The Fletchers represent the two main elements in the white population of South Africa. She is Afrikaner, the daughter of a Boer pioneer who was a powerful man of considerable distinction; in marrying a British South African, she clearly believes that she has married beneath her station. Her crime against Joseph’s sister—the baby has been abandoned and perhaps even murdered—derived from family pride: her sense that she had to save her brother from public shame. Yet she is more quietly racist than her husband. His speeches to his two young guests are a wild mix of spurious racist doctrine, insane misinterpretations of history, and apocalyptic predictions about nuclear warfare and the end of civilization. In his paranoia, he raves about how dark-skinned people threaten the integrity of the white race and how “we” must stick together against “them.” The Fletchers remain together in their racist fortress, but they obviously do so only in spite of their corrosive resentment of each other.
If they have made a purgatory of their lives, Ignatius Louw is in a kind of hell. He has let himself be “saved” by his sister, who cared less for his happiness than for his reputation as a member of their family. He seems to be tormented by guilt for what he has permitted the Fletchers to do, and he says that he desired his black mistress as he had never desired anything in his life. It is also possible, however, that he committed miscegenation as an act of...
(The entire section is 490 words.)