A World of Strangers Summary

Summary (Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Oxford graduate Toby Hood has left London and is traveling to Johannesburg to become a publisher’s agent. Toby, however, becomes much more. With the novel’s first sentence, “I hate the faces of peasants,” the reader senses that Toby is not too socially conscious. By the end of chapter 1, Toby confirms his apathy: “Let the abstractions of race and politics go hang. I want to live! And to hell with you all!”

Toby’s year in Johannesburg dissipates this apathy as he repeatedly comes face-to-face with the shocking horrors of apartheid. For example, Anna Louw, a black rights lawyer, escorts Toby to a party and introduces him to the black man who soon becomes his closest friend: Steven Sitole. When the shrieks of police cars and “the heavy running of police boots” abruptly end the party, Toby and Steven escape to a pumpkin field, “panting and laughing in swaggering, schoolboy triumph.” Unfortunately, Toby’s future encounters with apartheid are not quite as pleasant.

His typist, Miss McCann, decides to find another job when Toby has the audacity to lunch at the office with black men. Later, Toby has to do the leaving, when his landlord discovers that he is entertaining blacks: “Yoo can’t bring kaffirs in my building.... The other tenants is got a right to ’ev yoo thrown out.... Wha’d ’yoo think, sitting here with kaffirs.”

Toby has other unpleasant experiences as well. Among the most disturbing incidents...

(The entire section is 507 words.)

A World of Strangers Bibliography (Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Cooke, John Wharton. The Novels of Nadine Gordimer: Private Lives, Public Landscapes, 1985.

Driver, Dorothy. Nadine Gordimer: The Politicisation of Women, 1983.

Gardner, Colin. “Nadine’s World of Strangers,” in Reality. XIII (1976), pp. 13-15.

Green, Robert. “Nadine Gordimer’s A World of Strangers: Strains in South African Liberalism,” in English Studies in Africa: A Journal of the Humanities. XXII (1978), pp. 45-54.

Ogungbesan, Kolawole. “Reality in Nadine Gordimer’s A World of Strangers,” in English Studies: A Journal of English Language and Literature. LXI (April, 1980), pp. 142-155.