Forbidden Love by Can Themba
In Forbidden Love by Can Themba we have the theme of fear, love, apartheid, hypocrisy, defiance and acceptance. Narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator the reader realises from the beginning of the story that Themba may be exploring the theme of fear. Dora’s family live their life in fear. An irrational fear of having any involvement with black South Africans. It is through their beliefs and the actions of their peers that they consider black South Africans to be beneath them. To be less human than them. Though ironically Davie has had a relationship with Salome in which a child was conceived. Despite this Davie still considers it appropriate to beat Mike up due to him having a relationship with Dora. Which may leave some readers to suggest that Davie, like many white South Africans at the time, is a hypocrite. He believes in his sister living her life one way while he turns his back on the same ideology which results in him being afraid that he will be exposed for the fact that he has a child of mixed race. Dora’s father likewise appears to have his head in the sand when it comes to the idea of white and black South Africans mixing together or forming personal relationships with one another. He calls Salome a liar when she suggests that Davie is the father of her child.
There is also an outside influence in the story which is interesting. Meneer believes it to be appropriate to tell others in authority that Dora is in a mixed race relationship. Though the reader knows that Meneer is driven by bitterness. Having been rejected by Dora. It is also interesting that the headmaster refuses to take the matter further and rightly considers that there is no necessity for anyone to know that Dora is seeing Mike. However despite the headmaster’s inclination to remain quiet matters come to a head when everybody discovers that Dora is in a relationship with Mike. It is as though Dora is being defined by her relationship with Mike and the fact that he is black. Though it is interesting that Dora remains defiant and does not care that others know she is in love with Mike. This may be important as Themba may be using Dora’s character as a device to separate Dora from others. To have her not live her life in fear of the consequences of what might happen because she has broken the rules held so strongly by not only her family but by white South African’s in general.
If anything Dora’s attitude highlights to the reader just how deeply in love she is with Mike. She is not prepared to give him up or bow to the pressure she is under from others. Something that is noticeable by the fact that Dora stays in Mike’s apartment till he gets better. Whereas Davie continues to live his life in fear that he will be exposed by Salome for being the father of her child. Something that is also noticeable by Davie’s last letter to Salome in which he tells her not to tell others that he is the father of the child. In reality the real strength in the story lies not with the physicality of Davie but with both Dora and Salome. It is through their strength that Mike is able to recover and the truth is able to come out about Davie and Salome’s child. Even if Davie’s father considers Salome to be a liar. Dora also accepts what has happened to her as too does Salome. Something which would further suggest that both women are strong and not necessarily dependent on others.
The fact that black South Africans are not allowed to attend the cinema for the film that is being shown might also be important as Themba could be using this exclusion to further place a spotlight on apartheid and the effects it had on black South Africans. Simple things like being unable to go to see a film separated society more than it brought people together. Which was the obvious intention of the apartheid regime. To separate black and white South Africans and to create an environment in whereby black South African’s were treated as though they were the lesser of white South Africans. Apartheid caused South Africa many problems. Some of which are clearly represented in the story. Dora and Mike having to hide in bushes when they were together being an example. Both being fearful of the backlash that would occur should white South Africans see them together. Though it may be significant that Themba ends the story on a positive note when Dora’s mother appears to be openly happy that she has a grandchild. She does not think of the child’s skin colour rather she appears to just be happy that there is a new member in her family. Even if Davie and his father are not prepared to accept the child.