There was a time when racial and ethical issues were far more detrimental to one’s life than they are today. In the short stories “The Welcome Table” by Alice Walker and “Country Lovers” by Nadine Gordimer they tell of life during that time. Both authors were women born during a time of terrible racial and gender inequality. These two short stories share the similarities of theme, plot, some form, some of the content, and use of imagery and the differences of point-of-view, some form, some of the content such as characters and setting, and the style with uses of tone, irony, and symbolism.
The Welcome Table was a story written about a black woman who was discriminated against by white people because of her race. She wondered into a white church and was thrown out by the white people. Country Lovers was a story written about a young black woman and a young white man who were together in a forbidden relationship because they were a different race. They would sneak and see each other when no one was paying attention. The theme of a story tells you what the story is about (Clugston, 2010). These two stories were written under the theme of race/ ethnicity. In the two stories it was very obvious what the theme was all about. They were written about racial inequality. The black African and African American races were both discriminated against by the white African and white American races. For whites and blacks to be together was like taking a bite of the forbidden fruit.
The Welcome Table has a plot with conflict and crisis. Its plot is centered on the conflict of racism. The elderly black woman, not realizing what she has done, wonders into the white church where she is not supposed to be. When she wondered into the white church, the white people were horrified. The only thing these white people could see when they looked at the old black lady was fear of the unknown. She symbolized the loss of control for them as well as the loss of privacy, which was a crisis, caused by the changes the federal government was making. In the reality of it all, it is quite a tragedy. In chapter 3.1 of Journey into Literature R.Wayne Clugston discusses this story. In paragraph 7 of the story the people in the church throw her out and tell her she is not welcome there. By the end of the story, the old lady is believed to have died to some, and to others she may have just went to visit family (Clugston, 2010). No one really knows.
In Country Lovers the plot was also with conflict and crisis and was centered on racism. Paulus Eysendyck who was a young white boy and Thebedi a young black girl had fallen in love. While Paulus was away at school Thebedi had given birth to his child. Despite the fact that the baby was not his, Njabulo, Thebedi’s husband, took on the responsibility of taking care of Thebedi and the baby boy. When Paulus returned home from school he went to see the baby. It was such a horrible crisis when Paulus decided to murder the baby to keep anyone from finding out it was his.
The Welcome Table was written in the form of a short story. It was ten paragraphs long. It was one that was somewhat of a tragedy. This story is filled with tragic moments. The elderly lady being thrown out of a church just because she was black was terrible. The biggest tragedy of all was that because of the racial issues of that time, nobody really knows or cares what happened to the old woman. It is sad to say that there was such times as these that people were so mean and cruel. Even though the biggest part of this story was tragic, it also had some positive moments. The elderly lady, despite all hers tragedies kept her eyes focused on Jesus. This enabled her to be happy and forget about all the bad things going on around her. This story was written to be enjoyed in an atmosphere of a single person reading it on their own.
The story Country Lovers was also a short story. This story had approximately thirty two paragraphs. The formatting and wording made it somewhat longer in paragraph count. This story was also that of tragedy. There are many parts of the story filled with tragedy. The young children being pulled away from each other once they reached school age just because the color of their skin was different, was not right. The worst tragedy of all was that racial issues were so bad that one would kill their own child to hide what he had done because he and the girl were different races, and even worse, he actually got away with it. Despite the tragedy of racial inequality, the young girl and guy were in love. This was a happy moment. There was also some positivity when the other boy showed his love for the young girl by marrying her despite the child not being his. He loved her that much. Even though this was a short story written for the enjoyment of one reading alone, it could be converted into a play or possibly even a movie.
In The Welcome Table, Alice Walker uses imagery to attempt to get the reader to paint a mental picture of different parts of the story. However, the most immediate forms of imagery are visual (Hill, 1995). In The Welcome Table, Alice Walker used imagery very well. When she described the elderly black lady she described her in great detail. She started by writing, “The old woman stood with eyes uplifted in her Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes: high shoes polished about the tops and toes, a long rusty dress adorned with an old corsage, long withered, and the remnants of an ele¬gant silk scarf as head rag stained with grease from the many oily pigtails underneath. Perhaps she had known suffering. There was a dazed and sleepy look in her aged blue-brown eyes” (as cited in Clugston, 2010, ch.3.1 Alice Walker’s The Welcome Table, para.1).This description is an example of how imagery works. It gives just enough detail so that you can see the woman in your mind.
In Country Lovers, Nadine Gordimer also uses imagery in an attempt to get the reader to paint a mental picture of different parts of the story. When Nadine Gordimer describes a moment between Paulus and Thebedi at the river bed she wrote “One summer afternoon when there was water flowing there and it was very hot she waded in as they used to do when they were children, her dress bunched modestly and tucked into the legs of her pants. The schoolgirls he went swimming with at dams or pools on neighboring farms wore bikinis but the sight of their dazzling bellies and thighs in the sunlight had never made him feel what he felt now when the girl came up the bank and sat beside him, the drops of water beading off her dark legs the only points of light in the earth-smelling deep shade.” This too is a great use of imagery.
Being aware of the point-of-view is important for different reasons depending on the point-of-view (Smith, n.d.). Both stories have a point-of-view of third-person, but one is third-person omniscient while the other is third-person objective. The point-of-view in The Welcome Table is third-person omniscient. Third-person omniscient is when the narrator uses multiple perspectives. The narrator knows what all the characters in the story are thinking and feeling, not just what they are doing throughout the story (Hill, 1995). By writing the story this way it gives it a more meaningful point of view. It shows that the author can put herself in every characters position and know exactly how they feel.
The point-of-view in Country Lovers is third-person objective. In third-person objective, the narrator is not a character in the story and reports on events and lets the reader supply the meaning (Hill, 1995). In this story Nadine Gordimer tells the story of a forbidden love. She does not assume any perspectives from the characters.
The Welcome Table did not have many characters. The two main characters were the elderly black lady and Jesus. The other characters were the ladies in the church, the reverend, the young usher, the husbands, and the black families. There were a few silent characters that the old lady symbolized in the eyes of the white church people. They were cooks, chauffeurs, maids, mistresses, and children denied. This story used most of its focus on the elderly black lady and Jesus throughout it. The other characters played a very small role.
In Country Lovers the two main characters were Paulus Eysendyck, a young white boy and Thebedi, a young black girl. A third character who was of some importance was Njabulo, Thebedi’s husband. There were a few other characters as well. They were the farm children which consisted of the white and black children as a whole. Other characters were Paulus’ sister, father, and mother as well as Njabulo’s parents and Thebedi’s parents, and Paulus and Thebedi’s baby. The men and women who lived in the kraal, the police, judge, defense, and other court people were also characters in this story. Although there were many characters, most of them were silent characters. Thebedi and Paulus were the ones who had most of the dialogue.
The Welcome Table was set in America in the south during the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement. Blacks and whites were segregated everywhere. They could not even share the same church. This was an issue that the federal government was working on changing. The white people did not like this idea at all. They felt it threatened their way of life.
In the story Country Lovers it was set in South Africa on a farm during a time of apartheid when white and black Africans were forbidden to be together once they reached the school age. Apartheid was the socioeconomic system that oppressed the majority black population in South Africa (Clugston, 2010). It was a time when the black people were used liked slaves for the white people. They were only permitted in the white people’s homes when they were working. Other than that, it was forbidden.
When writing a story one thing that is portrayed in the writing is the tone. Tone is the implied attitude towards the subject (Hill, 1995). It identifies the authors approach to the subject (Clugston, 2010). In the beginning of The Welcome Table there was a tone of solemn and somber. In other words it portrayed a dark, gloomy type of atmosphere. It started out saying the old black lady was walking down the road all alone. It described her as an old forgetful woman nearly blinded with age. It described her skin by its color being that of poor grey Georgia earth.
The story says she stumbled into the white church unaware and forgetful that she was not supposed to be there. In the end of the story the tone, in the eyes of the old black lady changed somewhat. The old lady sees Jesus and things become brighter and happier. The darkness and gloom go away for her. She knows everything is going to be alright. The choice of tone for this story was used to help the reader be able to feel what the story was all about. It enabled them to have more of an understanding of how the story was to be portrayed.
In Country Lovers the tone was somewhat different. In the beginning of the story it had a tone of great emotion. It starts out light and playful talking about the farm children all playing together despite the fact they are of different race. Then it moves on later with a tone of excitement in a forbidden love. It was a love between a white boy and a black girl. They were young and in love. They had no negative feelings or fear toward one another.
Country Lovers was written with a little bit of irony. Ironic tone is developed when a writer creates a discrepancy or contradiction between what is expected to happen in a story and what actually happens (Clugston, 2010). In the beginning when Paulus and Thebedi were so in love and would not allow the racial issues to stop them it appeared that they were going to fight for one another, but that is not how the story ended. It ended with a tone of sadness for the loss of the child’s life. Paulus took the life of his own child to hide the wrong he and Thebedi had committed by being together in a forbidden love. The tone choice for this story was chosen to help the reader put themselves into the story and feel the love that these children shared despite their difference in race. It also allowed the reader to see just how serious of a situation the story depicted. It kept them on the edge waiting for more.
The Welcome table used a lot of symbolism. The title alone symbolized heaven. The old lady would be welcomed into Heaven without any issues. There was no racial or gender discrimination in Heaven. Jesus was another symbol. He represented equality, freedom, peace, and salvation. Through Jesus the elderly black lady escaped her pain caused by racial and gender discrimination. She stayed focused on Jesus so that she could keep the peace in her heart. He was her escape, her Salvation.
The Welcome Table and Country Lovers were both great stories. They were both written about hard times in life caused by racial and gender inequalities. They were written by two amazing authors. Both authors, although they shared some of the same situations, were very different people. They come from two very different ways of life. Alice Walker was from America and the Nadine Gordimer was from South Africa.
Alice Walker was born in Eatonton, Georgia in 1944. She was the daughter of a sharecropper. She was actively involved in many civil rights movements. She married a white civil rights lawyer named Melvyn Roseman Leventhal and moved to Jackson, Mississippi in 1967. They were the first interracial couple legally married in the town (Clark, n.d.). She completed her degree in 1965 from Sarah Lawrence College. She has taught gender studies courses at Wellesley College and began one of the first gender studies programs in the United States (Clugston, 2010).
Racial and gender issues form the center of her literary work and her social activism, which included participation in civil rights demonstrations led by Martin Luther King Jr. (Clugston, 2010). Most of the stories written by Alice Walker are about poor oppressed black women in the 1900s (Rozakis, 1999). She writes stories dealing with the multitude of African American racial, and sexual discrimination, and poverty in America. Not only does she write short stories, but she also writes poems and novels as well. She is best known for her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “The Color Purple” (Clugston, 2010).
Nadine Gordimer was born in Springs, South Africa in 1923. Springs, South Africa was a gold-mining town east of Johannesburg. She was born of two Jewish immigrants. Her father was born in Lithuania and her mother was born in England. She saw her father as a racist and her mother as a woman who sought to do good for blacks in the nearby towns (Parekh & Jagne, 1998). From age eleven until age sixteen she was privately tutored at home and sheltered from her peers. Because of being confined to life with only her parents Gordimer became involved with reading and writing (Parekh & Jagne, 1998). She has been publishing stories since she was fifteen. She won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1991.
Two of the biggest influences in Nadine Gordimer’s life and her writing were the apartheid and her affiliation with the multiracialism of Sophiatown of the 1950s (Parekh & Jagne, 1998). She was actively involved with black writers, artists, and critics. She was also involved with Drum magazine. She witnessed many historical tragedies in the 1950s and 1960s. Some of them were the Sharpeville massacre, the 1960 treason trial, and the incarceration of Nelson Mandela. In the mid-sixties, Gordimer, in support of her black colleagues, published her study of black South African writing, “The Black Interpreters” (Parekh & Jagne, 1998). She has been writing for roughly fifty years. The life that she grew up in was an inspiration to most all of her writings.
Both The Welcome Table and Country Lovers were very moving short stories. They shared a theme as well as similarities with plot, part of the form, some of the content, and use imagery. They had differences with part of the form, some of the content, characters, setting, point-of-view, and style using tone, irony, and symbolism. Both Alice Walker and Nadine Gordimer were great authors born in a time of racial inequality. Alice Walker was born an African American woman in the south of America and grew up during the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement. Nadine Gordimer was a white woman born in South Africa and grew up during the apartheid. Their struggles and hardships in life molded them into the great writers they became. Their lives inspired their works.
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