Country Lovers by Nadine Gordimer
In Country Lovers by Nadine Gordimer we have the theme of apartheid, discrimination, marriage, tradition, forbidden love, infanticide, justice, identity and shame. Taken from her Six Feet of the Country collection the story is narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator and from the beginning the reader realizes that Gordimer may be exploring the theme of apartheid and discrimination. Black and white children only mix with each other till they are eleven or twelve. When white children go off to boarding school. This is significant as Gordimer is firmly placing a spot light on apartheid and how black South Africans were treated as inferior to their white counterparts. If anything black South Africans are being discriminated against. Something which is solely based on their skin colour. It is also frowned upon for a white man to have a relationship with a black woman. As is the case between Thebedi and Paulus. It is as though any interracial relationship is not only frowned upon but is forbidden.
There is also a sense that Paulus is using Thebedi for sex and he is not in love with her. He does after all see other girls as well as Thebedi. White girls who have opportunities and wealthy families. Just as Paulus’ family are wealthy. So forbidden is Thebedi and Paulus’ love that Thebedi knows she has no option but to marry Njabulo and her marriage to him is arranged by her parents and Njabulo’s parents. This may be significant as Gordimer may be highlighting tradition among black South African’s who leave in village areas. Thebedi simply has no choice but to marry Njabulo knowing very well that she will never marry the man she loves, Paulus.
There may be some symbolism in the story which might be important. The fact that the newspapers spell Thebedi’s name in different ways may suggest that her identity is being taken away from her. There will be no justice when it comes to charging Paulus for killing their baby. Also the reader feels as though Thebedi is just another conquest for Paulus. He never really loved Thebedi and in no way is her committed to his son when Paulus murders the child. Something that is very clear to the reader. The river where Thebedi and Paulus make love could be seen to represent the coming of age for Thebedi. Paulus is Thebedi’s first lover. The fact that neither Thebedi nor Paulus make love in Thebedi’s bedroom might also be important as it suggests that the bedroom is Paulus’ sanctuary and Thebedi is not worthy of being in the room. She is after all considered to be inferior to the white Paulus.
The end of the story is interesting as Gordimer appears to be exploring the theme of shame. Paulus’ father feels ashamed over his son’s actions and can only hope that he is still accepted (by whites) in the district again. This may be important as it shows the reader that Paulus’ father has no real concern for his grandson because he has a black mother. If anything he is more concerned with what people will think of him than he is the loss of his grandson. Something which again plays on the theme of apartheid and discrimination. As for Thebedi, she knows that she will never have a relationship with Paulus. He may have been the father of her first child but he has taken no responsibility for his actions. Disliking the baby immediately because, like his father, he was only concerned about what people would think.