Study Guide

A Dance in the Sun

by Dan Jacobson

A Dance in the Sun Summary

Summary (Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Almost all the action of A Dance in the Sun occurs on a farm near Mirredal, a small, nondescript village in the barren Karroo area of South Africa. Two university students, the unnamed narrator and his friend Frank, are hitchhiking to Cape Town from their hometown of Lyndhurst (probably modeled on Kimberley). Marooned for the night in Mirredal, where a wedding party has filled the only hotel, they are directed to a nearby farm, which in the past has taken guests.

The plot of the novel has to do with the consequences of a crime committed several years before by the Fletchers, their hosts. An old African named Joseph, who is loitering near the farm in the darkness, asks the narrator’s help. He has bribed the black house servants to steal a letter, but he cannot read it; later, he wants the students to tell him what is going on in the house. Finally he tells them his story.

Ironically, Mr. and Mrs. Fletcher also want their help. They anticipate trouble—the nature of which they do not specify, though it is clear that it has something to do with Joseph—and they assume that if guests are in the house the trouble can be avoided.

Four years before, Joseph had left Mirredal to find work. When he returned six months later, his sister Mary, who had been working for the Fletchers, had disappeared. The servants told him that she had had to leave because she had borne a “yellow” baby. Joseph could not trace her, and when he...

(The entire section is 574 words.)

A Dance in the Sun Bibliography (Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Lardner, Rex. Review in The New York Times. July 1, 1956, p. 6.

The New Yorker. Review. XXXII (June 30, 1956), p. 81.

Parker, Kenneth. “Introduction,” in The South African Novel in English: Essays in Criticism and Society, 1978.

Roberts, Sheila. Dan Jacobson, 1984.

Time. Review. LXVII (June 25, 1956), p. 90.

Wyllie, J. C. Review in Saturday Review. XXIX (June 23, 1956), p. 16.