Themes: It basically deals with the conflict between traditional medicine (the “witchcraft”) which was free and comes naturally, and the pharmaceutical which the doctors profit from. Who owns the knowledge about medicinial plants? Should these medicines be free or should you have to pay for them? It’s an overgeneralization, but witchcraft involves a lot of the use of natural herbs and other natural things to heal. “No Witchcraft for Sale” also deals with different races and social classes. [Summary of the text: “No Witchcraft for Sale” is set in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe. Gideon is a native who works as a cook in the home of the Farquars, white farm owners. One day he saves their child, Teddy, from a snake bite that would have caused blindness. A white scientist comes and, together with the Farquars, pressures Gideon to tell them what root he used. Gideon gives them a common weed that grows everywhere after leading them around for a couple of hours. The white scientist leaves, convinced that the legends about native healing are exaggerated. The Farquars do not ever come to understand why Gideon does this.]
At first glance, the evidence suggests that Gideon believes the Farquars to be wonderful and their son Teddy to be the most important thing in his life. We see him from the outside, we hear him, and we read about what Mrs. Farquar believes about him. Gideon has a son whom Teddy refers to as a “black boy,” not realizing this is Gideon’s son, despite the Farquars’ belief that Gideon is a close member of their family.
Gideon is the son of a famous medicine man, but the Farquars are never aware of this. The narrator in this story goes into the head of Gideon just one time, near the end of the story, when it is noted that the whites. Most black magic advocates believe that through the use of charms, spells, fetish bags containing potions and animal bones, spiritual powers can be manipulated for one’s own advantage. Thus, people selfishly practice all types of magic to obtain a means to their own ends Even though friendships can be forged between drastically different people, cultural differences can jeopardize those friendships if the two cultures conflict, and one friend decides their culture is more ‘important’, ‘correct’ or ‘sound’ instead of respecting both.
The theme in ‘No Witchcraft for Sale’ is all over the story: every character in the entire story was bound to a certain culture. Teddy, Mr. and Mrs. Farquar, their neighbors, and the scientist (or the ‘Big Baas’) all follow what can only be defined as white culture– ignorant and indifferent to other cultures, only interested when knowledge of others can somehow benefit them. In this specific case, the sacred knowledge of the African witch doctors would allow ‘humanity to benefit’ (for a cost, of course). The other, clashing culture is, of course, the African culture, including Gideon and the other black natives, children, and servants. Gideon, understandably, doesn’t appreciate his family’s and his peoples’ secrets being divulged and SOLD to the entire world, even though the scientist says it’s for a good reason. The two peoples (and cultures) clash almost violently and the friendship between Gideon and the Farquars is hurt, but in time the Farquars learn to accept (and even politely joke about), if not entirely understand, Gideon’s secretive and stubborn behavior. Other than the characters, the importance of respecting cultures or peoples’ beliefs, or simply just ‘how things are’ is expressed by Gideon earlier on in the story when he points out that Teddy will grow up to be a ‘baas’, and a native African will grow up to be a servant, then sadly concludes that “It is God’s will”.
An example of allusion is when Teddy frightened Gideon’s son, justifying it as funny and acceptable because “He’s only a black boy”. Teddy later tries to mend his friendship with Gideon by giving him an orange, and Gideon once again remarks how their lives are on very different paths, which is then repeated again at the ending of the story. Analysis of No witchcraft for sale by Doris Lessing
1. Why did Gideon call Teddy “Little Yellow Head”?
First of all, he called him this, because Teddy’s hair is fair and light, like nothing he had ever seen. He also gives him a native name, to show him the loyalty he gives him.
2. What happened to Teddy in the beginning of this story?
One day, Teddy had been out, driving on his scooter. He had gone in to the bushes, where a snake had spat in his eyes, almost making him blind. Without doubting, Gideon had ran out in the bushes, and brought back a plant which was used as a cure.
3. How does the cultural conflict influence Gideon’s actions in No Witchcraft for sale? Gideon – not unlike Teddy who does it out of social influence though – starts to distance himself from the family he once almost felt a friendship with. He makes a territorial mark and lets his employers know by his actions that he has a limit to his loyalty. His loyalty lies with his country.
4. Why doesn’t Gideon reveal his cure?
Because his knowledge of native medicin is about all his people “own”, and not yet exploited by the white people. He knows revealing it will make his people poorer and more exploited by the white industry. And lastly because he feels betrayed by the family – they have a somewhat friendship-like relationship and he cares very much for the kid, Teddy. Themes and subjects Racism. Africa. Exploitation. Colonialism. Roots. The master/servant relationship. Prejudice. How race/environment/prejudice can influence a person when growing up.
How do the Farquars react when the scientist tells them why he is interested in Gideon’s cure? They at first react by feeling very pleased and proud – as if they have participated in creating something good for the community. AS soon as the scientist mentions the economy aspect of the discovery, they start to feel uncomfortable – their religious belief means they feel ashamed of thinking in economy terms when what has… [continues] I’d say he was justified in his refusal to share his knowledge. The medicinal plant could heal some, but it also could hurt others. Therefore, Gideon should share his ability to heal, but not the knowledge. THEME:
Thesis: In the short story, “No Witchcraft for Sale,” Doris Lessing uses theme to illustrate the dominance of the white people and the oppression of the black people in the South African country of Southern Rhodesia.
“No Witchcraft for Sale” is a cleverly crafted story of the struggle between blacks and whites in the South African country of Rhodesia. In this story, the Farquar’s son is almost blinded from a snake spitting in his face. They are a white family and their son is saved by their black cook, Gideon, through his knowledge of herbal medicine. The central theme of white domination is first illustrated when Teddy, the white boy, frightens and teases Gideon’s son. When Gideon asks him why he acted that way, he flippantly responds defiantly, “He’s only a black boy” (Holt 911). The boy’s boldness in his tone shows his learned superiority over anyone who is black, whether young or old.
A second theme in the story is that the black people’s traditions and knowledge of natural healing weren’t respected by the white population. Gideon saves Teddy’s eyesight by rubbing the root of a plant into his eyes after he, Gideon, had chewed it up. Except for in this dire circumstance, the white people would never have respected a natural remedy such as this. The story states, “But Mrs. Farquar was weeping with terror, and she could hardly thank him: It was impossible to believe that Teddy could keep his sight” (912).
An interesting twist in the story comes with the introduction of a third theme of the idea of the black people gaining more power. After the story of Teddy’s restored eyesight spreads throughout the towns, a scientist comes to acquire the secret of the cure. Gideon feels that his knowledge is being exploited and is insulted by his newfound position of respect. He takes quite a bit of convincing to ‘cooperate’ with the white people. He agrees to cooperate, but makes the group walk for hours. He seems to be enjoying the control he has over the others. After their wild goose chase, “Gideon suddenly decided they had had enough; or perhaps his anger evaporated at that moment” (914). He casually picks a handful of blue flowers, leaving the people wondering if this were the real plant or not. He never divulges the identity of the real plant, for that would be an insult to his culture. His silence is his only power.
The themes of the story, “No Witchcraft for Sale” are wonderful illustrations of the struggle between the black and white people of South African countries. These unfair ideas were deeply rooted and difficult to change.
Courtney from Study Moose
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