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Country Lovers

In: English and Literature

Submitted By DBS2002
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The literary work I chose was Country Lovers by Nadine Gordimer. Her story intrigued me from the beginning, as it is a story about forbidden love in South Africa. You immediately know that the story will be about an interracial relationship between Thebedi-a young black woman and Paulus-her white master’s son. The tone reflected in this work is deep, the author is able to “evoke a sense of compassion for the characters, who are enmeshed in circumstances of their own creation” (McLeod, 2004). Because Nadine Gordimer grew up in South Africa, she has a main theme in her writing dealing with attitudes of racial relationships since she strongly opposed apartheid causing her work to have a greater meaning (Clugston, 2010). Thebedi and Paulus have a childhood relationship that gradually grows into a secret sexual relationship and eventually the birth of a forbidden child. I will review how the author uses image, simile, and imagination in her work which causes the story to be so intriguing. As well as review the story using a formalist approach to show the intent of the writer and the significance of the work. Imagination is “the human power that shapes artistic expression” and “enables a writer’s work to become an expression of meaning” (Clugston, 2010). While they were secretly spending time together, the author describes the feeling of Paulus vividly,
“The schoolgirls he went swimming with at dams or pools on neighbouring farms wore bikinis but the sight of their dazzling bellies and thighs in the sunlight had never made him feel what he felt now when the girl came up the bank and sat beside him, the drops of water beading off her dark legs the only points of light in the earth-smelling deep shade”. (Clugston, 2010)
We can see that Paulus was fascinated by Thebedi, and so was she as she is portrayed as very innocent in this story. Image is a “distinct representation of something that can be experienced and understood through the senses or the representation of an idea” (Clugston, 2010). When Thebedi met Paulus at his home, the way it is described we can see and even smell by the language used.
“The house was an old one, thick-walled, dark against the heat. The kitchen was its lively thoroughfare with servants, food supplies, begging cats and dogs, pots boiling over, washing being damped for ironing, and the big deep-freezer the missus had ordered from town, bearing a crocheted mat and a case of plastic irises. But the dining-room with the bulging-legged heavy table was shut up in its rich, old smell of soup and tomato sauce. The sitting-room curtains were drawn and the T.V. set silent.” (Clugston, 2010).
When I read this I could imagine being in the house and looking around, seeing everything as I read from the kitchen to the dining room. Nadine Gordimer also uses similes in this story, which are a “direct comparison to show the similarity of two things that ordinarily are not thought of as being similar”. Down at the river bed she uses this depiction, “wild asparagus bushing up between the trunks, and here and there prickly-pear cactus sunken-skinned and bristly, like an old man’s face” (Clugston, 2010). The plot is intriguing because Thebedi gets pregnant by Paulus but marries Njabulo, who is more than willing to provide for this baby even though it’s apparent that it’s not his, from looks alone. “The infant was very light and did not quickly grow darker as most African babies do. Already at birth there was on its head a quantity of straight, fine floss” (Clugston, 2010). That was the first surprise, the next surprise came when the baby mysteriously died after a visit from Paulus. I thought it was weird that Thebedi let Paulus go inside the house to see the baby and she just stayed outside. And even though she heard grunts coming from inside, she then told her husband Njabulo that the baby was sleep until he discovered in the morning that the baby was actually dead. Before they could lay a cross on the grave, the police came and excavated the baby’s corpse as someone had reported that the baby was almost white and had suddenly died after the Paulus had visited. The plot thickens as Paulus is not found guilty of the murder of the young baby due to lack of evidence and the inconsistencies in Thebedi’s testimony. Thebedi was already forbidden to have a relationship with a white man; now that she had this baby she may have felt powerless to stop the death of her child. The intent of the author in this work suggests that “interpersonal relationships should remain exactly that and should not become the concern of government policy. Romance or sex between members of different racial groups should be guided by concern for the involved parties rather than by legislative edict” (McLeod, 2004). Which takes us back to the main tone and theme of social injustices, because Thebedi felt oppressed because of being black and being a female if she had any self-worth she could have saved her baby’s life.

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