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How personal is political in the story?

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Sadhrupika | eNotes Newbie

Posted November 8, 2013 at 7:29 AM via web

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How personal is political in the story?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted November 8, 2013 at 11:50 AM (Answer #1)

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Gordimer is able to converge the personal and political in My Son's Story.  One way this is done is through demonstrating relationships that exist in both realms.  The political activism that both Hannah and Sonny share in rebelling against the government develops a holding in the personal realm.  When Sonny leaves his political duty in a critical moment to tend to Hannah, it is a revelation that the personal has become political. Sonny's distance with his wife is another example in which the personal is political.  His distance with his wife is a reflection of how the personal is political.  His distance with his wife is a personal struggle that eventually becomes political, as Sonny feels that his wife is unaware of the political implications of his actions.  Sonny proceeds with his life in the movement as a reality in which the personal is political. Spending time with Sonny's children is a personal act, and thus is relegated to a secondary role in favor of his participation in the movement.  Gordimer's brilliance is seen in how Sonny uses this justification as a means to move closer to Hannah in the personal realm.  The personal is political, but the political is also personal. Both converge into Sonny's psyche and in Hannah's understanding of self to a point where both are indistinguishable from one another.  There is only hurt and loss evident in pursuits of both the political and personal ends.

As the narrative concludes, Gordimer concludes that the personal and political convergence is something that hits all of the characters.  Unsatisfied with the personal connection that she is experiencing with her husband and the personal pain of her daughter's condition, Aila joins an extremist group.  Her access to weapons helps to fulfill a void that the personal creates through a political means.  This same pattern is seen in Will, who takes political and economic means of satisfaction as a way to conceal the emptiness of the personal.  The fact that he wishes to assert political privilege as a result of personal abandonment is reflective of the same condition throughout the narrative.  In these settings, the personal is political for the former helps to advance the latter.

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