The theme of "A Walk in the Night" is the way in which South African racism and the apartheid system demean and dehumanize whites and blacks alike. After Michael Adonis is fired for requesting a bathroom break from the white foreman in his factory (who refuses him), he is seething with anger. The policemen in his urban district, District Six in Cape Town, are all white and are bent on harassing the black population. As Michael passes them, he thinks, "You learned from experience to gaze at some spot on their uniforms... but never into their eyes, for that would be taken as an affront to them." The policemen spend their time accosting the locals rather than helping them. In addition, the district is overrun by American sailors, who make a beeline to the whore houses and are otherwise disruptive.
For all these reasons, Michael walks about with a "little knot of rage" inside him. He mistakenly kills Uncle Doughty, a white neighbor, and thinks, "Well, he didn't have no right living here with us Coloreds." In the aftermath of the murder, Constable Raalt, a white man, thinks that Willieboy killed Doughty, and, incensed by the murder of a white man, he hunts Willieboy down and shoots him. The story is about the injustice and brutality of the apartheid system.