The Bridegroom by Nadine Gordimer
In The Bridegroom by Nadine Gordimer we have the theme of order, marriage, anticipation, anxiety, control and escape. Narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator the reader realizes from the beginning of the story that Gordimer may be exploring the theme of order. The young man’s contents of his tent are listed by the narrator and he appears to have everything he needs and everything seems to be in order. He is preparing for his marriage the following day and he appears to be somewhat anxious. An anxiety which is justified as the parents of his bride are not completely satisfied with the young man. He has not explained to them what their daughter will do. How she will spend her time. Though she has no interest in town life, being a farm girl, they have not been told by the young man how she will spend her days.
The young man is also worried how the other men will react to his wife being around and in such close proximity to them. He does not wish for the black men or kaffirs as the narrator calls them to be allowed to mix or engage with his new wife. He has concerns which mirror his concerns when it comes to the black workers drinking alcohol. Symbolically the young man’s relationship with Piet may also be significant. There is an element of control which the young man tries to exert over Piet. This could suggest that the young man is attempting to exert his authority over Piet. He is after all the road manager for the construction that is occurring. However as we are only given a brief insight into the young man’s relationship with Piet it is possible that the young man, through his nervousness about getting married, is just reacting as he does because of his anxiety or nervousness. It is also noticeable that the young man compliments Piet with regard to his cooking of the koeksisters. So the reality may be that once satisfied the young man may normally act differently when it comes to his relationship with Piet.
There is other symbolism in the story which might be important too. As mentioned the contents of the young man’s tent suggest that at least symbolically he lives an orderly life which may be Gordimer’s way of letting the reader know that the young man is a suitable groom for his bride. The koeksisters can be seen to represent contentment or satisfaction. The young man is no longer anxious after he eats them. The bath can be seen to symbolize a new beginning for the young man. All of the dirt he has gotten on himself has been cleaned away and he is prepared for the wedding to his bride. Though it is likely he will also bathe the following morning before setting off to marry his bride. The music that is being played by the workers, though unknown to the young man, serves to alleviate him of any worries he may have about getting married. For a period of time the young man does not think about getting married. Though it is noticeable he has concerns about his bride being around the workers. However again these worries are put at ease as the evening progresses.
The music that is played at the end of the story is important for another reason. Not only does it ease any worries that the young man has but it serves to allow him to escape and drop his guard. He promises to bring a radio back with him so that the workers can listen to the type of music he listens to. The young man also promises to allow the workers get some sugar and yeast so that they might be able to make beer. If anything so relaxed is the young man that his guard is totally dropped. Where previously he had been worried about his brandy and the workers drinking it, he is now prepared to allow the workers to drink beer. While back in his tent and going to bed the young man also puts the picture of his bride into his chest and relaxes for the evening. The following day she will no longer be a picture he is looking at rather she will be his in real-life. She will be by his side.