The novel has an open ending in which Selly says he has achieved “a glimmering of understanding“ (p.97.12). thus the most interesting feature of the novel is obviously Selly’s progress and growth to understanding. (Bildungsroman), of which we must trace the stages.
Tropics (themes) contained in the novel:
• Conscience vs. education: Is there an awareness of rightand wrong in spite of the education received, the social and political pressures exerted by the environment?
• Guilt, complexes, repression (= refoulement), compensation for this, therapy (therapists and relations to these, therapist-figures).
• Society, politics, violence, social problems, the individual’s place in society, racism
• Homeland, roots, being uprooted, integration/lackof… cf. Both black and white South Africans. The effects of climate, mentality, training (job), schooling on integration. Effects of moving, on personal relationships, character etc.
• Isolation, unhappiness, solitude, friendship in the loss of it, intolerance, not being accepted, death/suicide
• What picture of S.Africa is given at the opening of the novel? Is it homogenous? Or arethere disturbing ripples in the smooth surface apparence? Does this picture evolve in the course of the novel? If so how? Why? Is a totally new picture built up
• Glimpses into the living and working conditions of both white and black South Africans
• Condition of women in S.Africa as comparison to Europe.
Themes present from the outset (i.e. CH1)
- Born in Joburg into his“white skin” (p.9.4)
- “black blood on [his] … white hands“. (p.9.7-8)
- “Alfred, why are you so stupid“ (11.27)
and other comments about house servants.
( Racism and racial prejudice
Everything about the move and contrasts S.Africa/England is relevant
Oupa “natural death” – old ( death
Murder.”I know it all started in Joburg when I killed PhilemonMajodena, or maybe even earlier…” (9.2 ff.)
Macbeth (murder coupled with usurpation)
See what he says about school, sports, father etc.
As we read along we realise that what causes the story to move forward is a series of contrasts of
1) Place: South Africa vs. England
2) Time: then vs. now
3) Action: memories of past vs. present events
Thegap/distance between present events and memories of the past is seen to break down progressively, so that past invades present. It attests to Selly’s incapacity to continue repressing the painful past events which traumatised him and which he holds responsible for the family’s move (= the death of Majodena). This is possibly the most important way in which Silver creates and maintains tension through thestory. Selly refers to the event over and over again but can’t talk about it, can’t describe it. This only becomes possible at the end of the novel. Thus, all the way through you keep asking yourself how and why a young adolescent could kill another. As Selly goes through the breakdown, he also works towards a better understanding of events in South Africa, the changes that have taken place sincethey arrived in Britain, the upheaval within his family, and ultimately, to a better understanding and acceptance of himself.
In the sentence: “I know it all started when in Joburg when I killed Philemon Majodena…” the “I know” is the wiser young man who has been living in England for some time; considerably wiser than the “I killed” who is the young boy in South Africa.
Symbolism:Heaven/Paradise before Hell=the present
The fall= S.Africa in England
Adam + Eve Selly + Family
Through eating the apple = the fruit of knowledge Adam and Eve lose their innocence, become aware of their nakedness = sexuality. Similarly, through his crime Selly has lost his innocence and, because he’s an adolescent, becomes aware of his own sexuality.
Sexuality appears in 2...