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Presented by: Nicholas El Bizri

One major theme that shapes the novel is the racial injustice in the community. One of the novel's messages is: Inequality in human rights, living conditions, and personal empowerment based on racial differences is unjust and intolerable.
In the novel Msimangu says: I see only one hope for our country, and that is

when white men and black men, desiring only the good of their country, come together to work for it. I have one great fear in my heart, that one day when they are turned to loving, they will find we are turned to hating

Msimangus fear is that by the time they (the whites) turn to loving, we (the blacks) will have turned to hating. This calls attention to the constant tension between the two even when equality is achieved. The result of all the racial injustice occurring in South Africa was corruption. When the white men took all the profitable farmland from the blacks and drove them off their tribes, native blacks lost the traditional social structures that gave them stability. This caused the blacks to move to Johannesburg, where they rarely found work, and if they did, the wages were almost always insubstantial.

Thus , there was poverty. Therefore crime was high because of the desperate people trying to survive. This lead to many more killings and robberies. When there is no life to lead, there is chaos. With so many people homeless and poor, the only way to get money is to steal. This is the case for Absalom. Gertrude, however, resorts to selling alcohol illegally and becoming a prostitute for money. Alan Paton says: Because the white man has power, we (the blacks) too want power, and when a black man gets power, and gets money, he is a great man if he is not corrupted This shows that if blacks had equality with the whites, the blacks could become great men. If not, they simply remain corrupted by the system.

Racial discrimination - The blacks were only allowed limited amounts of land --> causing immense overcrowding. - The lack of natural resources on these lands forced many blacks to migrate to the cities, where they were paid severely less than whites. - The lack of opportunities and the racial tension lead Absalom to rob white homes while Gertrude resorts to prostitution.

Poverty - Associated with racial discrimination, black South Africans who inhabit cities mostly live in slums where crime and violence are high.

Gang Violence Poverty turns many of the country's black citizens to participate in gang violence. They break into white homes, which in turn make whites more nervous. As a reaction, whites oppress the black communities more and the cycle continues.

Absalom is not the first murderer or thief in the city. Absalom is one of the victims of the racial tension in the city. Due to the poverty from lack of work, he resorts to gang violence and robbing white peoples homes for money to survive. Absalom is corrupted by Johannesburgs system. This reveals that racism and injustice between blacks and whites leads to nothing but corruption in the city and people. Startled and afraid, Absalom fires blindly. In chapter 22, Absalom says in court: Then a white man came into the passage I was frightened. I fired the revolver." Absaloms blind fear is symbolic of the fear, blindness, and misunderstanding between whites and blacks in the city of Johannesburg. The solution to this problem is portrayed through Absalom and his crime and his consequent death. The only solution to all this crime and tension is JUSTICE and EQUALITY.

Priest Mismangu describes Gertrude: "It would be better to say that she had many husbands. (p.57) - Meaning she is a prostitute. Gertrude is as well a victim of the racism in Johannesburg. After being unable to find her husband, she stays in Johannesburg and gets caught up in alcohol and prostitution. She also becomes corrupt from Johannesburgs filthy system of stealing, lying, and prostitution. The only way she can survive is to work as a prostitute, she has no alternative. Why prostitution? Disregarding her color, she is after all a woman. In the time of the novel, there wasnt just inequality between blacks and whites, but also between men and women. Women did not have their rights. Thus, prostitution is the only job Gertrude can possibly do. Gertrude, like many others who have come to Johannesburg, are brought to a world where corruption is the key to living. This is the only way to make a decent life and avoid poverty and filth. So they stoop to the lowest levels possible to survive.

Absalom and Gertrude are both victims of the corruption, racial injustice, and inequality and the effects it brings. (poverty due to lack of work and low wages.) Therefore, they are forced to resort to stooping to the lowest levels possible. Absalom resorts to stealing and Gertrude resorts to prostitution. This is the only way they can survive and make a living. .htm All viewed on 5/21/11 - 15:00 17:00 pm GMT +2