Oral History


Nadine Gordimer is a white author who lives in the country of South Africa. She is known for her excellent characters and the vivid details of her books. Her stories are written in the context of her South African experiences. She also writes about the previous challenges of South Africa under apartheid, at a time when society was split by race.


South Africas racial problems began when the white people came and discovered South Africa with its black population. The white people wanted power because there were many fewer whites than blacks. The only way to achieve that was to change the government around so that only white people had political power. The three terms that were used to describe racial groups under the system of apartheid were European, Native and Coloured.

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Gordimer explains the many aspects of this problem in South Africa with her stories in A Soldiers Embrace. In her last short story, simply titled, Oral History, she writes about the Europeans finding out that there were Native rebels in a village. The chief of the town wanted to get rid of them, so he asked the white army to do it. The white army bombed the village and killed everyone who was in it, too. When the chief came back and found out what had happened, he hanged himself from a tree.


Gordimers message in this story is that the people who split themselves by race (or by anything else for that matter) will eventually destroy everything for different reasons. One cannot label someone by their race because it can be hard to draw the line in some situations. It is also impossible to make laws about love. In one of Gordimers short stories, Town and County Lovers, she wrote about a white man and a black woman in love and the consequences of that relationship for them. European South Africans were selfish, and made the people of other cultures separate from them. The Europeans were also the ones who made the Coloureds and Natives do menial work. One would think that the Natives would own the land because they lived on it first!
Throughout A Soldiers Embrace, Gordimer develops the theme of mans inhumanity to man through the political system in South Africa. Gordimer includes many twists in her book as well about relationships between the people of different races and her views of violence, love and compassion. Probably one of the saddest things about her stories was that it was truth, not fiction.

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