Blankets by Alex la Guma
In Blankets by Alex la Guma we have the theme of poverty, inequality, deprivation, apartheid, control and paralysis. Taken from his A Walk in the Night and Other Stories collection the story is narrated, by way of flashbacks, in the third person by an unnamed narrator and after reading the story the reader realizes that La Guma may be exploring the theme of poverty. Choker has never had a blanket of his own. When he was in an orphanage with his brother Willie he had to share a blanket with him. However Willie was selfish and in an attempt to keep himself warm made sure that he kept the blanket for himself. This may be significant as La Guma may be suggesting that Choker has never had the comforts that comes with owning a blanket. If anything he has lived a deprived life and the reader suspects this is due to the fact that Choker is black. The story after all is set in the apartheid era in South Africa.
How deprived Choker is may also be shown by way of the blanket that is given to him by the white policeman. It is inadequate and it looks like the policeman is attempting to cover up Choker’s wounds rather than caring for him. In no way does the reader suspect that Choker is being treated as an equal by the policeman. The fact that the sheet that wraps around Choker‘s body when he is taken away by ambulance is described as being white like cocaine may be symbolically important. Choker knows who stabbed him and there is a possibility that Choker has either being buying or selling cocaine. He may be working on a patch of another drug dealer.
If anything it suggests that Choker is trying to take control of his life. No one else will with the State letting Choker down since he was a child. It may be a case that Choker because there is no solidity in his life is attempting to progress (through cash) with his life. His relationship with the woman in the bed is also significant as it appears as though Choker is trying to have sex with her. However she does not want to. Hence her saying ‘No man.’ Again there is a hint that Choker is inserting an element of control (over others) in his life. So horrific is his background that he feels as though he must be in control all the time in order not to slip back into deprivation. A deprivation that has been forced on Choker.
The reader however does not lose sympathy for Choker over his actions with the woman. Rather it reinforces the idea that Choker is desperate to control others in order to save and progress himself. Despite being in pain the ambulance men appear to consider Choker’s wounds as not being serious. Though it doesn’t help that he sarcastically tells them that he is not in pain. It is a s though stating the obvious to them would be pointless. Which may be the point that La Guma is attempting to make. The white ambulance men may not necessarily care if Choker survives. Something that is clear in Choker’s mind. He has been let down since he was a child an in the orphanage with Willie. He does not expect his past to be any different to his present or future. It may also be important that Choker is lying down throughout the story and in the flashbacks. It is as though he is paralyzed and cannot move. Something which has been the very same for Choker all his life. Despite trying to control his and others lives he has ended up going nowhere and not progressing as he would have liked to. This would place a further spotlight on apartheid and the fact that black people in South Africa had to endure limitations being put on their lives by white oppressors.