My Son’s Story (Magill's Literary Annual 1991-2005)
Both in her works and in interviews, Nadine Gordimer has made it clear that she disapproves of apartheid; it was her sympathy with blacks that caused South Africa to ban three of her novels, A World of Strangers (1958), The Late Bourgeois World (1966), and Burger’s Daughter (1979). As some of her more perceptive critics have pointed out, however, Gordimer herself is in two ways an outsider in the movement with which she sympathizes: She is white and she is a woman. It may well be that it is this sense of alienation, or at least of difference, that enables Gordimer to write novels with such a sense of the complexity of life. In My Son’s Story, for example, she shows how difficult it is in a time of social change to choose wisely between conflicting duties, to understand the motives for making those choices, and to accept the negative effects from even those decisions that seemed most clearly right.
The title My Son’s Story suggests that there will be a single narrator in the novel, perhaps with an introductory passage by the father. In fact, the novel incorporates several points of view. Some of the story is told through the eyes of the father, a black schoolteacher who has been called Sonny since his own childhood. Some of it is told by his son, William (Will), a student. Some of it is told by Sonny’s white mistress, Hannah Plowman, a human-rights worker who first became acquainted with Sonny when he was jailed for...
(The entire section is 2252 words.)
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