By showing the dehumanizing effects of apartheid on the characters in A Walk in the Night, La Guma is able to create a consciousness toward the need for a more just society.
None of the characters in A Walk in the Night are overtly political. They are not activists against apartheid. However, the lives they lead are some of the best examples of why apartheid needed to be changed. Their narratives detail the need to create a more compassionate and just society.
In different ways, apartheid has dehumanized the characters in A Walk in the Night. Apartheid has made characters like Michael bitter over the daily examples of injustice. At the start of the narrative, Michael is “a good boy.” He is the type of person that South Africa needs to cultivate. He believes in work, as he is upset that he was fired, and in his actions towards Joe, he believes in charity towards others. However, his brooding anger in how apartheid treats him causes his humanity to erode. It makes sense that before he kills Doughty, he is called a "ghost," because apartheid has made him an almost invisible part of his world. The ethical bankruptcy of apartheid encourages him to rationalize killing Doughty and boast about his participation in the criminal life of the gang. Apartheid's withering effect on Michael demonstrates the need for change. It has changed what was once human into a gutted shell.
The same reality of apartheid is illustrated through other characters in A Walk in the Night. Constable Raalt is dehumanized. He is capable of seeing only racist destruction displayed towards people of color in his job while imagining homicidal tendencies towards his wife. His dehumanization is on brutal display in Willieboy's death. While Willieboy is bleeding on the floor of a police van, Raalt is engaged in banal conversation. The system that encourages such behavior also plays a significant role in Willieboy's death. The insight that Willieboy gains at the end of his life is that apartheid is not going to allow a person like him a chance at living a life without suffering. From a social frame of reference, apartheid destroys community. A justified skepticism towards institutional structures encourages silence and withdrawal, and eviscerates social cohesion. La Guma shows that apartheid does not breed hope. Rather, it dehumanizes everyone it touches.
At the end of the novel, there is no justice. The legal system provides no structure to the people in District 6. The child that grows inside of Grace Lorenzo is entering a world where much of people's humanity is destroyed. Simply put, La Guma depicts apartheid as no way for anyone to live. Nothing good comes from this.
La Guma's illustration compels us to find an alternative to apartheid. This alternative must validate voice and create a realm that fosters greater attention to brotherhood and sisterhood. Nadine Gordimer described La Guma's work as a reality that “presents men and women who don’t talk about apartheid; they bear its weals, so that its flesh-and-blood meaning becomes a shocking, sensuous impact.” The illustration of this impact in A Walk in the Night calls out for transforming what is into what can be.