The Lemon Orchard by Alex la Guma

In The Lemon Orchard by Alex la Guma we have the theme of racism, discrimination, hierarchy and injustice. Narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator the reader realises after reading the story that la Guma may be exploring the theme of racism and discrimination. The coloured man who is described by his captor’s as being a ‘hotnot’ (coloured person) is being led through the lemon orchard by a group of white men. His hands are bound and for part of the story he has the muzzle of a shotgun against his back. His only crime was to have an argument or indifference with the local church minister. Which suggests that there is a hierarchy occurring and the coloured man is at the lower end of the scale due to his skin colour. It might also be important to mention that the story is set during the apartheid era in South Africa. When black people did not have the same rights as white people. They were treated as being inferior. There is also no doubting that there is an injustice occurring. The coloured man who is a qualified teacher is being treated improperly solely based on the colour of his skin. The reader does not imagine that should a white person of had an indifference with the church minister that they too would incur the same difficulties that the coloured man is incurring. It is also noticeable that the coloured man tries his best not to show fear to his captors. He is a proud man who knows that what is happening to him is not only unjust but again is based solely on the colour of his skin. It may also be symbolically important that the coloured man is educated yet we know of no education for the group of white men. La Guma may be suggesting that the four white men are uneducated when it comes to their actions. Though yet they are still responsible.

The fact that the clouds are described as being like ‘dirty cotton wool’ may also be significant as La Guma may be symbolically suggesting that what is about to happen the coloured man is something that is not right. Clouds are usually described as being white and in literature white is often used to symbolise innocence and beauty. By having the clouds dirty la Guma may be suggesting that nature is tainted in some way. The leader of the group of men is also an interesting character as the reader is left in little doubt that he is capable of killing a man. Even so the coloured man remains dignified throughout the story showing as mentioned no fear. It is possible that la Guma is highlighting the strength that some individuals of colour had when faced with adversity. If anything the real coward in the story is the leader of the group of white men. He relies on his shotgun to enforce his will on the coloured man.

There is also further symbolism in the story which may be important. The moon is mentioned on several occasions. Firstly it is described as being ‘hidden’. Later on in the story there is moonlight which suggests that the moon is showing itself in the sky. It is possible that by hiding the moonlight at the beginning of the story la Guma is symbolically suggesting that people hid themselves away when it came to racism in South Africa. Nobody (who was white) stood up. Similarly when the moon appears at the end of the story what is to happen the coloured man is something that is known and witnessed by all. Not only by the perpetrators. The crickets too may be symbolic of human nature. Those that are near the white men who are holding the coloured man prisoner are described as having ‘stopped their small noises.’ While further away those not near the men are continuing to creek. It may be a case that la Guma is suggesting that the crickets (as human nature) that are far away are turning a blind eye to what is occurring. While those that are near the men are waiting to see what will happen. Possibly in support of the men.

The ending of the story is also interesting. Though the reader can’t say for sure if the coloured man is killed. La Guma does use language to suggest that something is going to happen that will result in either injury or death to the coloured man.  Words like ‘angled branches’ ‘tips and edges’ shine’ suggest that possibly knives will be used to harm the coloured man. Whose only crime is to have had an argument with a white church minister. Even if the coloured man is not killed he will most likely be scarred for life. Not only because he is about to be attacked by the group of white men but physically his body will show the marks of the knives. If anything the coloured man will be an example to other coloured or black men. That there is a hierarchy in South Africa (at the time the story was written), with white people being at the top of the hierarchy. A coloured person no matter how well they might have been educated was to be treated as a second class citizen who did not have the same rights as white people.

Cite Post
McManus, Dermot. "The Lemon Orchard by Alex la Guma." The Sitting Bee. The Sitting Bee, 14 Sep. 2017. Web.


  • Please update me?

  • Thank you this has really helped with my revision for my exam on La Guma’s works 🙂

  • Thank you so much!! This really helped me in my IGCSE answers :))

  • Get me information about the poet and by the way very well written . Keep it up

  • I’ve got to say, you really have your way of explaining. I became clear in ways I didn’t know I was confused in. I thoroughly understood. Thank you so much!

  • Thank you so much for this great analysis! It really helped me out in my exam. I also used your analysis of the story Secrets which also helped me out a huge bunch. Thank you so much and keep up the great work!

  • OMG. You are a life saver. This helped me so much for my exams. Thanks.

  • Thxx so much for this marvelous content I got my literature test paper back today and i was really gleeful when I found out that I have scored really good marks thxxxx again

  • Thank you for this. It has enriched my knowledge to such parallels – I cannot explain

  • Thanx Dermot. This really helped me in the revision of my CIE’s. BTW very well written.

  • What are the symbols in the story?

  • This is going to be so helpful for my English literature tomorrow! Thank you!!

  • Wow, this is very informative. Your post is a real lifesaver.

  • How does Alex la Guma resolve the conflicts in the story?

  • Excellent work right there. This post is really helpful.

  • This was really helpful. Thank you. But could you help with figures of speech apart from symbolism. Thank you.❤

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      One figure of speech (a simile) used by la Guma is at the beginning of the story when la Guma tells the reader that the moon was ‘hidden behind long, parallels of cloud which hung like suspended streamers of dirty wool in the sky.’

      Another figure of speech (simile again) used by la Guma is near the end of the story when he tells the reader ‘the perfume of lemons seemed to grow stronger, as if the juice was being crushed from them.’ Which in many ways mirrors what is happening the coloured man. The life is being crushed out of him or taken away from him.

  • Thanks for the post, but what are the metaphors used in this story?

  • this was super helpful for my lit. homework. I have two questions though; Who are the main characters? and who are the supporting characters? + their role(s).


  • Can you tell me the significance of the title, “The Lemon Orchard” because I cannot make any connections between nature and the story that criticizes racism and the Apartheid regime. The lemon orchard symbolizes freshness, passion and energy (basically it has positive connotations) however the story is the complete opposite as it makes the readers to feel very angry towards the racism that the black man has to experience. Thank you very much!

  • How has Alex conveyed the anti-racism in his story ?

  • A very helpful piece for a literature student in Zimbabwe. Overdue homework. Thanks

  • Can you plz write some phrases too I would be so thankful?

  • Hi
    This is really helpful Thanks
    I am a tutor n this helps me a lot to plan my session n deliver effectively . Do you have for The Stoat as well???

    N is their anything else that can be elaborated for the importance of title The Lemon Orchard

  • How does Alex la Guma portray resistance in the lemon orchard?

    • The white man with the torch said, “We don’t want to be involved in any murder.” This could portray the cowardice of and resistance from some of the men.

  • what does LA guma meant by cloud which hungs like suspended streamers of dirty cotton wool

  • what does LA guma meant by exact, ridged footsteps…could not be seen in the dark

  • What is much important for exam? Please to explain me. Please much needed as Monday is my exam

  • Please answer this question
    How does la guma makes us feel sympathy for the coloured man from “The coloured man said nothing , but stared ahead of himself.. To “He straightened up and looked away from them”?

  • Answer this what are the themes discussed in the poem “My Parents”

  • Most common questions in this story?

  • Who was Andries
    And please expain every charchter to me
    Would be a great help

  • Elaborate the story from start till end?

  • What are the metaphors in the story

  • What do you mean by apartheid

  • What are the similes in the story

  • a powerful tool used by alex la guma is diction” how true is this statement?

  • well written. btw can some one help me in giving advise that how can i use symbolism in a topic like female oppression. plz

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      You might look at the woman who the coloured man spoke to. She too is oppressed by the fact of who she can talk to.

  • Thanks I really got the help from this post to prepare for my test

  • Thank you so so much!!!!

  • Thanks I really got the help from this post to prepare at the last moment for my exam.

  • hi could someone help me with the charctersketch of the man by today.plz i have a paper tomorow!!!!!!

  • Thank you so much its a pleasure to be on your site , helped me pass my mids 🙂

  • what is the setting of the story? nice post though

  • what is the structure of this text like the exposition the rising action the climax, the falling action and the end

  • Hello, what could be the tone of this short story?

  • Thanks a lot to whoever the author is…helped me a lot

  • Thank you this really helped me with my English IGSCE revision for the short story section!

  • Plz help me with this question.
    Explore in details how the author creates a vivid picture of power of hatred

  • I need urgent help here …..What literary theoretical analytic model would you best apply in reading “The Lemon Orchard” (Alex la Guma) and “The Signalman” (Charles Dickens) in order to reach a satisfactory understanding of these texts? Justify your choice carefully.

  • can u give me an answer in a form of a written essay just to have a clear understanding

  • based on the question raised above when u said psychological lens would u explain a bit further

  • Consider the ways in which the narrators in “Third and Final Continent” (Jhumpa Lahiri), “Secrets” (Bernard McLaverty) and “On Her Knees” (Tim Winton) communicate strategies of recuperating from the axes of patriarchal, gender, sexuality and a repressive class system. how can we Use the tenets of radical feminism, Marxism and postcolonial literary analysis in your interpretation of the stories?

  • how did the writer portray a repressive class system and marxism in the short story on her knees

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      If you read the story you should be able to work out the issue of class. As for Marxism in the story. The following book may help you.

  • ive already read the story but the thing is i cant come up with points can u atleast give me a clue on where i should put my focus on

  • that really helped me a lot and obtained more understanding about what the message of the story is about…..but looking further on the story i think the narrator and her mother were also being the victim of colonialism would u agree with me on this one if so why and if not care to explain your point

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      I’m not sure I see that at all. What makes you think the narrator and his mother are victims or colonialism? If anything the narrator and his mother are part of the colonizers (white people) who came before them and who claimed Australia as their own. Taking it away from the aborigines. The narrator’s mother is being controlled by others due to her socio-economic background.

  • the reason i am saying that they fall under post colonialism its because the narrators mother has been exploited by her workers…..but lets leave since well i dont have any points on that one lets explore this short story the third and final continents would u rather say it might fall on marxism or post colonialism?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      I’m not sure it falls under either genre. If you look at it through a Marxist lens. The narrator overcomes obstacles and succeeds. If you look at it through a post colonial lens than the narrator has been afforded the opportunity to travel and better himself. If I was to pick either I’d pick post colonialism. Marxist literary theory doesn’t fit into the story.

  • interesting… so can u explain the third and final continents in a view of post colonialism in five points

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      I would need to read the story again but one area to look at is the narrator’s background (Indian I think). India got independence from British rule in 1947. The narrator may have been born after this and as such is a new batch of Indians who did not feel stifled by controlling (British) influences. They had aspirations they could reach. As is seen by the narrator’s journey.

  • where does post colonial occur in the novel The Lemon Orchard and the Signalman

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      It doesn’t. In The Lemon Orchard the setting is apartheid South Africa. In The Signalman the setting is England (one of the world’s biggest colonizers). If you’re unsure as to what postcolonial theory in literature is. This link might help.

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      It doesn’t. In The Lemon Orchard the setting is apartheid South Africa. In The Signalman the setting is England (one of the world’s biggest colonizers). If you’re unsure as to what postcolonial theory in literature is. This link might help.

  • which literary theoretical analytic model would you best apply in reading In the novel The signalman .

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      I’m not sure. Maybe a psychoanalytical approach. The difficulties that one can occur (through madness).

  • what belief system does the coloured man portray in the novel The Lemon Orchard.

  • Hey Dermot. Thank you for this absolutely fabulous analysis. I’ve read lots of analysis’ but i should say, your way of explaining is just great. Thank you for helping me past my assessments!!!

  • How does La Guma make such a dramatic opening to the story?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      I think he does so by using the setting (the lemon orchard). It is as though the reader senses something is wrong.

  • What is the significance of the lantern ? What was the significance of the title?

  • Its nice and can understand well.

  • hi, I loved your work. Keep it up.

  • This was very helpful ..thank you !! I’m sure i can answer my igcse’s now

  • Thank you for this post as it really helped me to understand the story properly

  • What the dog means? Like a symbol

  • Thank you so much.. This will help me in my English literature exams

    By the way can you please suggest me some link where I can get analysis for Romeo and Juliet

  • It was very helpful but can you answer this question “In what way does the author build suspense?”

  • How does La Guma’s writing makes the difference in personality such a powerful part of the story?

  • In the story, it is mentioned by the white gang leader that the colored man had gotten into a row with a priest of the church (‘-he had the audacity to be cheeky and uncivilized towards a minister of our church,…’). What does religion have a part to do with this man?Did he have a fallout with Christianity or did the apartheid era leave him without faith in an almighty power because of all the pain and suffering his brothers and sisters faced, causing him to question those who do believe?
    Great analysis! Very thorough and thoughtful!

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      You may be correct the minister may have lost faith with religion because the coloured man was doing a good job but his skin colour let him down and brought pressure onto the minister.

  • Thank you so much , This has really helped me a lot although i have one question —> What are the ways in which The Lemon Orchard presents the threatening situation? …..

  • Why is the name of the story lemon orchard ?

  • What is the tone? Very helpful btw thanks.

  • Thank u soo much for the analysis!! It was really helpful. But could u please answer this question : write a brief note on ” The Lemon Orchard” based on the moral point of view as a reader.
    I really need the answer!! Asap!!!

  • can i copy your answers for the Cambridge examinations please (is it possible)….i love your work

  • This was very helpful but what is the resolution of the story

  • what about the climax, the plot and the conflict?

  • Hello I just want to know how disintegration is seen in the lemon orchard

  • I’m sorry but I think this remark is a little off the face of the truth. Remember that earlier on we learn that the white men have no intentions of killing the black man when the lantern-bearer says, “But we are going to deal with him. There is no necessity to shoot him. We don’t want that kind of trouble.”

    Moreover, later on we further perceive the future plans for the black man in place where he would be enforced to move to a different city “where they’re not so particular about the dignity of the volk.”

    Lastly, by judging the last paragraph where the party come to a wide gap in the orchard, it can be deduced that they intend to injure the black man, yes, but what they don’t want to do is kill him. If they had plans of killing him, why not just use the shotgun and get it over with. But no, rather than that they needed a spacious area (again a shotgun wouldn’t need much space to fire as long as the target is in sight). This suggests that they weren’t going to kill the coloured man but rather injure him badly so as to give him a “hiding”.

  • can u help me with this question?

    How does La Guma make readers feel sympathy for the colored man?

  • At the end of the summery, it sais that the colored man might be hurt or killed with a knife, but if you read the last paragraph it says the following, “They had come into a wide gap in the orchard, a small amphitheatre surrounded by fragrant growth, and they all stopped within it. The moonlight clung for a while to the leaves and the angled branches, so that along their tips and edges the moisture gleamed with the quivering shine of scattered quicksilver.” by using the methaphore of amphitheater, where in rome people were sent to be killed by the lions and the word ”quiksilver”, to refer to a bullet, we understand that he was killed by the leader who had a shotgun.

  • How does Alex la Guma make The Lemon Orchard a dramatic yet profound story?

  • Im really sorry but could you please explain

  • pls can u give a detailed account to the colored man humiliation held by his captors

  • How has language been used in the lemon orchard to portray a vivid picture of the power of hatred

  • That derogative words did the author use in the story?

  • I am still really confused with the ending, it has such suspense into it. But great post! That was really helpful for my story analysis homework.

  • What makes the coloured man an admirable?

  • Do you think that the fact that the ending is so anti-climatic and ambiguous is symbolic of the fact that the issue of racism is not over?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *