Conflict between self and otherness in selected writings of Nadine Gordimer
Mbugua, Wa Mungai
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The problematics of this study hinge primarily on the relationships, in literature, between characters whose interactions are mediated by their colour. The focus is on what happens to the individual within the confines of a value system woven around race and how the overall conception of the self influences his/her perception of those that belong to different racial categories. The study is specific to the South African situation and analyses the effects of apartheid both as an ideology and system of (mal) government on human relationships at the individual and collective levels in the spheres of economics, political and social associations. These effects are studied in the dominant black and white groups. The origins of the self other conflicts are traced with a view to assessing how present interactions between black and white in South Africa adopted as the trope for race, influence character portraits in Nadine Gordimer's selected short stories. In this study, Gordimer's vision for a future post apartheid and multi racial South Africa is analysed. The aim is to establish whether as an artist she offers viable alternatives through which South Africans of all shades of colour can surmount the inter racial antagonism that has been uncalculated in them by apartheid. This has necessitated an exploration of the ambivalences inherent in the term ''white'' since it is the colour that forms the foundation of apartheid as an ideology. Where all issues have to be evaluated vis-ŕ-vis the colour white it is because ''white'' is the defining point in apartheid South Africa. Finally the study examines the factors that militate against the possibilities of white black cooperation that suggests themselves in Gordimer's selected writings. This is done in an attempt to assess whether the various races are either willing and eager or reluctant and unprepared for the challenging process of coming together as a unified society. The attention of the study is Gordimer's selected short stories and one of her novels. Where other writers are mentioned, and material other than her short stories cited, their relevance lies in how they help buttress the arguments and sharpen the focus of the present work.