Town and Country Lovers Questions and Answers
by Nadine Gordimer

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How does Gordimer use both halves of "Town and Country Lovers" to criticize the cruelty and folly of apartheid? In what way are the major conflicts in the two narratives different?

Gordimer uses the first half of "Town and Country Lovers" to discuss the cruelty of Apartheid by detailing the humiliation that the mixed-race cashier had to endure after being caught in violation of the Immorality Act. The second half deals with the folly of Apartheid by telling the story of an interracial couple who had been allowed to play together as children but were forbidden from sharing a life as adults.

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The cruelty of Apartheid is showcased spectacularly in the first half of this narrative, which deals with South Africa's ludicrous Immorality Act, which was one of the many laws of Apartheid. This act forbade sexual relations between white and black people, and there were policemen who dedicated their careers to attempting to catch couples in the act. While I would certainly not say that Leinsdorf and the mixed-race cashier were in love, they should not have been prohibited from having sexual relations based on the color of their skin. The arrival of the police officers and the fact that the couple are hauled down to the police station and the woman is examined for signs of recent sexual activity are clear indicators of the cruelty of Apartheid.

The word "folly" speaks of something that is nonsensical or foolish. Part 2 of Gordimer's thought-provoking book deals with a black woman, Thebedi, and a white man, Paulus, who have been friends since they were little children and failed to comprehend the transition from the innocence of childhood, during which children of all races played together on the farm, and the "adult" world, in which they were forbidden from being friends, let alone lovers. Despite everything that happened later, this story places emphasis on the foolishness of trying to divide members of a community based on the color of their skin.

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