A Walk in the Night

by Alex La Guma

Start Free Trial

Discuss the idea that poverty is the mother of crime with reference to A Walk in the Night.

Poverty and a lack of opportunity are responsible for crime in this setting. The novel is quite representative of the political era in which it was written. The historical context of South Africa from 1948 to 1994 is important to understand in the analysis of the novel. During the course of this period, the country was generally under a state of apartheid rule. This form of government was designed to segregate people based on race, specifically between white and black citizens. A number of laws were enacted during this time that restricted rights along racial lines as well as other laws that were strictly enforced, such as pass laws and influx control laws (South African History Online).

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

There is much in La Guma's work to concur with the statement.  The fundamental condition of apartheid in South Africa reduces people of color to the condition of having to turn to crime in order to eke out an existence.  Apartheid is depicted as a reality that relegates its victims to the peripheral of society.  Crime becomes the way that individuals in this setting survive and meet the demands of one day to the next.  Consider's Doughty's assertion that individuals living in the world of apartheid are "ghosts, doomed to walk the night."  In this setting, there is little else but crime where validation can be received.  Michael ends up moving to a life of crime because his experiences in "traditional" and "normative" society are filled with harassment, insults, and a lack of support.  Willieboy's exploits in criminal behavior is to simply support a habit of drinking that helps him to endure a life where existence is marginalized and silenced.  It is difficult to believe that these characters would embrace criminal life if there were worthwhile and significant opportunities being presented to them in a setting that actually displayed respect and understanding for who they are as human beings.  The need caused by poverty and the conditions caused by a lack of opportunity are what motivate crime in this Apartheid setting.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team