The Gramophone by Herman Charles Bosman
In The Gramophone by Herman Charles Bosman we have the theme of control, fear, anger and violence. Taken from his Mafeking Road and Other Stories collection the story is narrated in the first person by a man called Oom Schalk Lourens and after reading the story the reader realises that Bosman may be exploring the theme of control. Krisjan Lemmer though he appears on the outside to be an affable and easy-going man he is in reality unable to control his temper when it comes to any engagement he may have with his wife Susannah. If anything there are two sides to Krisjan. That which he presents to the outside world and that which he portrays while at home with Susannah. Both sides are extremes. From being relaxed during the drought to being possibly violent with Susannah the reader becomes aware of the fact that Krisjan is a man who one would need to be careful about. It would be foolish to trust Krisjan when something that an individual might say to him may led to Krisjan getting angry and acting impulsively and possibly violently. As was the case when Krisjan attacked the Chief for no good reason. It would appear that any slight that Krisjan might feel is a trigger for him to become angry. At all stages Krisjan appears to need to be in control however this proves difficult when it comes to the independently minded Susannah.
Bosman also appears to be exploring the theme of fear. The narrator knows what Krisjan is like and it is as though he is careful around Krisjan. Similarly when the narrator goes to collect the bucksail from Krisjan there is a sense that not only is the narrator aware that Krisjan may have killed Susannah but the narrator’s life becomes a priority for the narrator himself. Hence the narrator leaving Krisjan’s without the bucksail. Though some critics might suggest that the narrator could possibly be unreliable it is important to take into account the fact that Krisjan is at unease when the narrator arrives to collect the bucksail. This along with the fact that the flooring is loose and Susannah has supposedly left for her mother’s at least leaves room for suspicion. Of course it can’t be proven that Krisjan has killed his wife and as readers we are taking the word of the narrator and his explanation of the environment around him. Though all signs lead to Krisjan possibly in a violent rage killing Susannah.
What is also interesting about the story is the fact that Bosman may be using the setting, when the narrator is going to collect the bucksail, as not only foreshadowing but to also increase the tension and mood of the story. Bosman describes the setting as being ‘dark’ and ‘something queer about the sound of the wind.’ This may be important as the darkness that the narrator encounters on his journey in many ways mirrors the dark mood that the narrator feels while he is playing the gramophone in Krisjan’s home. The wind too. It is as if an ill wind is blowing which could explain or solidify the fact that Susannah has been killed by Krisjan. Likewise the narrator thinks about death and ghosts before he enters Krisjan’s home. There is also a mention of the graveyard outside Krisjan’s home. All this leads to the narrator’s imagination either running wild or again more sinister Krisjan has killed Susannah and Bosman is using the setting as foreshadowing.
The end of the story is also interesting as the joy the gramophone had previously brought is no longer. If anything the narrator feels not only uncomfortable but unsafe in Krisjan’s company. It is also noticeable that Krisjan cannot look the narrator in the eye. Which is often a sign of evasiveness, uncomfortably and guilt. Neither man seems to be comfortable with the other. It is as though the narrator has the ability to read Krisjan’s mind. At no stage does the reader suspect that the narrator believes that Susannah has gone to her mother’s. Though the narrator is afraid it is remarkable how calm he is when he discovers the loose and uncovered floorboards in Krisjan’s home. It may be a case that the narrator knows that he has to be calm and not to raise suspicion with Krisjan. If Krisjan thinks that the narrator knows that he has killed Susannah then in all likelihood Krisjan will be forced to kill the narrator. It is may also be significant that he narrator is not shocked that Susannah is dead. His number one priority is to leave Krisjan’s home as quick as possible. This lack of shock might suggest that the narrator knows Krisjan’s character and that Krisjan has the capability to kill Susannah. Though there may be some critics as mentioned who might suggest that the narrator might not be reliable that he is basing his opinions on feelings rather than on any solid fact. Either way the narrator does not need to prove to anybody that Susannah is dead. His senses tell him that he is in a dangerous position and that Krisjan is acting suspiciously. All the narrator is really concerned about is leaving Krisjan’s home.