Country Lovers versus the Story of an Hour Essay
The Country Lovers is a short story published in “A Soldier’s Embrace” 1989, by Nadine Gordimer. Like many of Nadine’s other stories, this short story describes the cruelty inflicted by racial segregation in South Africa during the apartheid period. Nadine is famous for writing about how government’s strict measures have affected the lives of both white and black individuals, particularly in South Africa. The interracial relationships were governed by strict yet invisible lines. Individuals who tried to surpass these lines had to face brutal consequences. Nadine Gordimer mastered the art of utilizing these consequences as the central theme in her works. In this particular story, she describes the unusual life of Thebedi, a South African girl who works in a farm owned by whites. The author utilizes a complex pattern to describe how the invisible forces of racial segregation and social differences are capable of mediating a huge impact on the lives of people.
Kate Chopin is the author of The Story of an Hour. She is famous for describing the lives of wives and their individualities. The Story of an Hour was published on April 19, 1894 and had the privilege of being printed in one of the early issues of Vogue. Chopin gained fame for being brave enough to write about women liberation during a time when women were not able to enjoy most of their birth rights. According to Papke, Chopin is the “first modern female literary discourse in America”. This particular story is about a wife and her desire for freedom and liberation. In many ways, the author is regarded as a pre-feminist writer even though she never physically took part in the feminist movement. Chopin’s work is popularly considered a feminist statement. (München 2010). The central theme of The Story of an Hour rests on dialects of social relations and the position of women in the society. Both stories describe how societal restrictions have a detrimental impact on the lives of people; it describes how these seemingly invisible forces are capable of inflicting a negative effect on the framework of a society. In my opinion blacks in South Africa were treated in the same way as women were treated in America. Blacks were deprived of their right to have a say in their constitution, similarly women were also deprived of their right to vote. This paper utilizes the opportunity to compare two stories and prove the fact that in many ways racial segregation and gender inequality have had the same effect on the lives of blacks and women around the world.
In 1948, the apartheid movement became an official policy in 1948 and was led by the National Party government. The apartheid policies created a volatile and dangerous situation in South Africa and threw the political scenario of the country into a floundering sea of turmoil and destruction. The apartheid policies of South African government were a serious violation of human rights. The South African government comprised of white individuals, although they were a minority in South Africa but yet was dominated and oppressed the majority with their strict and racial policies. The policies proved to be a flagrant violation of basic principles of human rights and were a serious threat to international as well as national peace. Nelson Mandela rose to fame during the period of apartheid for his efforts against racial discrimination and segregation. (Mandela, 1994). As a result of the movement, millions of South Africans were left homeless and unemployed. (Eades, 1999). The author Nadine utilizes the story “The Country lovers” to describe the distinct living conditions of white and black population in South Africa. The story revolves around two characters; Thebedi and Paulus.
The first main character is played by a black girl named Thebedi, who at heart is a very emotional and nice person. The story describes the hard circumstances which the girl has to endure to make the two ends meet. Thebedi had a desperate desire to attend school but that was not possible because her family is very poor. The other main character is played by a rich and generous yet selfish white boy named Paulus. The farm Thebedi works at is owned and run by Paulus’s father. Thebedi and Paulus became friends when they were kids because they used to play together at the farm. Later, Paulus started school and went away. While at school, Paulus met and befriended many girls. He slept with a girl he met at a wedding but he never forgot the little black girl at his farm. Despite having many girlfriends, he continued to bring gifts fr Thebedi whenever he came to his farm to spend his holidays. Once Paulus came home and met Thebedi at the same river bank at which they used to spend hours playing together as kids. However, they are no longer kids and their friendship crosses its limits when they make love at the river bed. After the love making, their meetings at the river bed become quite frequent. Once Paulus reaches the age of 18 and acquires his driver’s license, his father gives him the control of the farm during they head off somewhere for the weekends. Whenever his parents were away for the weekends, Paulus and Thebedi would spend hours enjoying themselves in the house. The story takes a turn when Thebedi turns 18 and marries Njabulo. During the time she gets married, Paulus was attending veterinary college, and therefore he remains ignorant of Thebedi’s marriage. Thebedi gives birth to a girl soon after her marriage. When Paulus finds out about the baby and the fact that the baby does not have the same complexion as the other blacks, he gets so angry that he decides to murder the poor soul. Later, when Paulus’ parents are away for a weekend, he walks up to Thebedi’s house and poisons the baby. Thebedi is stricken with grief and files a case against Paulus. Inevitably, the case takes a long time to come up before the judge and when it does, the court ends the case and declares Paulus “not guilty” due to lack of evidence. (Gordimer,1980). It is not surprising that the story would have had a quite different course had the girl been white and the boy been black. The story reflects the circumstances faced by the black population during the time the apartheid movement was launched in South Africa. The courts were operated by white judges and it was inevitable that they protected their fellow individuals belonging to the white population. The story describes the hard circumstances Thebedi has to bear during her lifetime. The court protected Paulus and declared him not guilty and neglected the evidence which was enough to prove that he was guilty of murder.
Chopin conveys the desires of freedom and recognition nurturing in the hearts of women during her period. The story derives its title from the central theme of the plot during which Mrs. Mallard experiences the joy and tranquility of peace and freedom much in the same way as South Africans desperately fantasized during the time of apartheid. Mrs. Mallard has spent a great deal of her life being oppressed by her husband. She fantasizes the feelings of freedom on hearing about the death of her husband, Brently. (Chopin, 2001).The story illuminates the inner unspoken desires of the woman who longed all her life for freedom and self development. At the beginning of the story, the author introduces Mrs. Mallard to the reader not by her Christian name but by referring to her as Mrs., much in the same way as Thebedi is reffered to as one of the Black population. The referral serves a dual purpose, firstly it describes the marital status of the main character and secondly it provides the reader an idea about the masculine discourse of the story. The referral informs the reader about the identity of the women during her time and describes that women had no identity and were identified as either daughters of their fathers or wives of their husbands and beyond this they had no identity. Similarly Mrs. Mallard’s had no identity or role in a society except being the wife of Mr. Brently Mallard. The two possible roles that women could enjoy during the 19th century were either the role of a wife or an old maid. The latter was considered a failure and a stigma.
In the 19th century, the wedding ring was regarded as a token of respectability yet it provided a symbol of inadequacy as well. Women had no roles to play in a society except the traditional roles of taking care of their husbands and giving birth. They were considered too weak to study or work. The prevalent misconception was that working women are unfertile and unfit for marriage. (Arrighi, 2007). The author informs the reader about the debilitating heart condition of Mrs. Mallard and makes it clear that her disease has worsened over the years by the statement “the need to break the bad news gently”. Mrs. Mallard is momentarily shaken by grief upon hearing about her husband’s death, through Josephine, during a rail accident. Later, she goes up to her room knowing that there is no one to follow her there now. Despite her grief, she is relieved deep in her heart due to the feeling of new found sense of freedom.
She imagines about the years of freedom which lay ahead her. (München 2010). Mrs. Mallard is ecstatic at the thought that she would be the in charge of her life. She is gratified at her independence and imagines her freedom flight just like Thebedi did when she filed that case against Paulus. Thebedi was ecstatic at the thought of convicting the murderer of her only child. She was in grief just in the same way as Mrs. Mallard was the death of her husband. At the same time, both women were determined to live their lives after crushing the oppressing forces. At one hand, Mrs. Mallard fantasized about the independent years ahead, whereas Thebedi enjoyed imagining the thought of seeing Paulus behind the bars. However, the course of the stories prove that both women did not get what they dreamed of. Mrs. Mallard suffers defeat and her dreams for freedom come crashing down when Brently walks in the front door. The story ends with the death of Mrs. Mallard due to heart attack brought on by happiness. The author bestows the reader with the duty to imagine the real cause of Mrs. Mallard’s death. In my opinion, she had a heart attack because she could not comprehend the fact that her husband was alive which inevitably meant that her dreams of freedom had been brutally crashed. The stories clarify that women and black population have been badly oppressed and denied of freedom much in the same way.
The blacks have suffered from the paradoxical legacy of persistent poverty through out the history of the world. They have been oppressed brutally and their rights have been violated at the hands of the white population in numerous ways. (Massey & Denton, 1993).The unparallel degree of deliberate and vicious racial segregation in South Africa has given birth to millions of Thebedi and at the same time it has taken the lives of thousands of black babies. The hyper segregation of Black population has not only crippled generations of South Africans but has also marked their memories with an imperishable and an ugly scar. In many ways, women through out the world have suffered like the black population. Women have been deprived of rights over their children just in the same way as Thebedi was deprived of her right over her child by Paulus. It is a dubious notion to consider that racial segregation and gender inequality are obsolete in modern society because women and black population continue to be oppressed in one way or the other around the world.
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Gordimer, N. (1980). Town and country lovers. Los Angeles, Calif: Sylvester & Orphanos.
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Eades, L. M. (1999). The end of apartheid in South Africa. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press.
Massey, D. S., & Denton, N. A. (1993). American apartheid: Segregation and the making of the underclass. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.
Arrighi, B. (2007). Understanding inequality: The intersection of race/ethnicity, class, and gender. Lanham, Md: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
Mandela, N. (1994). Long walk to freedom: The autobiography of Nelson Mandela. Boston: Little, Brown.