A Dry White Season

by André Brink

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How do fear, paranoia, or betrayal push the characters to behave as they do in A Dry White Season?

Fear of police mistreatment of Gordon Ngubene pushes Benjamin Du Toit to investigate his disappearance in A Dry White Season, while fear of public opinion and government reprisal push Suzette Du Toit to betray her father.

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Benjamin Du Toit becomes increasingly concerned about Gordon Ngubene after he disappears. Afraid that the police may torture and even kill Gordon if they apprehend him, Ben overcomes his reservations and sets out to find Gordon. Benjamin’s daughter, Suzette, grows increasingly alarmed at her father’s involvement in the investigation. She worries that government officials will find out what Ben is doing and that, if they catch him, they will believe that she and other family members are complicit in his actions. To ensure that the state does not accuse her, she betrays her father.

Andre Brink presents Ben as a person who had deliberately refused to confront the fact that the South African government injustices and abuses of the country’s black and colored citizens and residents. When a black student, Joseph Ngubene, goes missing after being detained by the police, his father, Gordon, sets out to find him. When Gordon also disappears, Ben finds he can no longer look the other way. He fears that the police or other government agents will harm Gordon, and sets out to find him. This decision leads to Bents longer-term support for Gordon and opposition to apartheid.

Ben’s adult daughter, Suzette, is a conservative person who worries about what other people think. She has no sympathy for political activists but is aware that the government does come down hard on its opponents. Suzette is more afraid that she will be implicated if her father’s activities are revealed. To forestall the possibility of her being included in any accusations against him, she betrays his confidence by disclosing where he has hidden potentially incriminating documents.

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