Nadine Gordimer

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What is the short story "The Moment Before The Gun Went Off" about?

The short story "The Moment Before the Gun Went Off" is about a white South African farmer during the apartheid era who accidentally kills a young Black man. As one can imagine, the killing generates considerable controversy. Later on in the story, we discover that the young Black man was actually the farmer's son.

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The short story "The Moment Before The Gun Went Off" is about appearances and how they can deceive. Gordimer uses dramatic irony to offer insight into the realities of the story's central tragedy.

At the beginning of the story, she gives us a glimpse into the main character's inner dialogue. Gordimer's skillful use of the third-person omniscient viewpoint lays bare the humanity of Marais van der Vyver, the white farmer who shot Lucas (the twenty-year-old farmhand in the story). We are privy to van der Vyver's private thoughts and fears in a way that the larger society in the story isn't.

After the accident, van der Vyver struggles with grief and fear. This juxtaposition of emotions appears to be incongruent at first glance. However, Gordimer provides an explanation for it: although heartbroken by Lucas's death, van der Vyver also fears that the accident will result in retaliation against his family and other white people.

In the story, Gordimer uses the imagery of burning police stations and mobs in towns to exemplify societal strife. In addition, mentions of the lifting of the Immorality Act (which, until 1985, banned sexual relations between white and Black people in South Africa) highlight the breaking up of the status quo in van der Vyver's world. The sense of racial conflict is palpable and mirrored in Gordimer's prose.

For herself, Gordimer doesn't make judgments about the realities of van der Vyver's world. A supporter of minority rights in South Africa during her adult years, she often highlighted racial tension and the cruelty of apartheid laws in her works.

However, in this short story, she presents a twist to the often tragic stories of racial injustice—Lucas was actually van der Vyver's son and a beloved companion in the farmer's daily life. The killing was truly accidental, not malicious in nature.

The words "How could they know that they do not know. Anything." highlights another side to the terrible story of apartheid: a further fracturing of society and the loss of public trust in the ability of law enforcement to secure the rights of all citizens.

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"The Moment Before the Gun Went Off" is a short story written by Nadine Gordimer. It is set in South Africa and follows the story of Marais Van der Vyver, a white South African who accidentally kills one of his Black farm workers.

At the beginning of the short story, we read that Marais Van der Vyver is scared that the fact that he accidentally shot one of his farm workers will be blown out of proportion by the media when they start reporting on the case. This is because Marais is white and the boy who was killed was Black, which could make this sound like a racially motivated crime, when in fact, it was a total accident.

We then find out that this was actually an accident, as Marais had wrongly assumed that the gun had not been loaded, so it went off accidentally when the car...

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drove over a hole in the road: "Van der Vyver drove rather fast over a pot-hole. The jolt fired the rifle." We also hear that Marais was so upset by this event that he payed for the man's funeral and also promised to look after the man's family.

However, there is a twist right at the end of the story, which shows the reader the true extent of tragedy of the events described: right in the very last sentence, we find out that Lucas, the boy who had been tragically shot dead, was not just a worker on Marais's farm—he was Marais's son.

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The events of “The Moment Before the Gun Went Off” by Nadine Gordimer are pretty simple and straightforward. A white South African farmer during the apartheid era is out driving in the bush with a young Black man called Lucas. All of a sudden, the farmer's gun accidentally discharges, killing Lucas immediately.

The farmer, Marais, knows that although the killing was completely accidental, activists in South Africa—and, indeed, all over the world—will cite this as yet another example of white racism towards the majority Black population.

The actual picture is, of course, much more complex than that, but in a society where official racism keeps the Black majority in a state of subjection, it's inevitable that Marais's killing of Lucas will be construed in political terms. And there's absolutely nothing that he can do about it.

To add to the complexity of the situation, it transpires that Lucas was actually Marais's son. Just before the gun accidentally went off, father and son shared a happy moment together, an expression of the deep love they shared. The eponymous moment before the gun went off showed the truth of their relationship, not the moments, hours, days, and weeks that followed this tragic event.

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The short story "The Moment Before the Gun Went Off" by Nadine Gordimer is set in South Africa before the end of the apartheid policy. It tells of a white farmer named Marais Van der Vyver, whose rifle discharges accidentally and kills Lucas, a young black man, while they are out driving in the bush area around his farm.

The story is about people's reactions to the incident in relation to the political tension then present in the country, and it's also about what is really going on in the personal lives of those affected by this tragedy. Van der Vyver is aware that despite the fact that the shooting was an accident, activists will use it as a political issue. They will be unable to see past the killing of a black farm laborer by a white farm owner. The story will travel around the world, and Van der Vyver will be vilified. It will be used as a further example of white brutality against blacks in South Africa.

However, there is a deeper underlying personal issue involved in this incident. This issue will remain hidden and will never come to light in the press. At the end of the story, Gordimer reveals that Lucas is Van der Vyver's son. Van der Vyver evidently loved him deeply and was emotionally shattered at his accidental death. At the funeral, Van der Vyver and Lucas's mother share an unspoken bond of grief. Just before the gun that kills Lucas goes off, Van der Vyver and Lucas share a moment of excitement born of their love for each other. It is this moment that Gordimer refers to in the title.

In conclusion, the story is about the complexity of human relationships in South Africa during the apartheid era and how those relationships and the incidents that result from them are seen from the outside by others.

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