Question: Analyse how the growth or breakdown of a character relationship or individual in a text (or texts) you have studied? Analyse the deterioting relationship between the narrator and his wife Lerice. “A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person.” Within the text “Six Feet of the Country” by Nadine Gordimer, we are given insight into a deterioting relationship. The negative narrator and his wife’s relationship is slowly crumbling due his lack of interest with her. The tension and flaws of their relationship become apparent during the climatic event of the illegal immigrants death. This moment is a defining point of their relationship, and displays how the manifestation of their small arguments has pulled them apart. The narrator of “Six Feet of Country” is an introverted, self-fish and pessimistic man. He is unhappy and disappointed with his marriage, and he cannot come to terms with it. “You seem to rattle about so much within a marriage like ours,” suggesting that him and his wife encounter many problems, due to opposing views. Throughout the first few lines we become well aware that the narrator extremely dislikes his wife.
He continually makes degrading remarks and this displays his utter disrespect that he has for her. Majority of his cruel taunts are about her physical appearance and how she has failed in life as an actress. He describes her hands as “hard as dog’s pads.” Implying that she could never be an actress because she wasn’t glamorous enough and was never going to be the kind of lady who wore “red paint and diamond rings.” It would be fair to say that he finds the physical appearance of his wife disappointing. This idea is reinforced when he negatively comments about her “uncombed hair”. This remark about her appearance displays his misogynistic behaviour. His cynical and negative remarks reveal the narrators inner thoughts, that his wife is the problem. She has let herself go and is therefore no longer pretty. His pessimistic attitude towards immediately objectifies her, as if she was a toy he no longer wanted. My assumption would be that this man was having a midlife crisis and wanted a younger, pretty and glamorous woman. His jealousy and his repulsion towards his wife is shown through the quote, “some pretty girl and her young husband.” He is in denial about his age, but also the overall appearance of his wife. His behaviour towards his wife reflects our current society and the societal pressure on females to look good.
His expectation of how his wife should look and behave draws a parallel to the expectation of how the media portrays the perfect women. This pressure and false sense of perfection, allows males to have a deluded expectation of how women should look. A “Lucerne field brilliant as window dresser’s grass,” seems like the perfect location for rekindling a dying romance. The farm was brought as escape from the busy bustling city life Johannesburg. The narrator and his wife were both convinced that the farms would “change something” within themselves. They collectively viewed the farm as fresh start. The narrator was praying to hear a “deep satisfying silence”, hoping that the arguing would stop. The farm started out as a symbol or peace and serenity; however it didn’t manage to help the bickering couple’s problems. The narrator doesn’t enjoy the farm, and spends “only evening and weekends” at the farm. He “avoids” parts of the farm because it “sickens” him. He likes the calm life of living in the country and being away from the tension within the city, yet he views the farm as a financial burden.
The narrator begins to describe a bull, “little, stocky mean-eyed bull, lustful but bored.” This description of the bull draws a parallel to the narrator, how he is lustful for something pretty which is wife can never omit to and he’s bored with what he has. He expected his wife to settle down into Chekhovian sadness than pursue her dream of being an actress. However she became encapsulated with the farm and the narrator finds her “earthy enthusiasms” irritating. He wants her to be a lady whom he can show off, eye candy. Yet she continues to disappoint him, and the farm becomes a symbol or regret to the narrator. Their view of buying something in order to solve their problems and then not being satisfied links us back to our consumerism society. How we are constantly seeking instant gratification, as a constellation prize for our problems. However we forget the common phrase, “Money can’t buy you happiness.” Unexpected circumstances can define a relationship, either bringing people closer or destroying any remnants of a relationship. The narrator employs servants from Rhodesia in order to look after his farm; however he does not accept them as his workers and calls them “Lerice’s farm boys.” We learn throughout this short story that the narrator is an extremely racist man. This is shown through his condescending attitude towards his workers “poor devils have nothing much to fear.” He finds his wife and the farm boys equally irritating.
A defining factor within their marriage is when one of the farm boys illegal immigrant brother, dies of phenomena. This event displays the contrast in personalities and moral code of the narrator and his wife. The narrator disregards the boy’s death, shows his lack of ethics and morals. In contrast to his dehumanized ways, his wife on the other hand is extremely compassionate towards the ‘poor’ boy and his family. The narrator immediately calls the authority and this begins a series of small arguments between him and his wife. First off he sleeps in another room, and “she is hurt and humiliated at” him for “not wanting her”. However she begins to whine and whinge, when he doesn’t tell Petrus that he cannot have his brother’s body back to bury. Then she gives him the silent treatment, and he makes a very snide remark about how “she is the kind of woman who doesn’t mind if she looks plain, or odd.” The narrator feels pressured, because he has to deal with all the “dirty business” despite it not being his fault. He consistently reminds his wife that it’s not his problem to get the body back, and he does not owe his workers anything. His wife continues to pursue him, and eventually he agrees to get the body back.
His lack of compassion is expressed when he doesn’t offer to pay a measly 20 pounds, which he could easily cover. He instead criticizes the farm boys and servants for wasting their lives savings on a dead body. At this point the wife has given up arguing with her husband, and begins to slowly fade out of his life. This moment of tension, displays the dynamics of their deterioting relationship, and how certain events can either bring people closer or cause further tension. The narrator defines himself as being superior to his wife and the farm boys. This concept relates back to Nadine Gordimer’s theme of racism and sex prejudice within South Africa. The narrator is disconnected from his emotions and morals, especially when one of the Servants brothers dies. In this moment we see the contrast in characters between the wife and the husband and how neither appreciate nor like each other. Both of them are trapped in a monotonous relationship and both of them regret marrying each other. It would appear that their relationship and foundation for their marriage was not built off respect for one another, and that is why everything that was running smooth didn’t last very long.a