Themes and Meanings

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

A primitive hovel in the garbage-strewn ghetto of Korsten, a multiracial district on the outskirts of Port Elizabeth, symbolizes the ultimate reduction in circumstances that forces two brothers to come to terms with each other and with the realities of life in South Africa. Athol Fugard set The Blood Knot in a cramped shack on the front of the stage so that the audience is located, uncomfortably, in the midst of the brothers’ world. The most basic issue of the play—“you and me,” as Fugard states it—is overwhelming and inescapable. “If there is a human predicament, this is it,” Fugard says in his introduction to the text. “You are the other man, bound in his fate, tied to his life.” Neither character can escape, nor can the audience, but as the play proceeds, neither character wants to avoid responsibility. If the play succeeds, the audience will not want to escape either.

The two brothers are superficially very different. Morris had tried to simplify his life by operating behind the disguise of his light skin until he learned that he feels more at ease with himself if he accepts his real identity rather than living in constant dread and uncertainty. He has the ability to read and write, which gives him a temporary form of escape—he can create images of beauty through language and can sustain a dream through the process of organizing and planning a project. Zachariah is very dark-skinned and has no interest in “education.” He cannot read and usually does not worry about it. He is very angry about the racial injustice in South Africa and direct in his expressions of resentment; he is explosive and impulsive. Both men have had to come to terms with what Fugard calls “the constant emasculation of Manhood by the South African ’way of life’—guilt, prejudice, fear, all conspiring together finally to undermine the ability to love directly and forthrightly.”

Although the two men have been living together for a year, they have not really come to terms with each other. Morrie is trying to compensate for the privileges he has had, and Zachariah is trying to forgive...

(The entire section is 865 words.)