to her b e d . Death-only that. Schreiner has both w o m e n experience the full process of self-discovery without s u r p a s s i n g The novel begins with a prelude entitled any psychological of the five stages. she lay there.A s the shortest phase in Undine's process. she hears the agonized Rebekah runs to the house to discover But. The Child's Day which had been published independently from the rest stories of the text in various collections of Schreiner's short a f t e r her d e a t h . A n d at last. What did this mean this strange feeling?. From Man to Man (Or Perhaps Only). what she had looked for in the muddy pool. During her play time. calm and clear as she had never felt before. Rebekah. however. once again tells the story of two sisters African growing up on a farm in colonial South Africa.. as a child of five. the dull confusion of brain. Until late one night: The racking pain. yet cold. she has a newly born sister. Unlike Farm. kiss the baby. O l i v e Schreiner's last and unfinished novel. so had freedom. Weak from grief and hard work. nothing more. Then the truth came to her suddenly. strangely cold. all had vanished. The short piece depicts the eldest of the sisters. d e a t h occurs only in the last few pages of the text. What she had longed for and prayed for.her sleep disturbed only by tormented dreams of her childhood.

. I shall never call you 'a glad you are a little girl. While the young girl tries to understand the death of the second child. she finds the mother resting Rebekah asks if she can take the W h e n her mother refuses. Rebekah screams and cries until she gets her way. she tells the Don't be sorry you are will take care of you!. that she could not remove it without awakening both. Rebekah eventually awakes and returns to the house. my baby. Later. Before Rebekah can explain..I'm so child: come into the world. she falls asleep under a tree and dreams she finds a baby of her own in a large snow-white pod by the water. Rebekah begins to talk to the child w h e n Old Ayah the maid bursts into the room demanding to know how the girl got through the locked door. the w o m a n hurries her out of the room and away from the d e a d twin. she goes to her mother's room w h e r e she knows the real baby sleeps. 22 . Schreiner ends the prelude here and continues the story of Rebekah and Baby Bertie in the text she calls The Woman's Day. Looking for relief from the hot afternoon s u n . and the arm of the elder sister so closely round the younger. infant to her room to sleep with it... I My baby. she ventures through an open window into the spare room at the back of the house only to find another baby sleeping peacefully there.. Reluctantly.. W h e n she arrives. strange child'!.child and leaves the room. Old in bed with the new child. In her d r e a m . Ayah g o e s to the girls bedroom to retrieve the baby: But when she turned down the cover she found the hands of the sisters so interlocked..

. The man who had taken 2 0 O l i v e Schreiner. She tries again and again to For the sake of her children. the sisters develop a close.The novel picks up with sisters at a much later stage in life. (New York a n d London. Rebekah's marriage turns sour She turns her w h e n she discovers her husbands' infidelity. while Bertie exhibits tendencies. T h e older girl adores intellectual activities especially science. 5 2 Only). 1927) 23 . attention away from the man and retreats into her writing a n d other intellectual endeavors. Rebekah chooses to stay with Frank in the hopes that someday he will need only her for a companion. also plans for the arrival of her new Although quite close. trusting relationship that continues t h r o u g h o u t the novel.. From Man to Man (Or Perhaps p. The lives of the sisters follow the same pattern as those of Lyndall and Undine. reconcile the marriage. to b e c o m e shy a n d introverted. but the younger of the two "had no greater appetite for books a n d learning than her hand-lamb for carrots. Both girls search for a higher level of c o n s c i o u s n e s s a n d a satisfactory image of self within the confines of Victorian society. now fifteen. Bertie.". but her departure comes not out of choice. very different qualities and characteristics. the sisters display Rebekah has g r o w n precocious tutor f r o m England. W e find Rebekah at age twenty preparing to marry her cousin Frank. Bertie also leaves the farm to start a new life. despite their differences. 2 0 Yet.

but never finds the understanding she so desperately desires.'to comfort those frail women and children in their last hour of despair. Rebekah s e e m s to have reached the stage of r e a l i z a t i o n by the time Schreiner introduces her in the prelude. but. 24 .. W e see the child's a c k n o w l e d g e m e n t of her inferiority as a female in the stories she tells the baby in her d r e a m : [IJt's called "What Hester Durham Lived For... Her pain and humiliation only increases w h e n those who now know of her impure past reject her and send her away..They were only women and children there..Rebekah's place. and killed them all. but you'll know what it means when you're grown up.And so the lady went away to India. ends up seducing Bertie and out of guilt and s h a m e she flees the farm in order to forget.. a tutor." . And at last the sepoys did come in. and all of them were very frightened.and the black soldiers (they call them sepoys) wanted to kill them. Bertie's secret torments her to the point of having to reveal it to all those she encounters in her journey.... Yet... that was what Hester Durham lived for'. when you are five years old-l did... Bertie continues searching for acceptance throughout the novel. Schreiner's choice of skipping certain periods of time in her character's lives s o m e w h a t obscures the path these w o m e n follow in their search for self-definition.They hadn't been so afraid because she was there to comfort them.It's a rather difficult story. But Hester Durham was not afraid..

Rebekah interprets the role of w o m e n as being one of sacrifice, placing the needs of others before her own even if it brings about her d e a t h . Interestingly, the heroine in her story

takes the form of one fearless w o m a n among many frightened others. Yet, Hester


does not prevail in the battle.


strength can not hold off the forces of the sepoys. taking those of her kind with her. meet the s a m e fate.

Thus, she dies

Ironically, Rebekah will also

Rebekah moves on to e x p l o r a t i o n during the lapse of time between the two sections of the novel. her studies and She looks for herself in

continues her search well into her marriage.

Although she realizes early on that the life of a wife and a mother entails servitude and sacrifice, she d o e s not reject the option. She believes that her love for this man can only open doors in the process of self-discovery. Her stage of b a t t l e Feeling

begins w h e n she learns of her husbands unfaithfulness.

as if she provoked his behavior, Rebekah internalizes the fight and by transcribing her agony in a private journal she never shares with Frank. W h e n she begins to equate her failed

marriage with her sense of self-worth she e n h a n c e s her anguish and withdraws even further into herself. Unable to openly

express her pain and perceiving herself as w e a k and inadequate, Rebekah passes into the r e s i g n a t i o n stage. She resigns herself

to this unhappy marriage for she believes that, like Hester


D u r h a m , as a w o m a n she must sacrifice herself for the sake of others. Although quite different, Bertie's search for self-definition

results in as much disappointment and pain as that of her sister. For Bertie r e a l i z a t i o n c o m e s with the loss of her virginity. Shortly after the seduction, the tutor leaves the farm to return to England claiming he must tend to his sick mother.


feels bewildered at the man's sudden departure: [t]here w a s in the large eyes the look that an animal has w h e n it is in pain; the mute fear of a creature that cannot understand its own hurt."

Yet she knows she has been abandoned and credits this not to an uncaring lover but to her own failings. She reveals her low self-

esteem one evening to her sister: Rebekah, I wish I was different and not like I ami I wish I was clever. I am so big and heavy! I am so stupid!...I can understand about work and such things...but I can't talk about books and all clever things people talk of...-sometimes I wish I were dead. I want so to be different! Rebekah, do you think anyone could ever love me who was very clever and not stupid like I am?
2 2

Although a w a r e of her inferiority to those with great intellectual capacity, Bertie only defines her s h o r t c o m i n g s terms of her own individuality. She does not apply the same in

image to all w o m e n for Rebekah certainly possesses the qualities Bertie feels she herself lacks. Yet, Bertie has

2 1



69 p. 90

2 2

S c h r e i n e r , Man,


a c k n o w l e d g e d a personal sense of inferiority that for her, in time, will c o m e to represent that of all w o m e n . Soon after the tutor leaves, Bertie receives a proposal of marriage from her cousin John-Ferdinand. She feels she can not W h e n she tells

hide her secret from the man she will marry.

John-Ferdinand about the tutor, he responds to the confession with hurt a n d then pity which further enforces unsatisfactory image of self. Bertie's

She senses a n d then verbally

acknowledges his pain but he tells her: "It is not pain that matters, Bertie, it is s i n . "
2 3

But he tells her that he will marry

her anyway if she feels he must follow through on his commitment. Bertie refuses the proposal for she can not bear to She quickly

be perceived by John-Ferdinand as evil, as a sinner.

packs her bags and leaves the farm to live with Rebekah and begin the phase of e x p l o r a t i o n . Bertie's exploration of self leads her from relative to relative in search of acceptance for her past. At each place she

stays, she reveals her secret to those she feels she can trust and w h o in turn will love her unconditionally. Only through the

approval of others can Bertie c o m e to terms with her mistake and go on to build a strong and unique image of self. But Bertie refuse

constantly faces rejection and humiliation by those w h o to understand her pain.

So she begins to use her suffering as an

2 3

S c h r e i n e r , Man,




armor with which to fight anyone and anything that holds her back and inevitably enters the stage of b a t t l e . Bertie's secret eventually becomes her w e a p o n . When she has

found the someone who truly loves and trusts her, she lashes out at him with the sins of her past. They once again reject her for

the pain her betrayal has caused leaves them feeling they have no other choice. Bertie also feels she has no other option but to She

hurt others, for her secret has become her identity.

perceives herself as a sinner therefore she behaves like one. Bertie no longer feels d i s m a y e d at the cruelty of those w h o will not accept her for she now knows she provokes them to behave in such a manner. She enters r e s i g n a t i o n with the understanding The image and role that

that she can never escape her past.

others defined for her in her exploration has become the only one she knows. Thus, she takes this new level of consciousness and

carries it with her for the rest of her life. Schreiner never completed From Man to Man, so the two w o m e n never reach the d e a t h stage in the actual text. However, her

she briefly told her husband, S. C. Cronwright-Schreiner,

plans for its ending which he includes at the end of chapter thirteen. After she had disappeared from sight for a number of finds Bertie "in a

years, a close friend of Rebekah's (Drummond)

house of ill fame at Simon's T o w n , stricken down by a loathsome a n d terrible d i s e a s e . "
2 4


He brings the sick w o m a n back to her




4 6 1 - 462


which needs subterfuge and self-deception and the deception of another for its life. her strengths have been usurped by the sacrifices she made in the search for her true image of self. S c h r e i n e r .. She had previously developed a close fellowship and mutual love with the man w h o found Bertie." 25 Rebekah lived on. [tjhe love which is not planted on a naked sincerity. what matter how soon it dies-it has no real life * 7 2 5 S c h r e i n e r . Rebekah had discovered a purpose more satisfying than any she had ever known. the ravages w r o u g h t in this tender but helpless w o m a n were too far a d v a n c e d . has no desire to continue the quest: We are weary with seeking for truth and being baffled everywhere by subterfuge and seeming. Man. Man.. S c h r e i n e r . p. never from within. neither could leave the lives they had built for themselves in marriage and family. So. A n d she. 462 463 159 2 6 2 7 29 . p. like all of Schreiner's w o m e n . is a plucked flower stuck into the sand. Man. p. 2 6 Rebekah finally understands that her meaning in life But had always c o m e from outside sources. and her death approaches.sister's house w h e r e Rebekah tries to nurse Bertie back to health "[b]ut. "it therefore b e c a m e inevitable that she must give up and leave the one man who she felt could be her life's close companion. Through her love for Drummond.. Yet. alas.. the rescue c a m e too late." and the self-definition he helped to provide.

Olive Schreiner has successfully traced the struggle of white. Through her novels. T h e y can not yet reject the male ideals (the available options) until they have developed their own means of finding self- 30 . they confront obstacles that ultimately c o n s u m e the strength and energy that drives their search. and They forget that they can not close off the only a v e n u e s open to t h e m in their journey to self-discovery. While so desperate to find a higher level of consciousness. stern j u d g e m e n t s and sometimes even their love.In her "last hour of despair" Rebekah too dies a n d finally lays her mind a n d spirit to rest. Rebekah and Bertie reveal an intense psychological d i l e m m a faced by w o m e n w h o feel trapped in the imposed ideals and expectations of their nineteenth-century male counterparts. Undine. The roles of servant. The men in Schreiner's novels continually repress a n d stagnate the w o m e n with their d e m a n d s . these w o m e n often forget that they lack the necessary options in life to fully discover and implement their intellectual spiritual resources. The lives of Lyndall. E m . In their desire for overwhelming inner knowledge and understanding. colonial South African w o m e n to find a self-definition greater and more meaningful than the o n e their Victorian society had offered. nurturer and the keeper of morality prove unfulfilling for these w o m e n whose needs b e c o m e obscured and often ignored by the men they must obey.

they inevitably fail. Death d o e s signify a method of escaping for these w o m e n . 31 . They know they must free their minds a n d bodies of the oppressive bonds of maledominated society. the release from pain does not free them or the rest of their kind f r o m the crippling imposition of remaining an inferior gender. because of their inherent d e p e n d e n c y on their male counterparts.fulfillment. However. But the pain they suffer in their c o n f i n e m e n t does not allow t h e m to reason as such. But.

1979) p. gazing.secured at last by a caress-O the pretty dear! the wonder! Nothing to startle. Nadine Gordimer's female characters also search for an image of self in a repressive environment. The world of Gordimer's w o m e n offers t h e m a much larger selection of life options in career. this creature that has never been?* Like the w o m e n Olive Schreiner. These the twentieth-century w o m e n also experience a release from blatant a n d c o n s u m i n g subservience displayed by Schreiner's female characters. gazing Sits gazing. gazing.coaxed. An old and lovely world. However. 341 32 . Such harmony and sensual peace in the age of the thumbscrew and dungeon that there it comes with its ivory spiral horn there she sits gazing bedecked. Burger's Daughter.The Works of Nadine Gordimer There she sits. approachingThere she sits. (Great Britain. the time lapse of almost a century has c h a n g e d the experience for these w o m e n of coming to terms with their identity a n d role in society. gazing. gardens and gentle beauties among gentle beasts. Gordimer's w o m e n must deal with the 2 8 N a d i n e G o r d i m e r . nothing left to fear. education and even relationships with men.

d e p e n d e n c y and inferiority. e x p l o r a t i o n . confusion. Gordimer takes her characters through as intricate a cycle as those of Schreiner's and has t h e m experience the s a m e feelings of isolation. through realization. Although the process occurs in a shorter period of time. c o n f r o n t a t i o n . Gordimer rarely begin her stories with the protagonists as children. Her w o m e n undergo six phases in the process of They begin in false image of self and move self-discovery. Unlike Olive Schreiner. r e s o l u t i o n and finally e n d in r e b i r t h . Despite the changes in the societies of these two types of w o m e n . Gordimer's w o m e n s e e m to begin where Schreiner's have left off. Ironically. even after almost one hundred years. Gordimer introduces her female characters in a Her w o m e n have created a stage similar to psychological death.institutionalized s y s t e m of apartheid a n d the increased isolation from a large aspect of South African society and culture it perpetuates. Yet. the lead characters begin their search for self as adults. false image of self. Nadine Gordimer's characters also undergo a series of psychological discoveries a n d transformations. They define their existence in the same light as did 33 . Most often. void of any animation or vitality and one that has never been explored or achieved through an inner struggle. the men in the lives of these w o m e n still inhibit their exploration of self and serve as a controlling force in directing these w o m e n to their ultimate end.

Unlike Schreiner's characters. Gordimer's w o m e n share this new a w a r e n e s s with their male counterparts. They begin to c o m p r e h e n d their lack of self-defined purpose and meaning in life in addition to their ingrained d e p e n d e n c y on others for their own survival. African society still limits t h e s e w o m e n by stressing necessity of marriage and motherhood. Gordimer's w o m e n believe that their life-role pertains to the definition that society has dictated. they accept these terms without question. Although many choose unrelenting options outside marriage. however. they never escape the pressure to lead a conventional life. unlike Schreiner's South the characters. Like Schreiner's w o m e n . Gordimer's w o m e n enter e x p l o r a t i o n with an intense feeling of apprehension. in isolation from a unique and personally defined sense of self.Schreiner's w o m e n w h e n they reached their final phase. More often than not they subside to this pressure a n d live their life as expected. rarely They this keep their realization private a n d . after carefully analyzing new knowledge. Gordimer's society character's also a c k n o w l e d g e their inferior status in during this stage of the process. Yet. Although these w o m e n do desire a new and 34 . enter the next phase of their process. The phase strongly resembles that of Schreiner's w o m e n with the exception of the unanticipated occurrence. Gordimer's w o m e n move into the second phase r e a l i z a t i o n after an unexpected event intrudes into their stasis and forces t h e m to reevaluate their life situation.

They begin to feel as if their existence has a dual nature~as if they must create two separate definitions of self in order to comply with the standards and laws South African society has developed. After restricting their search for a new image of self to the confines of their own gender and their own race a n d failing to achieve their ultimate goal in that realm. Although they recognize their d e p e n d a n t feelings 35 . Like their present definition of self. but intricately related. they know they continue regardless of their hesitation. They find t h e m s e l v e s looking towards an African man to further t h e m in their search for self-definition.unique image of self after r e a l i z a t i o n . their status in South Africa as members of the superior race. they interpret the search as being imposed on t h e m . During their exploration. T h e confrontation takes root in the actual encounter as well as in the minds of the w o m e n . Yet. Gordimer's characters bring into question not only their role of inferior w o m a n but. The confusion that evolves f r o m this d i l e m m a forces these w o m e n to direct their search outward and enter the fourth stage. they fear the necessary steps they must take to reach a higher level of consciousness. The fifth stage c o n f r o n t a t i o n occurs in two separate. forms. because they can not find must c o m p l a c e n c y within their new awareness. They now must face the man in a new and uncomfortable manner. in addition. Gordimer's w o m e n turn to a previously untapped resource. They feel as if the roles have been switched in the familiar relationship.

By this time. During this stage.for the African as a m a n . They decide to cast off all remaining ties to the repressive world that has confined them to an unfulfilling a n d existence. They will not accept the definition society has imposed on them as w o m e n and as members of the white race. With the surfacing of these new discoveries the 36 . The final stage of struggle for Gordimer's w o m e n r e b i r t h takes place at the end of her novels. G o r d i m e r ' s move into r e s o l u t i o n . women This phase lasts only a short period of of t i m e yet. Emotions of isolation. After confronting these feelings. they move on to their fifth phase. After struggling with the implications of their newly found option in their search for self-actualization. This resolution gives w a y to a long awaited feeling of f r e e d o m for Gordimer's w o m e n which reveals itself in the sixth a n d final stage. confusion and dependency seem to disappear and they feel they can begin again with a new image of self and a higher level of consciousness. the w o m e n have come to the understanding that they can never return to their former life. her w o m e n finally feel ready to accept their previously repressed ideas and spiritual a n d intellectual strengths. from their race. it drastically alters the character's p e r c e p t i o n herself a n d the society in which she lives. in addition. they must struggle to c o m e to terms with the new s e n s e of inferiority that stems not only f r o m their gender but.

w o m e n feel elated. " 29 Yet. relieved a n d . T h e story t a k e s place during a violent and terrifying in South Africa. pariah dogs in a black c o n t i n e n t . they had thought of leaving South Africa to make a new life in another country for "[t]hey sickened at the thought that they might find they had lived out their lives as they w e r e born. Maureen Hetherington Smales grew up in Kruger Park as the child of a shift boss. alive. (New York. Gordimer always ends the story here. In July's People. because of financial reasons. her husband Bam and their three young children seek refuge from the fighting in the native village of their servant July. Early in their marriage. 8 N a d i n e Gordimer. the family leaves behind their life in the and familiar surroundings of the white South African suburbs follows July to hopeful safety. they decided to stay in the country they knew as home a n d built a life for themselves full of white privilege and African servants. She married Bamford Smales at the age of The Smales twenty-four a n d their children c a m e shortly after. Gordimer begins the novel with the family already in the village and Maureen content in the first phase of the process. 2 9 And Maureen understood her place in this People. c o n s i d e r e d t h e m s e l v e s liberal whites. most importantly. July's 37 . their bakkie Taking only w h a t necessities they can fit in (jeep). 1981) p. revolution Maureen. Nadine Gordimer takes her protagonist M a u r e e n Smales through such complex transformations of self.

represents more than just mud floors and a lack of hot water. of not knowing where she w a s . in the order of a day as she had always known i t . In this sense. among them in the possessions of any real value in the self-sufficient 3 0 village nor the c o m f o r t a n d stability of her ibid. but from an imposed set of values and ideals. R e m o v e d from his ordinary Bam can not function as an independent being. p. in time.. realizes she has nothing. She never felt the need to look for any other identity or image of self for each had been passed down to her with understanding that her role in life. 17 38 . Life in July's hut proves difficult for the Without the comforts of home they feel For Maureen. disoriented and deprived. like that of all w o m e n . Maureen has affirmed and even helped to create a false image of self. She felt comfortable in her role as She recognizes his She reliance as well as her own on July for their very survival. Maureen makes her r e a l i z a t i o n a few days after she arrives at July's village. life in the village It w o m a n and her family. " different light as well. this function throughout her childhood a n d could emulate the part with ease. wife a n d She had w a t c h e d her mother perform mistress of her household. 30 She sees her husband in a surroundings. one that c a m e not f r o m an inner exploration. had been successfully defined by others long ago. means a sudden separation between herself and the world that had given her purpose: "Maureen was aware.

An impression-sensation-of seeing something intricately banal. sense her own inability to compensate for what she had left behind. most importantly.[when] she drove away to her type-writer. They reflected nothing. Unable to accept herself in this state of new awareness.. newspaper 39 . Bam had He had given her a provided her with all the necessities in life. And in her fear she begins her exploration. Maureen k n o w s she must look for something more. but she feels afraid of what she might find. Something meaningful and real. she realizes she has no unique and concrete image of self: In their houses. But. Maureen sees him She also begins to transform into a weak and dependant man. Like all of Gordimer's w o m e n . there was nothing. She remembers that back home. however. Here in the village. manufactured. Commonly there were very small mirrors snapping at the stray beams of light like hungry fish rising.former life. "[s]he had had various half-day occupations over the years. house to live and raise her children in and supported her financially. Maureen enters e x p l o r a t i o n with reservations. Maureen begins to understand her own limitations as a w o m e n . made her turn as if someone had spoken to her from back there.. At first. She knows she must c o m e to terms with her She image of self.. replicated. Back home. You had to stay in the dark of the hut a long while to make out what was on the walls.. Removed from the shelter of her former life. considers how her relationship with her husband has c h a n g e d since they c a m e to live in the village.

meetings. July. Only through July and what he commands can she reach a higher level of consciousness and rid herself of her feelings of inferiority. he brought his right fist down on his breast. Thus. Unable to accept his decision she asks him: Why? But Why?. Maureen removes the barrier between herself and July's wife and for once allows herself "to be seen in her weaknesses [and] blemishes as she saw the other w o m a n ' s . " 31 She now compares her former Maureen activities to those of the other w o m e n of the village. decides that s h e too must join in their efforts. Maureen enters c o n f r o n t a t i o n with the knowledge that she now not only d e p e n d s on July for food and shelter but.. In denying her this opportunity. she can only do so with July's permission. She In the fields. 92 3 1 3 2 40 . She felt the thud as fear in her G o r d i m e r . for selffulfillment and inner meaning. every m o r n i n g . p. sees these w o m e n take the responsibility of gathering food for their families as well as her o w n . Although Maureen looks to the other w o m e n of the village in her search for self-definition. " 32 But w h e n July discovers that she has been working with the other w o m e n he tells her s h e c a n not return a n d initiates the fourth phase. G o r d i m e r . she begins to perceive in contrast. 96 p. July.files. her part-time j o b s as inferior a n d insignificant Maureen senses satisfaction in the companionship of these w o m e n a n d believes she can learn from their strengths. A n d she feels a s h a m e d of this dependency. in addition. Before her.. retaliation. The fifth stage r e s o l u t i o n lasts only a short time for Maureen.. she must accept July's decision although. July. 98 101 41 . as his generosity and compassion had b e c o m e hers. and many others before her. not physical.. but also her race has perpetuated her inferiority. this humiliation.she was feeling no personal threat in him... p. his denial has brought her that the ignorance of not only her gender. G o r d i m e r . No longer in her own territory. but in herself. She chooses the latter for: "[s]he was unsteady with something that w a s not anger but a struggle: her inability to enter into a relation of subservience with him that she had never had with Bam. 33 Maureen now understands that the kindness she had been taught by white society to display towards her servant had b e c o m e July's humiliation. July knows this as well and attempts to use his status as a man. She can obey July's c o m m a n d or she can break away from the restraints that have stagnated her. July. The special favors and the extra wages she had taken such care to provide for him had only left July feeling pitied and inferior.She had never been afraid of any man. Maureen feels Yet. She finally realizes powerless. p. for so long. anyway.. Maureen now has two choices.own. Near the end of the novel. July must take the family to the house 3 3 3 4 G o r d i m e r .his superior gender." 3 4 Maureen has won the confrontation and has now entered resolution.

since that first morning she had become conscious in the hut. The discoveries she has made during her life in the village have given her the strength and courage she needs to accept a different definition. One or another could only be turned up. " 3 5 After questioning the family about their reasons for leaving their home and deciding July had been treating them well. The background had fallen away. Gordimer. R e b i r t h occurs for Maureen in the last few pages of the text. at their destination she notices "how everything c o m e s easily to her now as if she didn't know what w a s expected of her she did as she l i k e d . by hazard. Maureen goes through the motions of W h e n they arrive preparing herself and her children for the trip. Alone in the hut one 3 5 G o r d i m e r . She can not articulate what she feels her self becoming and she can not go back to what she was. Maureen realizes: She was not in possession of any part of her life. p.a new image of self. 114 139 3 6 July. 36 She can no longer stay in the hut with her husband nor care that her children s w i m in a river infested with w a t e r . she knows she must She resolves to find an image of self that p r o m i s e s fulfillment a n d f r e e d o m no matter the cost. continue her search. 42 . she had regained no established point of a continuing present from which to recognize her own sequence. p.of the chief in order to determine whether they can continue living in the village.b o r n e diseases. the chief gives Maureen and B a m permission to stay. Although relieved by the news. July. Yet.

She runs. Elisabeth Van Den Zendt must c o m e to terms with the suicide of her exhusband Max. Like all of Gordimer's w o m e n . July. And still she runs: . like a solitary animal at the season when animals neither seek a mate nor take care of young. the enemy of all that would make claims of responsibility. existing only for their lone survival. "like some member of a baptismal sect to be borne again" and w a d e s to the other s i d e . for her and she feels afraid. Gordimer. p. alert. Maureen hears an unfamiliar sound. and she runs towards it. In Nadine Gordimer's The Late Bourgeois World. but from the promise of a new self. past the voices of her She enters the water husband and children towards the river. Although divorced for quite some time. The cries of the people in the village bring her to the doorway of the small dwelling.. She steps out of the hut and begins She runs through the high grass. She recognizes the sound now for the image of the She knows it has c o m e helicopter has passed through the clouds. 3 7 3 8 July. Max's death forces Elisabeth to reevaluate herself a n d the life she leads. beyond those trees and those. Elisabeth acknowledges her lack of a unique and concrete image of self and begins a process of Gordimer..trusting herself with all the suppressed trust of a lifetime. 3 7 38 The beat Maureen runs towards c o m e s not from the helicopter.afternoon. She can still hear the beat. 159 160 43 .that higher level of consciousness that exists beyond the trees and the high grass. to run. p.

The Late Bourgeois World. Max provides lucky to be Max's wife. through Elisabeth's memories of her husband a n d their relationship.a concept her parents ingrained in her throughout her childhood. Elisabeth felt While not the perfect m a n . and so o n " . 42 44 . (Great Britain. her with shelter of m a r r i a g e . She works for the C O D (Congress of Democrats) "printing propaganda for the African National Congress. his extramarital constant endangerment of Bobo gives Elisabeth no choice but to leave her husband. makes them her own convictions. Gordimer reveals this phase. however. 1966) p. Married and pregnant at eighteen. however. Elisabeth m a n a g e s to forgive Max for his inability to cope with their son Bobo. allowing Elisabeth to find a new definition of self t h r o u g h rebirth. in time. affairs and work for them even after Max abandons their cause. his refusal to keep a dependable job. Max's political f a n a t i c i s m . alone in a flat in Johannesberg. and his need to rebel so destructively against his parents ideology of a united South A f r i c a . 3 9 She even continues to Soon after. taking her son with her.discovery- Gordimer takes her through the same six stages as she did Maureen. Elisabeth participates in Max's political activities and. Gordimer begins the story here. Because of this attribute. Much of the first stage of false image of self takes place before the actual story begins. Elisabeth at age thirty lives She w o r k s for the Institute for Medical Research "analyzing stools for t a p e w o r m and urine for 3 9 N a d i n e Gordimer.

. she has not replaced her image of self with anything substantial. p. Upon receiving notice of Max's unexpected death.bilharzia a n d blood for c h o l e s t e r o l . So she She sends her son to boarding school not to rid herself of the responsibility of caring for him. accept the idea of white supremacy. She has chosen not to replace it at all in the hopes of avoiding any such struggle. 37 45 . the second phase r e a l i z a t i o n . G r a h a m . Elisabeth knows her e s c a p i s m serves to hide her feelings of inferiority a n d her inability to develop a sense of purpose on her own. Elisabeth can no longer ignore her lack of inner knowledge. now practices law and defends people on political charges. attends boarding school outside of the city a n d sees his mother every other Sunday. nor does she actively reject it. Although she has left behind her life with Max and the identity she found there. but w h e n the marriage crumbled so did any sense of meaning Elisabeth had discovered. " 40 Her lover. twelve. She had tried to find definition in her relationship with Max. I have to cover up my reasons by letting it be taken for granted that I want him out of 4 0 ibid. Elisabeth no longer affiliates She d o e s not actively herself with any political organization. but because her need for definition w o u l d be a detriment to Bobo: And yet I had to do it. She quickly enters She begins to understand that the choices she has made have isolated her in a world free of conflict a n d confrontation. decided not to look again for fear of another failure. Bobo.

with Bobo reaffirms feelings of her own inadequacy for she sees him without the indispensable units of a mother. " 42 She understands t h o u g h . She can only hope that Bobo looks Through for his security elsewhere than in the white suburbs. that this conventional life does not always yield much needed feelings of fulfillment and a sense of inner strength for she sees what she has become.the way. 11 46 . And I would never let a Max's d e a t h forces Elisabeth to realize that she must develop stronger image of self. Elisabeth discovers more than her weaknesses as a w o m e n w h o s e sheltered and formulated life has left her void of any sense of inner knowledge and understanding. Although the prospects of w h a t she Her visit might find frighten her. After accidently taking a wrong turn on her way home from her visit 4 1 4 2 Gordimer. a father and family that she "was taught was a sacred trust to provide for any child [she] might 'bring into the w o r l d ' . For the if I let myself. 4 1 truth is that I would hold on to Bobo. could keep him clamped to my belly female baboons who carry their young their bodies. for her son's sake as well as for her o w n . Late. 11 G o r d i m e r . She also recognizes that the confines of the privileged sector of white South Africa have served to further debilitate her. p. she knows she must move o n . p. her search. I like one of those clinging beneath him go. Late. Elisabeth begins her e x p l o r a t i o n with the s a m e degree of reservation as did Maureen.

p. 21 47 .with Bobo. she drives through an industrial area of the city and gets stuck behind There was a over his eyes other to poke laughed back But when he me as though a truckload of w o r k m e n : young one with a golfer's cap pulled down who held on by one hand while he used the obscene gestures at the black girls. her limitations as a w o m e n and a member of the white race. But Elisabeth's yearning for a life beyond the one she lives now 4 3 G o r d i m e r . She initially refuses. C o n f r o n t a t i o n occurs for Elisabeth when Luke Fokase. senses more than just a reentry into the political sphere from an involvement with Luke. caught my smile he looked right through I wasn't there at all. however. she spends the night reconsidering her decision. She now understands that she must consider both forms of detachment in her search for one image of self. a member of the PAC (Pan African Congress) and an old acquaintance contacts her a few w e e k s after Max's death. Late. claiming she knows no one After he leaves. 4 3 Elisabeth now understands that the isolation of her childhood has become the isolation of her color. Luke asks Elisabeth to deposit overseas cash in her (or a willing friend's) bank account for legal fees to aid PAC members under house arrest. Elisabeth feels he can help her transcend Yet. She w h o could accommodate Luke's request. They or ignored him. no one seemed outraged. she feels afraid that she would come to depend on him in the s a m e w a y she relied on Max and her parents for self-definition.

Left alone while still in adolescence. afraid. Her brother drowns in their backyard s w i m m i n g pool. Nadine Gordimer's Burger's Daughter recounts the psychological process of a young girl's attempt to c o m e to terms with her identity after her father's death in prison. She feels at once frightened a n d relieved on the verge of her r e b i r t h : It's so quiet I could almost believe I can hear the stars in their courses-a vibrant. Elisabeth's fifth stage of r e s o l u t i o n lasts only as long as the time it takes her to make her decision. alive. but the slow. 44 Elisabeth has reached the final stage. afraid. Rosa. Rosa must make a place for herself in the turbulent environment of present-day South Africa. like a clock. the protagonist. She resolves to help Luke. what used to be referred to as the 'music of the spheres'. even beats of my heart repeat to me..and the desire to achieve a higher level of consciousness out weighs her reservations. infinitely high-pitched hum. 95 48 . experiences a series of traumatic events during her early life. now. alive. I've been lying awake a long time. There is no clock in the room now since the red clock that Bobo gave me went out of order. afraid. alive.a safe alternative to her o w n .. p. Gordimer takes the w o m e n through the same complex phases with all the 4 4 G o r d i m e r . She makes plans to deposit the money in the bank account of her elderly G r a n d m o t h e r . her mother dies of cancer while being detained a n d her father must s t a n d trial for illegal political activities. Late.

After a series of unsuccessful attempts. Rosa hopes this 49 . Rosa feels forced to reevaluate herself and the world around her. Katya. She believes she should want to do the same. Rosa's phase of e x p l o r a t i o n novel.emotion a n d sensitivity displayed towards Maureen a n d Elisabeth. unique a n d her o w n . A n d through her journey. Interestingly. Rosa too can arrive at last at a fresh understanding of herself and her life. Rosa lives in his the s h a d o w of her father's political activities. even after death.something different from her father. S h e can not escape the image of her father for all those They a s s u m e her her she encounters invariably equate her with him. she finally obtains a passport with the help of her lover and leaves for Europe to contact her father's first wife. Rosa feels the constant pressure to emulate her father and sees herself not as an individual but an extension of one w h o took the burdens of South African society into his own hands. political a n d ideological convictions d o not differ from father's for Lionel Burger would never instill any other values in his children. of r e a l i z a t i o n . Rosa's false image of self c o m e s not so much from the repressive d e m a n d s of South African society but from the man w h o gave his life to break free from t h e m . lasts the greater portion of the something This new understanding completes the stage Unable to continue living her life as just her father's daughter. but she can not abandon the idea that she might have been destined for s o m e t h i n g else.

She looks back to the social and political contradictions of her country a n d realizes that "being white constitutes a counterdefinition. p.her own inferiority...just to please. Yet. p..I see it ail the way he did. Yet.. Rosa has a new lover now. Bernard Chabalier. Rosa does not understand how w o m e n w h o have lived in the privileged white sector of South African society. charmed by you although you've grown fat and the liveliness Katya must have had has coarsened into clownishness and the power of attraction sometimes deteriorates into what I don't want to watch. smiling and looking on. 4 6 Rosa's c o n f r o n t a t i o n occurs when she encounters a young African in London. G o r d i r n e r .a desire to please. can not achieve a more meaningful level of existence. Burger. She interprets Katya's desire "just to please" as a representation of her o w n inability to b e c o m e an individual. for to Rosa it symbolizes a part of herself she has been trying to leave behind. Rosa has a married man she had met in Paris. m a n a g e d to temporarily free herself from the haunting ties of her father but she has not yet discovered her own personal 4 5 4 6 G o r d i m e r . Burger. after spending s o m e time with Katya.".w o m a n w h o m she has never met can help her escape from the man who even in death governs her existence.. 264 123 50 . like Katya and herself.. With Bernard. Rosa realizes the w o m a n can only provide her with an unsatisfactory solution: / wanted to know how to defect from him. 45 She can not accept the option Katya has chosen.

Your little boss-kid that was one of the family couldn't make much use of the lessons. She turns towards the voice and recognizes the speaking man as Baasie. I know plenty blacks like Burger. Burger.. [gjetting old and dying in prison. the constant fascination so many people have with Burger's daughter: Lionel Burger.. Listen. there are dozens of our fathers sick and dying like dogs. But w h e n Rosa tries to rekindle the past..definition of self. It's nothing. the son of her parent's former maid. Rosa lost track of those she had c o m e to know as her brothers and sisters. not just the backyard like other whites. T h e lovers travel to England together and Rosa One registers under a false surname in a local university. 322 51 .-why do you think you should be different from all the other whites who've been shitting on us ever since they came? 4 7 4 7 G o r d i m e r . After his imprisonment and eventual death. Lionel Burger. The children b e c a m e part of the family. p. Killed in prison. sharing in the love Lionel Burger found so easy to give. Burger. right into the house.. Rosa hears a familiar voice from her past. evening at a party. During her childhood. her father had opened his home to the children of his servants so that they too might enjoy his backyard swimming pool and other advantages. He calls her flat later that night to chastise her for something she has no control over.Everyone in the world must know what a great hero he was and how much he suffered for the blacks. Tell them how your parents took the little black kid into their home. Baasie rejects her attempts. there was no private swimming pool the places I stayed.

" 49 While in prison. she moves into r e s o l u t i o n . Gordimer does not make it clear However. She also realizes that the results of her search will d e p e n d primarily on the lives of others. Rosa does not completely discard her former w a y of life in r e s o l u t i o n ."[s]he Rosa then w h e t h e r or not she participates in the protest. She must be for her father Baasie's harsh remarks force Rosa to make the most important discovery she has ever made: "[t]hrough blackness is revealed the w a y to the f u t u r e " . Rosa's r e b i r t h takes place shortly after her return a n d the occurrence of the Soweto riots. would not have it any other way. Rosa receives T h e w o m e n reports back a visit from an old friend of the family. Burger. But she can continue to fight for the ideals she has come to learn she shares with the man w h o held her back for so long. 4 8 4 9 Gordimer. She 48 And knows that she must define her o w n image of self but not in isolation from that of her father's. 353 52 . Rosa has discovered that as the daughter of Lionel Burger and all he stood for she must claim some kind of responsibility for the pain of those she shares her country with. She understands that she can not correct all the injustices of South African politics nor the mistakes of her father. Gordimer.But R o s a knows she is different. w a s d e t a i n e d without c h a r g e s . Through Baasie. Unlike most of Gordimer's other w o m e n . p. returns to South Africa. Burger. 135 p.

Nadine Gordimer allows her w o m e n to turn their inherent 5 0 G o r d i m e r . although the circumstances have c h a n g e d in the last century. Burger. Gordimer's protagonists marriage certainly have more options in life concerning career. 360 53 . Nadine Gordimer has taken the concept of consciousness and brought it to life through her character's struggles to c o m e to terms with themselves a n d the world they live in. much like the one her father had used. Unlike Olive Schreiner. Elisabeth and Rosa each experienced the conflict of having to break free from the constraints of the conventional white s u b u r b s a n d the and inferiority they perpetuate. artificial or not. isolation These w o m e n also acknowledge their d e p e n d e n c y on the men in their lives for their present image of self. the search for inner k n o w l e d g e and strength remains just as difficult for her w o m e n as it did for Schreiner's. a n d parenting. Maureen. p. Her novels clearly indicate that. A n d they too feel this reliance increase in their quest for a new and more meaningful definition. Like Olive Schreiner. " 5 0 In our last glimpse of Rosa she writes letters from her cell on a make-shift desk of old fruit boxes. yet society still pushes these w o m e n to live their lives as did previous her husband that Rosa looks well and fairly unchanged "except she's some how livelier than she used to b e . The greatest contrast between the two types of w o m e n emerges in the last phase of struggle.

The explanation for this p h e n o m e n o n lies in the mind-set and life options of nineteenth a n d twentieth-century South African w o m e n outside the of the literature of Olive Schreiner and Nadine Gordimer. rather they create the choice for themselves. Only with the help of the African male character in the novel can Gordimer's w o m e n replace the last phase.with r e b i r t h . realms 54 . her w o m e n never turn to t h e m in the hopes of furthering their search. d e a t h . Ironically. unexplored option. Twentieth-century South African society does not offer Gordimer's w o m e n this added option.dependency into one last. w h i l e African c h a r a c t e r s appear periodically throughout Schreiner's novels. They never even think to look outside their own culture and race for an such an outlet for they can not conceive of its existence.

despite the advantages of colonial life in remained 52 South Africa. politically a n d ideologically subordinated. 5 1 5 2 Margaret Strobel. these w o m e n performed important social functions in an effort to further the status of their husbands. most importantly. Primarily the w i v e s of colonial officers. the indigenous population a n d . mistress/servant They also developed a relationship with the Yet. or the lack of 'heathen souls' to be c o n v e r t e d . p. The w a y in which these w o m e n perceived their male counterparts. nineteenth century white w o m e n economically. a 'shortage' of marriageable m e n . "Gender and Race in the Nineteenth a n d Twentieth Century Empire". " addition to t h e s e new options. colonial life offered an ideal situation in w h i c h to implement Victorian notions of domesticity and female dependence.An Inferior Gender: Consciousness of Colonial and Present-day White South African Women For nineteenth-century white w o m e n . unique and c o m p l e x indigenous people. 3 7 6 ldem. Yet. themselves. difficulty in finding adequate 51 employment. the strange and exotic In e n v i r o n m e n t of South Africa contributed to the attraction of colonial life. life in the colonies also provided many w o m e n with opportunities not found in Europe " w h e r e their options w e r e limited by their social class. British 55 .

incapable of reproducing these qualities within Thus. In return. their mistresses often d e v e l o p e d an inaccurate conception of 53 . low status groups and w e r e rarely seen in their own surroundings. They perceived t h e m as self-sufficient. To these w o m e n . They viewed these men as their sole source of survival in a strange country w h e r e the normalities of their previous c e a s e d to exist. mistress/ They did hold positions of missionaries and teachers but the most c o m m o n encounters took place within the domestic sphere. Colonial w o m e n had very limited contact with the indigenous population with the exception of the servant relationship. w o m e n lived a life in which the status and well being of their husbands became more important than that of their o w n .aids in revealing the inner workings of their collective consciousness. they d e p e n d e d on these men to provide t h e m with pertinent necessities such as financial support and protection. lives Because of their inability to successfully colonial remain in South Africa without their male counterparts. determined and even all powerful in their ability to govern a foreign country and its people. colonial w o m e n felt themselves. Because these servants c a m e from poor. they performed various domestic and social duties to guarantee the continuing prosperity a n d contentment of their husbands. Because of Victorian ideology. colonial men represented a sense of familiarity a n d stability in their new environment.

72 5 4 The Whites of South Africa 57 . an inspiration to men and children. "Gender". their relationship with w o m e n involved an added element. The forbidding attitude of colonial men served to further distance these w o m e n from the African c o m m u n i t y by creating an element of tension that might not have previously e x i s t e d . Vincent C r a p a n z a n o . found its roots in the morals and ideals of Victorian society. "Gender". Thus.their lives a n d cultures. Waiting: (New York: Vintage Press. the existence any fear of attack in the minds of the w o m e n becomes obscured. Although African m e n did fill colonial positions of d o m e s t i c service. 1986) p. like their perceptions of colonial and African men and the indigenous population. Colonial w o m e n ' s perception of indigenous men in general differed f r o m that of the servant. S t r o b e l . this interaction women 5 3 alleviated s o m e of the inferior feelings these experienced in their subordination to colonial m e n . . The concern of these m e n . Since colonial men established these sanctions of without consulting their female counterparts. did effect the w a y colonial w o m e n perceived African m e n . 5 4 Colonial w o m e n ' s image of self. paternalistic relationship Colonial w o m e n established a with t h e s e servants which reinforced the ideology of racial superiority. however. Expected to be the keepers of morality. 5 3 S t r o b e l . Colonial men feared that European w o m e n aroused the sexual appetites of indigenous men and passed laws that prohibited sexual intercourse between the two parties. A d e m . A d e m .

Rather. Without political or economic independence. B e a t a Lipman. they had no choice but to comply a n d derive their sense of purpose from this necessity. . 5 5 self-defined The novels of Olive Schreiner certainly reflect the mentality of colonial w o m e n in South Africa.and the epitome of beauty a n d grace. these w o m e n did not fill the positions of power one w o u l d expect to occupy as the "preserver of civilization". marriage all of her w o m e n struggle with the Victorian notions of and motherhood as the only acceptable options in life. Although many of her w o m e n . A d e m . Although imperative to the maintenance of a European in cultural identity. colonial w o m e n certainly felt t r e m e n d o u s pressure in fulfilling their life role. T h e relatively infrequent appearance of African characters in her novels also affirms the distance between these w o m e n and the African community. Yet. Freedom: Women in South Africa 58 . 1984) A d e m . "Gender". however. They too have few outlets beyond the domestic sphere for self expression. like Lyndall 5 5 S t r o b e l . This d e p e n d e n c y on colonial men for identity left these w o m e n without a firm g r a s p on their o w n individuality or a meaning in l i f e . t h e s e w o m e n felt their activities paled comparison to those of colonial m e n . As w e have seen. they are born into the legacy it perpetuated. Although Schreiner's characters do not live during the early stages of colonial rule. they organized social functions to secure the achievement and success of their husbands. We Make ( L o n d o n : Pandora Press.

A n d . Unlike those of the colonial era. White men continue to impede their development of a unique image of self which inevitably leads to feelings of inferiority for these women. the span of almost a hundred years has allowed 59 . The element of time has not made a drastic impact on the w a y in which white South African w o m e n perceive t h e m s e l v e s and the society they live in. However. T h e inability to view twentieth-century South African w o m e n in retrospect makes the assessment of their mind-set a difficult one. Although these w o m e n have a broader range of options in life. Yet. after almost a century they still feel the weight of stagnation and subordination. they only meet with obstacles too overwhelming to conquer. since many of the values and ideologies of the colonial period still apply to present-day South African society much of how these w o m e n perceive themselves and the world around them can be determined. Schreiner's characters must either define their identity a n d find their image of self through the men in their lives or die without one.a n d R e b e k a h . like so many other w o m e n of the colonial period. look for an alternative path to self-discovery outside of marriage a n d family life. the evolution of present-day female consciousness has not yet been completed.

rewards through career. 1 9 8 6 ) . these 5 6 C r a p a n z a n o . married w o m e n s e e m to mask this deficiency by acquiring outside interests such as part time jobs or volunteer work. 140 5 7 60 . Many present-day w o m e n still interpret their significance in society in accordance with the social a n d economic standing of their husbands. South African society still advocates marriage. pp. world. motherhood and family life as the most acceptable options for w o m e n . Waiting. 133-153. p. 56 In an effort to avoid facing South African many present-day w o m e n choose an option not open to w o m e n in the nineteenth century.these w o m e n to conceal and even evade their lack of selfdefinition. A d e m . Helen J o s e p h . The emphasis of a permanent male/female relationship has had a similar effect on twentieth-century w o m e n as it did on those of the colonial period. C r a p a n z a n o .. Side by Side (London: Z e d Books Ltd. 5 7 South Africa has one of the highest divorce rates in the In removing themselves from a situation that women continually reminds t h e m of their shortcomings. these w o m e n judge their activities as insignificant a n d even i n a d e q u a t e . colonial p e r i o d . in c o m p a r i s o n to their husband's financial and intellectual Yet. their feelings of inferiority. these w o m e n still can and understanding through the existence of another. They still look to the men Like those of the not find self-fulfillment Many in their lives for purpose and definition. Waiting.

w o m e n have involved themselves in the causes of others and have strived to make t h e m their own. Side. risked their lives and even died for the freedom of o t h e r s .have found the most efficient to evade their lack of selfdefinition. These w o m e n like. yet others have opted for a different kind of interaction. Adem. spent time under house arrest and in prison. Nadine Gordimer has revealed the inner workings of the consciousness of her female c o n t e m p o r a r i e s . Yet. The mistress/ of s e r v a n t relationship still exists for many with its e l e m e n t s paternalism a n d racial superiority. ( L o n d o n : Bloomsbury Publishing Ltd. T h e e m e r g e n c e of a liberal ideology in South African society has allowed s o m e w o m e n to volunteer their services in v a r i o u s political a n d ideological These movements advocating equality for oppressed peoples. T h e most significant difference in the mind-set of colonial and twentieth-century white South African w o m e n s e e m s to lay in their relationship with the African c o m m u n i t y . A d e m . 1988) 61 . 117 Days. Like Olive Schreiner. 5 8 In e s s e n c e .. the extent to which these w o m e n develop a unique and concrete image of self through this new relationship questionable. remains s s j o s e p h . have abandoned their ties to the idea of racial supremacy. Ruth First. . they have tried to find inner fulfillment and purpose t h r o u g h their activities with the African c o m m u n i t y . Helen Joseph and Ruth First.

Through this option.G o r d i m e r ' s fictional w o m e n display many of the characteristics found in the lives and thoughts of those outside the realm of literature. all of Gordimer's look t o w a r d s the African c o m m u n i t y (or more specifically African male) as an alternative path to a higher level of consciousness. reveal a different kind of end for white South African w o m e n then Nadine Gordimer chooses to depict. 62 . fictional or not. like a small minority of t w e n t i e t h characters the century white South African w o m e n . A n d . the implications of this method of discovery. They too search for definition in Failing to find their relationships with the men in their lives. the search for a new and greater image of self. they opt for outside activities to veil this deficiency like Maureen or c h o o s e divorce like Elisabeth to e s c a p e f r o m the constant reminder that they lack their own selfd e f i n e d identity. superior to the one they presently possess. Yet. meaning there. They too experience the pressures to conform to a kind of life that offers t h e m no valuable outlets for selfexpression and understanding.

both she and her characters refer to African servants as possessions rather than by n a m e as they do other white characters: " T a n f Sannie is a miserable woman.Only this morning she told her Hottentot that she w o u l d have you beaten for breaking the 63 . Most the frequently..A Superior Race: The Image of the African in the Novels of Olive Schreiner and Nadine Gordimer Although Olive Schreiner rarely illustrates her character's interaction with the African c o m m u n i t y in her novels. make brief occasional a p p e a r a n c e s . the image of the African in Olive Schreiner's novels d o e s reveal the reasons Victorian w o m e n lacked the option available to their t w e n t i e t h century sisters. Throughout her novels. she d o e s m a n a g e to reveal s o m e valuable insight into such relationships.. and have no influence on the direction of the plot. Despite the infrequency of such interaction. the notion of racial superiority plays an important role in how she portrays and how her characters perceive the image of the African. T h e African characters in Schreiner's stories usually fulfill the roles servants or nannies. While Olive Schreiner did campaign against racism before many of her time. the limited association takes place during childhood of the protagonist and the young girls tend to speak more of the African characters rather than directly to t h e m .

Man. Schreiner. p. Farm.Especially cock-o-veet's eggs you must not take! Kaffir boys take birds' eggs. the concept of supremacy d o e s serve to distance Schreiner's w o m e n from the African community at a very early age. S c h r e i n e r .plate.Kaffirs grow up without learning tables or spelling. 60 T h e portrayal of Africans in this light d o e s not reflect an innate sense of prejudice in these characters. these young girls try to reproduce the behavior displayed by the adults in their environment as all children do. Man. because you can't grow up if you don't know these things. 12 18 26 6 0 6 1 64 .. p. but if you find any birds' nests.. you mustn't take the eggs... Rather. I a m glad I'm not a Kaffir man's w i f e . I'll teach you the multiplication tables and spelling. Schreiner's characters perceive African men separately from the rest of the culture. " 61 Because Schreiner's w o m e n had the least contact with African men. p.." 5 9 Her characters often equate the African with w h a t they consider to be negative and inferior as does Rebekah in From Man to Man (Or Perhaps Only) as she speaks to her imaginary baby: When you grow older.. The fear on the part of colonial men and the laws that kept African men and white w o m e n apart helped to create unfavorable opinions: "I don't like live boys: they are something like Kaffirs. Like nonfictional colonial w o m e n .You can climb trees and tear your clothes. Yet. they often viewed t h e m as more foreign than they did the rest of the 5 9 S c h r e i n e r .

oppression and Schreiner's characters see in the African c o m m u n i t y and a failure to break the bonds of servitude. Farm.. never look for self-definition in that Even had society in s o m e w a y offered these w o m e n 6 2 S c h r e i n e r . negativity. useless to Schreiner's w o m e n . Schreiner's w o m e n perceive the African community similar to the way in which they perceive themselves. Schreiner's w o m e n community. This w e a k n e s s and To incapability reflects the w a y they feel about themselves. Africans represent inferiority. alienation To these w o m e n . turn to the African community for help in a search for self w h e n the African d o e s not struggle to redefine his inferior image only s e e m s impossible but. To these w o m e n . more importantly.. African men represented something that could not be touched nor understood: It was one of them.To us they are only strange things that make us laugh. but to him they were very beautiful. p. However. Because colonial environment instilled in not their minds the image of the African as an inferior being. that painted those pictures. 18 65 . one of these old wild Bushmen. regardless of w h e r e this anxiety found its roots. 62 Schreiner's w o m e n fear more the unfamiliarity a n d their lack of understanding of African men than they fear attack. Schreiner w o m e n can only regard it as such and further remove themselves from the African

unless they could s o m e h o w replace their image of the African they could not make use of it. in the case of Rosa Burger. but rather f r o m years of witnessing the African in a subservient position. 66 .this option. The image of the African in Gordimer's novels and the w a y in which her w o m e n perceive this community reveals the key c o m p o n e n t to the differences between the final stage of selfdiscovery for both types of w o m e n . Her w o m e n interact m u c h more frequently with this culture a n d create invaluable relationships with African characters. South African society has conditioned them to contribute to its perpetuation. Gordimer also uses this interaction as a primary plot mover a n d has these characters reappear throughout the lives of her w o m e n . African characters appear as friends. her w o m e n do not see the African community as inferior for the same reasons as their colonial ancestors. Nadine Gordimer's representation of the African community holds little resemblance to that of Olive Schreiner. Gordimer also allows m e m b e r s of this community to portray roles other than servants. While Gordimer's w o m e n never advocate white supremacy. As in the novels of Olive Schreiner. Yet. even siblings of her women. the element of racial superiority exists unavoidably in Gordimer's novels. Their view comes not from prejudice or racial intolerance. They sense this contradiction in t h e m s e l v e s a n d often try to conceal it by attempting to ameliorate the situation. political associates a n d .

o n c e they recognized this. Yet. " the man in this light. Maureen has enforced the notion of racial superiority. she must see characters saw a reflection of their own inferiority a n d . Gordimer's w o m e n move a step beyond. confronts her with the idea that she might have done the opposite Maureen acknowledges her mistake: If she had never before used the word 'dignity' to him it was not because she didn't think he understood the concept. 63 In her own way. didn't have any-it was only the term itself that might be beyond the grasp of his language. 72 G o r d i m e r . She can not deny that she has employed July to attend to her needs as well as those of her husband and children "as his kind has always done for their k i n d . July.M a u r e e n in July's People felt that she had always tried her best W h e n he to make July feel as if he w e r e more than just a servant. 1 67 . they turned away and did not look any further. Gordimer's w o m e n also sense something in the African c o m m u n i t y that Schreiner's failed to notice. w o m e n understand their pain for they too fight to free 6 3 6 4 G o r d i m e r . They too see the similarities between their oppression and that of the African. African They see African men and w o m e n strive to find meaning in a country that continually creates Gordimer's a n d self-definition insurmountable obstacles to stand in their way. Schreiner's 6 4 Thus. July. But. unlike Schreiner's w o m e n . p. p. they also observe the African's aspiration to o v e r c o m e the restraints of white South society.

G o r d i m e r . turn to an African m a n in their search for self.-It's you Baasie? -No. -But it is. South African society still frowns upon such interaction. daily continuity that is in the mass of t h e m . she The persistence. That's my name.-. Burger. unfamiliarity. I'm Zwelinzima Vulindlela. all of Gordimer's w o m e n Through these self-discoveries. 65 The Rosa returns to South Africa with the knowledge that she is not alone. p. Rosa. m e n . -Yes-Yeh. -You know what my name means.A long swaying pause.there are others that must struggle just as she. Burger. If one is resurgence. 'Suffering land'. her w o m e n make their most important 6 5 6 6 G o r d i m e r . p. W h e n Baasie confronts Rosa in Burger's Daughter she realizes he has achieved what she so desires. how can one not be a t t r a c t e d ? " 66 For Rosa. A n d . a sense of inner knowledge and understanding: The voice from home said: Rosa. The philosophy developed during the colonial period of keeping white w o m e n and African men apart has not become obsolete under institutionalized apartheid. Rosa?-Zwel-in-zima. not afraid.themselves from such restraints.. However.-I'm not 'Baasie'.. 318 143 68 . Maureen and Elisabeth the kind of fear experienced by Schreiner's w o m e n has c h a n g e d .. name my father gave me. takes solace in this: "The comfort of black. The African community no longer represents but j u s t the opposite.

Gordimer's w o m e n turn in to the African man in the hopes of finding it there. To Gordimer's w o m e n .Without the c o n f r o n t a t i o n with an African m a n . Gordimer's w o m e n must obtain the acceptance of the African in order for t h e m to begin a new exploration. Thus. her protagonists can not enter the final stage of r e b i r t h . South women to self through a male a familiar one. r e b i r t h d o e s not necessarily signify the e n d of her character's search for a meaningful image of self. She never fully reveals the actualization of self. Their ultimate success once again depends upon another being. Rather. Nadine Gordimer does not document the experiences of her characters after r e b i r t h . not only with their plight but. Yet. characters turn to July. Elisabeth and Rosa find the idea of searching for Like those before t h e m . relationship A n d . African society has c o n d i t i o n e d twentieth-century believe that self-definition can c o m e only through a with a m a n .regardless of South African laws and racial ideologies . failing to find a satisfactory image of self through the men of the white community. only the new possibility of reaching it. this time they must cope with an a d d e d implication. They need the consent of men like July and Zwelinzima who have continually been 69 . She takes them up to the point of discovering this new option in life and then she leaves t h e m there. Her African m e n serve as a vehicle for self-actualization. with their Maureen. in addition. it represents the beginning of a different one. Luke and Zwelinzima because they identify gender.

How to end suffering. I don't know the ideology. they must be ready to face they must be ready to accept the isolation of a superior race a n d the confines of an inferior gender: No one can defect. It's about suffering. 6 7 6 7 G o r d i m e r . abused and oppressed by the culture Gordimer's w o m e n claim as their o w n . rejectionAnd. 332 70 .humiliated. p.. Burger. And it ends in suffering..

As an inferior gender within a superior race. has South experienced an African political and civil rights movement. South African society's unique social situation. The novels of Olive Schreiner and Nadine Gordimer offer great insight into the evolution of the consciousness of white South African w o m e n . able to unite in a male white South African w o m e n have not been collective feminist m o v e m e n t b e c a u s e of continuing domination. has served to create a dichotomy for its white female members. Unlike w o m e n in other countries. The works of these two writers have brought about a better understanding of the 71 . these w o m e n face extraordinary obstacles in their efforts to find self-definition and meaning. South African society has not Thus. the ideology a n d political application of racial supremacy b e c o m e an intricate factor in the acculturation of white African w o m e n . In addition. Their literature reveals the sensations. emotions and volitions of these w o m e n w h o strive so arduously to achieve a greater.Conclusion Both nineteenth a n d twentieth-century w h i t e South African w o m e n have struggled relentlessly to c o m e to terms with their image of self and their options in life in a repressive and stagnating environment. both past and present. more complete image of self.

mentality of colonial a n d present-day w h i t e South women. colonial men passed laws that made many other kinds of contact impossible in an effort to sanctify their race. child-rearing and social planning. Restrained from becoming politically. Most importantly. these w o m e n felt a n d still feel driven into marriage and motherhood. self- Their need for financial support and protection in a strange environment left t h e m increasingly d e p e n d e n t upon their male counterparts. African In addition. in many cases. cleaning. South African society offered few options in life to white South African w o m e n . they have revealed invaluable insight into the c h a n g e d experiences of such individuals. unapproachable beings. Contact with Africans usually took place within the home and revolved around routine duties such as cooking. Because they rarely encountered the African in his own surroundings colonial w o m e n perceived t h e m as strange a n d . addition. T h e relationship between colonial w o m e n and the African c o m m u n i t y remained extremely limited and controlled. rules of conduct In furthered the restricted interaction b e t w e e n the two parties. Victorian morals and values confined t h e m to the d o m e s t i c s p h e r e a n d left little room other outlets of expression. Although life in the colonies provided s o m e new opportunities for nineteenthcentury w o m e n . economically a n d even emotionally independent. Outside the home environment. nineteenth- century w o m e n saw in the African community w h a t they 72 . however.

For twentieth-century w o m e n . image of self reflected the ideals of colonial men. present-day women have a s o m e w h a t broader range of opportunities from which to choose. Many women have acquired some economic independence Others by establishing careers for themselves outside the home. Colonial w o m e n had no choice but to accept this as their definition and purpose in life for they lacked they necessary outlets to achieve anything higher. These men perpetuated by Victorian notions of domesticity and female subordination imposing these values on their female counterparts. For nineteenth-century South African w o m e n . the experience of living in South Africa has changed in many respects. the keeper of morality and the preservers of civilization. The emergence of a liberal ideology in South African society has also given way to the involvement of twentieth-century women in political activities and other causes.themselves had fought so hard to overcome-an inability to escape a subservient a n d inferior position in society. 73 . the mothers of their children. Although South African society still a d v o c a t e s marriage and family life as the most a c c e p t a b l e a n d fulfilling options in life. have d e v e l o p e d alternatives to the c o n v e n t i o n a l marital/familial relationship such as single parenting or living with a mate with no legal bindings. Colonial w o m e n perceived themselves as the wives of their husbands. If the image proved unsatisfactory or void of any meaning.

yet the belief seems to stem less from racial intolerance than it d o e s from years of societal conditioning. these w o m e n can identify and form a psychological connection with the African. 74 .Present-day South African women's perception of the African community has also evolved and changed from that of colonial women. Many twentieth-century w o m e n have d e v o t e d their lives to helping the African c o m m u n i t y o v e r c o m e t h e restraints a n d limitations placed on them by South African society. Twentieth- century w o m e n have. W o m e n no longer feel that this exploration They must be confined to their own culture and their own race. Failing to find a fulfilling image of self within the white c o m m u n i t y they have turned towards the African in the hopes of achieving a higher level of consciousness. These w o m e n perceive the African in a more humane light. The search for self of South African w o m e n has also undergone a few transitions. developed a new image of the African in addition to the one that had already been established. in doing so. In doing so. have discovered new means with which to acquire selfactualization. they feel a sense of inner knowledge and understanding. T h e ideology of racial supremacy still exists for many w o m e n . however.they feel they have defined for themselves a new and satisfactory image of self. And. They recognize the struggle of this community to c o m e to t e r m s with their o w n image of self and options in life.

75 . this inferiority they will c o n t i n u e to trapped. until they can conquer remain this w e a k n e s s . A n d . White South African w o m e n intellectual have not yet learned to tap their spiritual and resources without the aid of outside forces. And. like their colonial sisters. They still look for self- definition through something or s o m e o n e other than themselves.Yet. T h u s .inescapably. twentieth- century white South African w o m e n still remained trapped in what seems to be an endless cycle. the most significant aspect of white South African w o m e n ' s experience of coming to terms with their image of self a n d their options in life has not c h a n g e d . They continue to d e p e n d on the energies and capacities of others to acquire a kind of awareness that pertains only to themselves. unique and true image of self can really only come from within. South African w o m e n have still remained unable to achieve a higher level of consciousness through the use of their own personal strengths. W h e t h e r the vehicle to self discovery c o m e s in the form of a white man and the white community or an African man and the African c o m m u n i t y . the discovery of a satisfactory.

Dreams 2.. Reader. ed.Bibliography The Works of Qiive Schreiner 1.. Dreams and Allegories ( New York:' Frederick A. 1928) Women and Labor (New York: Frederick A. An Olive Schreiner 1987) 5. McNally. 1927) Only. Stokes. 6. (New York and London: Harper & Brothers. 1883) 7. Life and 1909) Real Life: A Little African Story (Boston: Little & 3. From Man to Man (Or Perhaps Brothers. (New York and London: Harper & Brothers. 1923) The Story of an African Farm (Chicago: Rand.) (New York and London: Harper & 4. Carol Barash. Undine 8. Stokes. 1890) Dream Brown. Stories. (London: Pandora Press. 1911) 76 .

4. 6. (New York and London: Africana Publishing. 1974) The Conservationist A Guest of Honor (New York: Viking Press.The Works of Nadine Gordimer 1.. Knopf. Joseph. 1988) (London: Z e d Press. Side by Side 4.. 1986) First. Helen. 117 Days 3. 1984) Women in South Africa (London: 77 . Burger's Daughter (Great Britain: Jonathan Cape Ltd. We Make Freedom: Pandora Press. 1987) (New York: Viking Press... A Soldier's Embrace Other Works on South African W o m e n 1.. A Sport (Great Britain: Penguin Books. 1966) Apartheid. Beata. 1984) (London: Bloomsbury Publishing Ltd. Six Feet of the Country 8. by Nadine Gordimer and David Rosenblatt. Lipman. 1970) July's People (New York: Viking Press. 1980) 9. 2. 1981) The Late Bourgeois Times Under World (Great Britain: Jonathan Cape Ltd. Goodwin. 3. 1982) of Nature (United States: Alfred A. Cry Amandla!: South African Women and the Question of Power 2. Ruth. 5. 1979) (Great Britain: Jonathan Cape Ltd. June. Life (New York: Alfred A. 1986) 7. Knopf. Inc.

Claudia Koonz and Susan Stuard (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co. Apartheid. 1985) 2. T. Waiting: Random House. Carl N.. and the Afrikaner 1975) 4. Becoming Visable: Women in European History. Degler. At Odds: Women The Whites of South Africa (New York: and the Family in America from the Revolution 3. 1987) 78 .Additional Sources 1. Vincent. Dunbar.. Civil Religion (California: University of California Press. Crapanzano. The Rise of Afrikanerdom: Power. edited by. Strobel. Renate Bridenthal. "Gender and Race in the Nineteenth-and TwentiethCentury British Empire". 1980) Moodie. Margaret. to the Present (New York: Oxford University Press.

1984) Women in South Africa (London: 77 . 4. (New York and London: Africana Publishing. We Make Freedom: Pandora Press. 6. Cry Amandlal: South African Women and the Question of Power 2. 1988) (London: Z e d Press. 1986) First. 1986) 7. Joseph. Ruth. 2. Lipman. Six Feet of the Country 8. Burger's Daughter (Great Britain: Jonathan Cape Ltd. by Nadine Gordimer and David Rosenblatt. Knopf. Side by Side 4. June. Beata. 117 Days 3. 5. Knopf.. Life (New York: Alfred A. 1984) (London: Bloomsbury Publishing Ltd.. 1970) July's People (New York: Viking Press. 1966) Apartheid.. Helen. A Soldier's Embrace Other Works on South African W o m e n 1. 1987) (New York: Viking Press. 1982) of Nature (United States: Alfred A. 1974) The Conservationist A Guest of Honor {New York: Viking Press.. 1979) (Great Britain: Jonathan Cape Ltd. 1980) 9. 3.. Goodwin. 1981) The Late Bourgeois Times Under World (Great Britain: Jonathan Cape Ltd. A Sport (Great Britain: Penguin Books.The Works of Nadine Gordimer 1. Inc.

and the Afrikaner 1975) 4. Becoming Visable: Women in European History. At Odds: Women The Whites of South Africa (New York: and the Family in America from the Revolution 3. Carl N. 1987) 78 .. 1980) Moodie.. "Gender and Race in the Nineteenth-and TwentiethCentury British Empire". T.Additional Sources 1. Dunbar. Civil Religion (California: University of California Press. Claudia Koonz and Susan Stuard (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co. Margaret. Crapanzano. Vincent. Waiting: Random House. 1985) 2. to the Present (New York: Oxford University Press. Apartheid. Renate Bridenthal. Strobel. edited by. Degler. The Rise of Afrikanerdom: Power.