Alice Walker & Nadine Gordimer
Alice Walker & Nadine Gordimer Rodney Lake English 125 Introduction to Literature Professor Peter Kunze August 27th, 2012 Alice Walker’s, The Welcome Table, and Nadine Gordimer’s, the Country Lovers, are both short stories that deal with the moral and psychological tension of a racially and divided setting and environment among the black and white race. Walker and Gordimer point out the hypocrisy and injustice of racism in these two particular stories told in third–person omniscient point of view.
Each story is written in a way that the reader is able to pick out its individual quality in different ways with very different emotional effects. The Welcome Table and County Lovers, each protest racism while exposing the tragic human consequence of our society then and now. However, they differ partly because of the context within which each story was written, but also in the way that they are written along with their overall emotional impact on the reader’s imagination and understanding of what each of them is feeling or trying to express within the story itself. All History is current; all injustice continues on some level, somewhere in the world”—Alice Walker, black writer (Nguyen, Tram). Walker’s story is set in the United States in the post-civil rights era, but as she does in a lot of her short stories from that time, she concerns herself with the plight of the older and rural African-Americans who have been unable to take advantage of the freedoms gained by the civil rights movement and who are condemned to a life governed by the legacy and bondage of slavery. Walker, in spite of desperate circumstances of the African-American people sought to see faith and faithfulness in all that she wrote.
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She wrote in a less directive fashion in which the reader had to discover her themes as they read. Some authors just wrote stories that demonstrated our folly in polluting the environment. Walker wrote stories that encouraged people to take a closer look at the world around them and how they could benefit from cleaning up their act and attitudes about one another to make it a better place live in. “Perhaps the best definition of progress would be the continuing efforts of men and women to narrow the gap between the convenience of the owers that be and the unwritten charter (Gordimer, N)”. Gordimer’s story was written in South Africa under the iniquitous apartheid regime which used the law and the apparatus of the state to impose appalling living conditions on all non-whites living there during that time period, while preserving wealth and economic and educational opportunity for the exclusive and white South Africans. The Immorality Act of 1950 is highly relevant to an understanding of Gordimer’s story. The Act made sexual relations between people of different races an illegal act.
Gordimer has an intentional directive way of writing and getting her feelings across to her readers. As the reader embodies his or her mind around the message in which the author is expressing herself intellectually and not always emotionally, they find themselves embroiled in the meaning of what she is saying. Her characters give us a view at the world from a very different era, time, and place. These two authors share and allow the accumulative effects of symbols, plots, and settings that tend to lead the careful and observant reader into a dialect of extraordinary measures of themes.
These themes in contrast, seem to just pop off the pages into the minds of the reader that help with broadening the consumption of life’s experiences from within the imagination. So much so, that by the time you are done reading, the story will eventually become an amplification of various themes that will be explained and told to others in a thousand different ways. Alice Walker’s The Welcome Table, she tells us a story about an old black woman who travels to an all-white church in the freezing cold content on praising and worshiping the Lord just like the people around her no matter the circumstance.
The white people do not know what to do at first glimpse of the old lady with the mildewed dress that consisted of a few missing buttons. Some of the white people saw her as she was, while others saw her as the beginning of the end of their existence of just having an all-white membership. The old lady was a symbol of their own hate, fear, and ignorance, of what they thought they knew about blacks. The women of the church eventually coerce and convince the men in the church to throw the old lady back out in the cold and separate their existence of having to ever share the same space with her.
The white women were the most intimidated by her presence. Their ignorance impelled them so much that the driving force to ostracize and distance themselves from the old lady seemed to burn their souls like hells fury from within. After she is kicked back out into the cold, she then sees a figure that resembles that of Jesus. However, unlike the white men she was accustomed to knowing, this white man, Jesus, offers her total acceptance and kindness. She is overjoyed and full of contentment and peace with him.
At the end of the story, the old woman ends up dying, so Walker allows the reader’s imagination to think she does just that. This story, unlike other short stories that Walker has written that may have highlighted that of tragedy, despair, and hopelessness with life consisting of some type of bondage or death, contained a glimmer of hope leaving the reader with a good feeling of imaginary praise that something good had happened for the old lady shut out by the societal prejudice around her. Authors and writers deal with themes in very different ways.
They use themes to make sense of their experiences either consciously or unconsciously. The theme of a short story or poem is its view about life and how people behave. As we read, we have to distinguish the characters, settings, plots, point-of-view, language, conflict, and all other elements that are used to create a theme. Active readers must consider every part of literature to discover the theme of a particular short story of poem. Discovering a theme in a work of literature or fiction can be a complex task for readers. Themes can be greater than the actual sum of its parts.
While we investigate and gain access to all the aspects of what literature is made up of, we must also recognize an author’s and writer’s style and tone as we process the information that we are reading. The theme of a story or poem is usually amplified by its voice. In a short story, a writer or author must try and make every word count. The genre allows for the accumulation of detail over several interrelated scenes. Similarities and differences draw us in. We have to read in order to know more. We tend to view the world through our own limited perspective.
Literature gives us the rare opportunity to see the world through different eyes, sometimes through the eyes of characters who remind us of ourselves or someone we know. Other times, it is the vision of the imagination seen through the characters that seem to be different than anyone we have ever met. What affects the reader from that of the character is tied to the world. A sense of place and setting is what draws us into the character. Characters inhabit those worlds we may never know except through the pages of a book or the mind of an author or writer.
Nadine Gordimer’s Country Lovers, is a narrative about a girl who has an intimate relationship with a white man, but due to the situation that the event takes place in, she is not a candidate for a long-term relationship with him. Intimate relationships across the colour line in apartheid South Africa were considered immoral and were forbidden. The man does not pursue marriage with her, she becomes his secret girlfriend and when she falls pregnant with his baby he takes the life of their baby away as a way of removing the evidence of what took place between the two of them.
Throughout the story you are able to pick on Paulus’s affection and feelings that he has for Thebedi, but he is very careful to not let anyone find out about it. Country Lovers was written in the point of view of the third person omniscient. This story was written in the same point of view throughout. The beginning of the story starts out innocent and very sweet, but ends very tumultuous. Paulus had Thebedi on his mind even when he had gone away for school. He had always brought something home for her. Thebedi made a bracelet for Paulus when he left for school. From the tone of the story, I thought that the story would end happily.
With this story written in the third person, it does not sway you from one of the characters point of view from the other. Thebedi’s character serves not only as a reflection for the black experience under the white rule in South Africa, but it also questions the subjection of women under the patriarchal system. Authors, poets, and novelist like Walker and Gordimer, use their works to help shape the future of societies. They can do this not only by reflecting the ugly sides of the societies but also by promoting the positive aspects of the people’s way of life that are worth emulating and cultivating.
They also help to ensure the continuity of their tradition and culture by reflecting this in their own words. Each author, therefore, tries from her perspective to use literature to enlighten the audience on the goodness, imbalances and the shortcomings of our society. Apart from their thematic concerns, each novelist has her own style of relaying her message to highlight the cultural background through the use of myths, legends, music, songs, dances, proverbs, riddles, and other variations of being expressive. In this way, they are regarded as the conscience of their societies distinguishable between that of moral and cultural values.
In mirroring the world around us, each author decides on a particular perspective. When a poem or story presents an idealized vision of the world as a place where everything is beautiful and orderly, we want to call it romance. On the other hand, when a story focuses on the ugly and racially torn biased view of life, we refer to it as racism. Racism and romance present extreme and sometimes, unrealistic conditions of life. Imitation in tragedy and circumstance is very close to life as we live it as they emphasize the dominant patterns of experiences that their characters go through in life.
In most particular stories and poems that they deal with about life, their major themes almost always begin in a state of opposition against what they stand for. As each and every poem or story progress, they get the reader to understand better so that by the end of the story they get into the harmonious relationships in which each and every poem or story written ends a sometimes happy note. These two writers create characters in their mind and then watch and listen as these characters themselves create or make up the design of what they are trying to project from the storyline’s subject matter.
The key qualities of what is being presented or emphasized, seem to come from the choice of characters they utilize when they are expressing themselves through them. The characters can be anything from flat or one-dimensional, to fully developed round characters or any variation in-between (Clugston, 2010). No matter where the character fits in this spectrum, each has been carefully chosen to fulfill the needs of what the writer is conveying to the audience and reader. In conclusion, the reader is able to see the significance of just how powerful racism can be through Walker’s and Gordimer’s point of view.
Each author’s brand of literature teaches us how to imagine what it is like to be different without putting so much emphasis on the word itself. They give us a direct look into life’s experiences from the eyes of the characters they create and use to tell the reader a story. Reference Bloom, H. (2000). Alice Walker. Chelsea House Publishers. Clugston, R. W. (2010). Journey into literature. San Diego, California: Bridgepoint Education, Inc. Retrieved from https://content. ashford. edu/books Gunning, S. (1996). Race, Rape, and Lynching : The Red Record of American Literature, 1890-1912.
Oxford University Press. Nadine Gordimer. (n. d. ). BrainyQuote. com. Retrieved June 18, 2012, from BrainyQuote. com Web site: http://www. brainyquote. com/quotes/authors/n/nadine_gordimer. html Nguyen, Tram (Editor). Language Is a Place of Struggle: Great Quotes by People of Color. Boston, MA, USA: Beacon Press, 2008. p 4. Quashie, K. (2004). Black Women, Identity, and Cultural Theory : (Un)becoming the Subject. Rutgers University Press. Rittenhouse, J. (n. d). The Little Book of Modern Verse : A Selection From the Work of Contemporaneous American Poets. Project Gutenberg.