How do the writers Nadine Gordimer and Mildred Taylor explore prejudice and racism in different cultures?
Both writers explore racism and prejudice in their books, but you can spot racism and prejudice in one book much quicker. Both writers show how racism affects not only black people but also the whole of society and your family. Both stories are set in different locations and have different affects on the people and society. Racism is shown in different ways in both stories. “Country Lovers” is set in South Africa, during the time of apartheid. “The Gold Cadillac” is set in North America and a black family goes down to South America and face a new experience. The new experience they face is racism and it affects the family in many ways.
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“Country Lovers” is written by Nadine Gordimer, it is written in 3rd person, while “Gold Cadillac” is written in 1st person. Both view points are effective. The 3rd person view point shows us an unbiased and direct view of what is happening, without any interference. The 1st person view point in “The Gold Cadillac” is also very affective as you are seeing out of the eyes of a young child, whom doesn’t understand racism and its affects. We see quite clearly the reaction of the little girl when she doesn’t understand what is being said.
In “Country Lovers”, the black children play together with the white children, at a very young age. This is because the pressure of racism in the society doesn’t influence small children as they are still young. However, when the white children go to school ‘they soon don’t play together anymore’. This shows us that racism is already starting to spread even though the children have only started to go to school now. This is due to the fact that the society is evolving around these children and the ‘vocabulary of boarding school’ has brain-washed them into believing that white people are the masters and black people are the servants. The black children start calling their former playmates ‘missus and baasie’ this is described as an ‘easy transition’ but surely it can’t be due to the fact that their body is changing as well as their minds. Black children are turning into teenagers and they feel that calling their former playmates ‘missus and baasie’ is a normal transformation for every black person. In “The Gold Cadillac” on the other hand we can acknowledge the fact that not all black people are inferior to white people.
Racism is better concealed in “The Gold Cadillac”. We don’t know if the family is black or not until we reach line 166, where ‘Lois father says he wants to go down to Mississippi with the ‘fine car’. Mr. Pondexter says ‘Not much those folks hate more’n to see a northern Negro coming down the in a fine car’. Although, the text only reveals the fact that they are black but we have been given clues on the speech and dialect by ‘Lois.
Wilbert doesn’t change his mind even though he was told it was too dangerous for a black man to go down South even though he was told they would ‘lynch you’. The word ‘lynch’ sent a shiver through ‘Lois and her sister even though they don’t know about racism. By this we can see how racism in the north has not affected the two black girls at all.
The educational system started with both white and black children in primary education where they spoke local dialect and then after that the white children went to secondary education, where they learnt Standard English and the black children went to work, on farms of the white people, and they learnt the language of authority and how to obey it.
Immorality Act 1950 – 1985 was one of the first Apartheid laws in South Africa. It attempted to forbid all sexual relations between whites and non-whites. In 1949, interracial marriages had been banned by the Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act. This law is to separate black and white. This caused trouble for Paulus Eysendyck and Thebedi (two main characters in this story) as they were secretly in a relationship between a white boy and black girl (which was against the Immorality Act). ‘She had to get away before the house servants who knew her, came in at dawn.’ This shows the compassion and determination to keep their relationship ongoing. The only relationship that can be between blacks and whites is servant and master, no other relationship is permitted under the legal laws of South Africa.
Families have to stick together and also stick together with friends. In “The Gold Cadillac”, the dad of ‘Lois decided to go all alone to Mississippi but was then persuaded to go down there all together, so that they were stronger to tackle racism and prejudice believes and views. A group of people are mentally and physically stronger than one person all alone and with no one to back him/her up with. They were leaving to go down South to Mississippi.
In the second paragraph of “Country Lovers” it said ‘The first holiday after he had gone to boarding school he brought home for Thebedi a painted box he had made in his wood work class.’ Here we can see how he developed their relationship even though they haven’t been in contact for a while. He couldn’t give the box directly to Thebedi because ‘he had nothing for the other children in the kraal’.
Thebedi is shown to be inferior to Paulus, ‘He told her, each time when they would meet again’. This clearly shows that Paulus has all the power in the relationship and that is controlling the inferior Thebedi. Thebedi doesn’t say a single word; this shows the effect or racism and how racism and authority made them believe they were servants had set into their minds and also that they had no control of whether or not to do what is being told. To me in this part of the story it just seems like an affair not like love at all.
The family enters South America and they soon start noticing sign like ‘WHITE ONLY, COLOURED NOT ALLOWED’. This distracts ‘Lois and she doesn’t understand what these signs meant or why they were there. They began to see South America in a different view, the racist view.
In “Country Lover”, Paulus and Thebedi meet on a very hot day at the river bed side. They just sit there at first without talking or anything. Paulus seems to be evolving around the beautiful nature. Nadine Gordimer portrays their meeting and sex as a natural occurrence when she puts it alongside such a beautiful environment, next to the water flow. This just gives us a sense of reality and the richness of this love is seen. ‘…he was surprised… and she was surprised by it too’, they didn’t know it could be so lovely and the nature just seems to evolve around both of them. Nadine Gordimer is making a direct remark against the prejudice that black people are ugly and white being the only beautiful colour. This scene also shows the immodesty of the white girls as they are seen in ‘bikinis’ but Thebedi is shown as ‘her dress bunched modestly’. This shows how modest Thebedi is and that she doesn’t want to be tricked into believing things to quickly. She is looking out for herself.
Nadine Gordimer compares this to the cheap plastic relationship they had had in Paulus’ house when ‘the Mercedes drove away’. She portrays as it is much better to have a relationship in the nature.
A police car comes and stops the Wilbert family in the Southern States and he ‘eyeballs’ the car. The police officer call Mr. Wilbert ‘boy’ which you can see is prejudice as he is already looking down at him. Without asking any questions, the white police man asks whose car it is and Mr. Wilbert tells him it’s his. But the police officer accuses Mr Wilbert of lying. As you can see the real prejudice of white people is coming out and you can see how they are treating him. This is the real first time ‘Lois has feared this much because she never has felt the full on effects of racism and prejudice acts. The family had lost their relatives or they would have not been enquired by the policeman like this. The policeman would have thought twice about pulling over this car.
Njabulo was married to Thebedi but Thebedi didn’t tell a single word to Paulus about this and this was the end of their unlawful relationship. A baby was born within two months after their marriage and this was not a shame because it was custom for the husband to check if his wife is not ‘barren’.
The baby however was mixed race, so Paulus ends up killing the baby. Thebedi took this case to court, which was the first time she went outside the farm. She claimed he had murdered the baby. Paulus claimed his innocence; Thebedi was becoming weaker, ‘she cried hysterically’. As time was passing, she couldn’t control her emotions. It was up to Njabulo to protect her and give her confidence but on the second trial of the court, Thebedi doesn’t say anything. This can be reasoned to the fact that she has accepted the death of her baby and that live always moves on.
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Wilbert had been released and he decided to go back, he kept on going out of the southern states but he was getting very tired, so he pulled into a grove of trees and fell asleep. ‘Lois on the other hand was terrified and couldn’t fall to sleep. She was so scared and she wanted to protect her family. ‘I took hold of it’, she was so scared that she had taken hold of a ‘sharp knife’ and she was ‘ready to strike’.
The Cadillac is brand new and gold in colour. It shows that the black family who owns it is no longer poor and downtrodden. The car highlights the conflict in the story. There are two main areas of conflict – in the family and in society as a whole.
Racism effects people in many ways and many people haven’t felt the full on effect of racism but the reaction we get from Mr Wilbert and Thebedi is acceptance of racism. Both of them get affected by racism. ‘Lois had felt a strong force called racism at a young age so she will know what racism is and how it affects people, she will always remember it.
Even though ‘Lois’ mum said Wilbert could keep the car, Mr. Wilbert went out and sold the car and came back home walking. All the neighbours thought he had lost most his money but this was not the reason, the reason was to pull his family together again. So they were the closest family.
The death of the mixed race baby was not all the fault of Paulus it was the fault of Thebedi as well. She knew what he was going to do, but she didn’t stop him. She just stood outside waiting for him to finish. She never went to look at the baby on that day. She had accepted it. If she had stopped him, she would have had a baby now but she had accepted that life was life and that racism and prejudice was everywhere in South Africa.
Mr. Wilbert could have also ceased the opportunity tom not show ‘Lois what racism was like, but he didn’t and she felt the full on effect of racism and also did he. Here we see racism affects man, woman, boy, girl and even a baby. Racism and prejudice views affect everyone.
The Gold Cadillac causes conflict within the family. It impresses the local black community. It causes and exposes jealousy. The car provides a learning experience to Wilbert and ‘Lois – who tackle racism for the first time. I think the car finally makes the family stronger and makes their bonds more rigid.
Nadine Gordimer shows us how black people had been treated unfairly. She portrays racism to us directly as the script is in 3rd person. I have learnt that racism is all around us in this world. Even the minority of people in one country can affect the majority of people. Education is a key factor in society and in ways to tackle racism. Without education you are always inferior and will be seen as a servant.
Both stories are perfect examples of racism and prejudice believes. I think both stories show the reader how racism is felt, but I feel that The Gold Cadillac has a stronger source for racism because Lois has told more from her narration. From ‘The Gold Cadillac’ Lois being a narrator helped me understand the story better because we can see how she feels when something happens, it looks like your just standing next to Lois when she narrates and I can see a better understanding of the text. In ‘Country Lovers’ I feel the story was more on love than racism. When Njabulo falls in love with Thebedi is another long paragraph on love. The Immortality act which represents ‘Country Lovers’ was quite a strong racial point. But still I believe ‘The Gold Cadillac’ revealed more racism.
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