In “The Moment Before the Gun Went Off” by Nadine Gordimer, she tells us about the forbidden truths of a shallow, racist society in South Africa. Apartheid is defined as racial segregation; specifically : a former policy of segregation and political and economic discrimination against non-European groups in the Republic of South Africa. (Webster).
This policy would help assure there were no inner-racial relationships besides those that were professional, like the relationship portrayed in Marais Van der Vyver, the white European farmer, and his black farm laborer.The theme of “The moment Before the Gun Went Off” is the idea of apartheid. This was an extreme policy that separated a country in two pieces and continues to leave its scars. This short story is told from the perspective of someone obviously close to Marais because of the in depth feeling portrayed in the content of the story.
As an example the narrator is talking about the effects that the accidental killing is going to have on Marais’s political and social life. Also, the shadow that has been caste over South Africa will continue to grow with the negative publicity an accident of this magnitude brings with it.He knows that the story of the Afrikaner farmer–regional leader of the National Party and commandant of the local security commando–shooting a black man who worked for him will fit their boycott and divestment campaigns, it’ll be another piece of evidence in their truth about the country” (Gordimer). I feel that this brings out the true perspective that Gordimer is trying to manipulate the reader in to thinking.
The attitude that Gordimer is expressing is one of disgust in the countries policy. In this story Gordimer is trying to shine light on the facts and the secrets that this policy has brought to the table.It is sad, but one can only imagine if racism was as prevalent as portrayed in this story. The idea that inner-racial relationship were forbidden is outlandish.
Gordimer’s short story revolves around the forbidden relationships of blacks and whites, but I got a sense of something more between Marais and his farm laborer. I feel that this story portrays blacks as if they were slaves, but also that Gordimer was trying to build suspense by giving hints to that relationship. When Marais describes his relationship with his black laborer he says, “He was my friend, I always took him hunting with me.Those city and overseas people don’t know it’s true: farmers usually have one particular black boy they like to take along with them in the lands; you could call it a kind of friend, yes, friends are not only your own white people, like yourself, whom you take into your house, pray with in church, and work with on the Party committee.
” (Gordimer). This quote shows the rising action, although it comes early in the story it helps set the tone and give the reader hints to that something more is going on.Marais shows an attitude of one who’s more in touch with the blacks and although he has been a puppet to the apartheid policy, this statement helps understand that Van de Vyver has a closer relationship to his black farm boy then he leads on. This causes an inner conflict that becomes very real to Van de Vyver.
He has to fight to keep his relationship with the black farm boy under wraps because of society’s policies and the animosity towards inner-racial relationships. This may not seem like a big deal, because during the story this boy is portrayed as a farmhand and nothing more.At one point the author writes “..
. often around the farm the farmer would pass the young man without returning a greeting, as if he did not recognize him. ” (Gordimer) The last line of the story is the climax and the most important statement in the short story. “The young black callously shot through the negligence of the white man was not the farmer’s boy; he was his son.
” (Gordimer). Now I can understand the affection and sorrow that is expressed throughout the story for this young black boy. Van de Vyver has gone against the policy that his peers stand for and he loved this boy because he was his own.This was the reason for this inner conflict.
Van de Vyver wanted to treat his son with respect, but he could not. Not only did he have an affair with a black woman that ended up producing a kid, but he already had a family. If his peers were to find out about this they would surely strip him of his titles and credibility. On the other hand, this is his son no different from his other kids, except for color.
This is the inner-conflict that Van de Vyver had to deal with everyday and now that he is dead the secret will follow him to the grave.He feels guilt and that is very clear when he pays for the boy’s funeral and lets it be known that he will take care of the family as well. A similar conflict is used in “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson. Jackson’s character Mrs.
Hutchison is the so called “winner” of the lottery. Right away she expresses disgust and how the lottery was conducted unfairly. This is an inner conflict like the one used in Gordimer’s short story “The moment Before the Gun Went off. ” Both characters play along with there particular societies norms, if you will.
I think this is because it has never had a direct effect on them, until now.In both stories a significant event happens that changes there views and creates a kind of hypocritical guilt. In “The Lottery” this is when Mrs. Hutchinson begins to get pelted by rocks and in this story it is portrayed through the emotions shown by Van de Vyver.
After reading this story I was surprised by the climax. I did not see it coming, I knew there was something more to the story but the fact that the farm boy was his son was astonishing. I thought Gordimer did well describing emotion in this short story. I thought that this story was very creative with a great twist at the end.