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Richard Rive's, "Buckingham Palace," District Six focuses on a small community, unable to establish themselves outside of gangs, thievery, alcohol abuse and prostitution. District Six sits at the foot of Table Mountain and provides a stark contrast.
For an essay, a brief overview of the environment in which the characters exist (District Six) is useful by way of introduction. Some generalizations of the characters in this novel are necessary as many of their lives overlap and characters develop because of each other.
The affectionately- named "Buckingham Palace" is the row of "mouldy"cottages, notorious for bringing out the worst, and often the best, in the characters. Their criminal pursuits are moderated by humor. Religion and community spirit keep them alive and allow the reader to be accepting. I am not sure which characters you are most interested in but here are a few.
Mary (and her Girls), at number 201, keeps The Casbah, a "House of Pleasure." Next door (no.203) is Zoot and The Boys. The Jungles live at 205 , the narrator at 207 and Last-Knight the Barber at 209. Life is hard and prospects are poor but "what a wicked and enjoyable place the world was." The characters find peace in their routine which hardly varies from week to week. Mary, Zoot and Pretty-Boy are legends.
Mary, a Pastor's daughter and accomplished baton-twirler, is humorously portrayed as quite a husband stealer. Other women's husbands suffer "ill-health" after being in her company and eventually Mary is able to use her "skills," after her own husband, Knight-Before -Last, runs away. "The Girls" initially take refuge with Mary, from their fathers or husbands but they too acquire skills and before long the brightly- painted house officially opens "for business." Mary still pays her dues to the Church and, despite the glances of others, takes communion once a month.
Zoot is very capable of manipulating situations. Early in his childhood his "absolute dislike and disregard for authority" becomes entrenched and he spends years in reformatory and prison for stealing. He has a huge capacity for language but expresses himself profanely. Zoot, the "Jive King of District Six" is also an accomplished dancer. He becomes Mary's "bouncer" for lack of other opportunities. He "persuades" Katzen, the landlord, after he has heroically rescued the elderly, drunken Davids from 203, to "rent" the house to him. He is protected and guided by "guardian angels."
Pretty Boy has striking blue, innocent eyes. He is a friend of Zoot's from reform school and has spent some years in prison in Pretoria. He acquires items for Zoot's cottage "at a bargain price" and is very resourceful.
The Jungle Boys are the Abrahams' children from 205, so named because of their method of settling disputes. They are "mean and generous" and known to "hunt in a pack." Their reputation precedes them, because "they are like that."
Katzen, the landlord of "Buckingham Palace" is a "small, Jewish shopkeeper." Never one to give up on opportunity, he capitalizes on his position and keeps a sign in his shop window: "Although Katzen has been burgled again, Katzen will never burgle you." The reader can recognize the stereotyped Jew in Katzen.
The narrator, whose house is the last one standing before being bulldozed, "the soul" being ripped out of all the residents, feels completely detached from his roots "in my separate cocoon, in my separate area set aside for my separate group."Apartheid means "separateness."
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