Summary (Masterplots II: Short Story Series, Revised Edition)
“Livingstone’s Companions” is a somewhat indeterminate story, for it combines two tangential but still related plot interests: Carl Church and his fascination with the lake near the hotel where he is staying, and Dick Palmer’s attempt to break the bonds of his domineering mother. Both these stories are undergirded by Church’s reading the journals of the famous Scottish missionary/explorer of Africa, David Livingstone. Moreover, providing a social background (typical of Nadine Gordimer’s fiction) is the story of the complex relationship between white colonials and indigenous Africans.
The story begins with Church’s bored response to the petty political posturing of the minister of foreign affairs in an anonymous African country, a country, like most in modern Africa, which is newly independent. Church’s story begins with an assignment from his British editor to do a piece on the one hundredth anniversary of the Royal Geographic Society’s sending of a party to search for Livingstone during the 1870’s. Church is told to retrace the steps of Livingstone’s last journey. With this assignment, the central metaphor of the story is established, for although Church—less than delighted with what he considers to be the triviality of such a task—does not retrace Livingstone’s steps literally, he does so psychologically and symbolically.
Church’s journey begins in the airport with a chance meeting with a blond woman who runs a...
(The entire section is 1002 words.)
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