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How Is Racism Depicted In 'life For A Life' By Alan Paton?

1055 words - 4 pages

How is racism depicted in 'Life for a Life' by Alan Paton?'Life for a Life' is a short story written by a famous white South African author who became involved in the fight against apartheid. It is a story about the murder of a rich white farmer and the revenge killing of a black shepherd. The story was written at the height of apartheid in 1962. Most of Alan Paton's work was written to express his views on the injustices in South Africa. His aim was to bring about change. Apartheid lasted from 1948 - 1991 and the story illustrates the division between the white and the black people.In 'Life for a Life' the two races live totally different lifestyles. The whites live in big houses and the blacks live in small stonehouses which are very cramped and more like huts. Black people have no rights and very little freedom. The blacks are employed on the Kroon farm as shepherds, labourers and servants. They hate the whites and are afraid of them but are unable to stand up for themselves. They have to be polite and respectful even when provoked. They can not show their feelings of hatred. This is shown in the line:... 'but as befitted people in their station, with salutes and deference.''Life for a Life' is written in the third person narrative. The author wants the reader to empathise with the black people, in particular Enoch and Sara Maarman. The tone of the language in the story conveys aggression and superiority on the part of the whites and inferiority and subservience on the part of the blacks. A good example of racism is when the white detective Robbertse insults Enoch Maarman:'You creeping yellow Hotentot bastard'.Also an example of subservience of the blacks is:'.... because one had to speak the smiling craven words under any injustice..'This is when Sara is feeling very angry about the way her husband was treated.- 2 -Colour imagery is used throughout the story. Colour is important because the story is about black and white people. Black people are referred to as 'coloured', 'brown people' and 'dark, sun-warmed colour of the skin'.'Yellow bastard' referred to Enoch Maarman as being a coward. An example of the use of colour imagery is:'.... the big detective with the temper that got out of hand so that reddish foam would come out of his mouth....'At the end of the story the imagery of 'the sun sinking over the hills of Kroon' is used a metaphor for all the manner of things that have been lost in the story.The imagery of the valley and the river where Enoch Maarman is supposed to have slipped and died represent a barrier between the black and the white people.The character that the reader finds most shocking in the story is Robbertse. Apart from being very racist he has a reputation for having a bad temper. Enoch and Sara Maarman feel threatened by Robbertse who at any time can change into a madman. As he interviews them his personality changes. One minute he is shouting and the next he 'suddenly grew intimate, confidential even friendly'. He is...

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