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A) Characterize Marais Van der Vyver Marais Van der Vyver is an afrikaner farmer, living in South Africa during the end of the apartheit regime. Furthermore he has title as the regional Party leader and commandant of the local security command. The people from his district remember how he as child was rather shy and withdrawn, and it seems that the people around him beleives that he has conserved these personality traits as an adult. Nevertheless he exposes his feelings at the police station when repporting the hunting mishap, where he accidently shoots one of his black farm labours. He sobbs and weeps, and the captain of the police office is ashamed of this sudden breakdown of Marais Van der Vyver. Marais has three kids with his whife; Magnus, Helena and Karel. But in the last lines of the story it’s revealed that the black labourer he accidently shot to death isn’t his boy, but his actual son. This boy’s name is Lucas.
B1) What is the theme of the story? The theme of the story is quite complexed as it both deals with the racism issues which unfolded in the incredebly segregated society of South Africa, and at the same time shows how complicated and paradoxical this separation of black and white people is. This appears in the text as Lucas turns out to be the result of Marais’ extramarital relations, and as Lucas dies caused by his father, the whole affair becomes a personal tragedy for Marais Van der Vyver. But Marais knowns by himself that the story of this hunting mishap in the eyes of the opposition overtly is a callous act of negligent shooting and a perfect example of the still opressed blacks of South Africa.
B2) What is the message of the story? The message of this text could be one shouldn’t judge a case by its superficial appearance, because often it turns that the case have many different aspects which ought to be taken in consideration. For example the immediate impression of the hunting mishap easiest takes the side of the opposition’s opinions, as this very accident fits perfectly into their picture of South Africa and of an afrikaner farmer as a inconsiderate human being. In this case, the opposition is wrong. Besides, although sex between blacks and whites has been legalized, it’s impossible for our main character to stand up and tell the truth, because there still is plenty of unwritten norms and rules stuck from the time of apartheid. At that moment it’s still a taboo to have extramarital affairs, not to mention babies, with a person of the opposite skin color.
B3) Why did Nadine Gordimer write this story? It’s imaginable that Nadine Gordimer, who was a clear opponent of the apartheid regime, has written this story to invite South Africans on both sides of the segregated society to remove their prejudices against each other and learn to tolerate each other’s different worlds. Plus to depict the South Africans’ part self-created fears – the white people who live in the fear of being misunderstood, and for attacks – and the black people in fear for being subjected to racism or oppression.
C) Why is the story called” The Moment before the Gun Went Off”? The moment before the gun went off is shown in the story as a moment of high excitement between the boy Lucas, and his father. Marais taught Lucas to maintain tractors and other farm machinery, and he took him hunting. So overall they have a good relationship with each other, despites the fact that Lucas is a product of Marais Van der Vyver’s extramarital relations, despite that he can only be a son in secret. Therefore, the death of the son Lucas becomes paradoxical because he is both a burden and a joy both dead and alive.