The Moment Before the Gun Went Off
After many years of repression and apartheid, the blacks have finally won their rights back. The Immorality Act has been revoked and Nelson Mandela has become president. However, with all these new improvements, some new problems have surfaced. In the new South Africa, if a white person accidentally hurts a black person, it is immediately considered a hate-crime because of all the years with unprovoked acts of violence against innocent black people. An example of one of the situations where a white man accidentally hurts, and in this case kills, a black man is to be found in the short story “The Moment Before the Gun Went Off” by Nadine Gordimer. With regards to this short story it is relevant to firstly focus on the main character, secondly on the setting and finally on the theme(s). The story is about an Afrikaner farmer named Marais Van der Vyver. One day he is out hunting with his twenty-year-old farmhand, Lucas. While they are out hunting, Van der Vyver drives over a pothole in the road and the gun, which lay beside him in the cab, goes off and shoots through the roof and into Lucas’ brain. He is killed instantly. Afterwards we are told how the outside world will view the incident and in the end we find out that Lucas was not only a farmhand, but also Van der Vyver’s son. The main character in this short story is Marais Van der Vyver. He is a white man in his forties-fifties. He is married and has four children – three with his wife and one from what we assume to be an extramarital affair with a black woman. He is an upper class man, and he is the regional Party leader and Commandant of the local security commando. In the short story Van der Vyver is described to be “a man who hides any change of expression round his mouth behind a thick, soft moustache, and in his eyes by always looking at some object in hand…”, (p. 74, l. 24-26). The people from the district remember how Van der Vyver as a child was rather shy and...
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