What is an analysis of Nadine Gordimer's short story '"Crimes of Conscience"?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Nadine Gordimer's short story, "Crimes of Conscience" touches upon the themes of Political Transition, and Love. In this story, the male character from whose perspective the story is told, although he is not the narrator, is a special agent of the police, most likely in Gordimer's South Africa. He meets the woman at a trial in the Supreme Court; her manner of dress, he observes, is 

...but a sign of identification with the humanity of those who had nothing and risked themselves. 

After they become acquainted, they have coffee together and, in a game of "cat-and-mouse," in order to hear her answer and evaluate her, he asks, 

"Why did the State call witnesses who came right out and said the regime oppressed their spirits and frustrated their normal ambitions?"

She takes the bait and answers, revealing her political interest,

"That's to establish credibility. To prove their involvement with the accused, their intimate knowledge of what the accused said and did, to inculpate the accused in what the Defence's going to deny. Don't you see?"

The agent ponders that this woman has gone to jail for another woman for three months; "she believes in a cause" he thinks to himself. This personality trait causes the woman to be trusting, so she takes him to parties where she mixes with other races. He ingratiates himself with her, moving into a friendship, then into a carnal relationship. She takes him into her world, hiding little, wanting to trust him. He lives in her world, but he must go back to his office to fill out his reports. Still, she wants to confide in him, to tell him, but he must find the "password." Finally, he discovers what it is, words only he could say, "I've been spying on you." He confesses his "crime of the conscience" and turns his back in shame. But, she crawls on her haunches and takes his face in her hands, forgiving the other until the end.