The Waste Land

by Alan Paton

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What is the time of day in "The Waste Land"? How do you know ?

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"The Waste Land" by Alan Paton takes place in the nighttime when it is completely dark. The protagonist sees the young men only in the lights of the bus, and he keeps running into things because he cannot see.

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When Alan Paton's story "The Waste Land" opens, it is night, and it is quite dark. We read that when the protagonist gets off the bus, he can see "the figures of the young men" in the vehicle's lights. It is clearly dark, then, and indeed, the man watches as the bus rolls away down the "dark street," representing the exit of any safety he might have.

As the protagonist stands still trying to decide what to do, he hears the young men walking toward him from both sides. Notice that he does not see them; he hears them. The man scurries into a waste land of junk, and something catches his leg. It is not one of the young men, but he doesn't realize that at first. Again, he cannot see clearly. It is a piece of iron, and he frees himself and hurries on, falling against things because he cannot see where he is going.

When he gets out of the junkyard, he sees the lights of the bus again, but in those lights, he sees the outline of one of the young man. In desperation, he hits the young man on the head with his stick and then runs again. He still cannot see where he is going, so he runs directly into the side of a truck and then hides beneath it and listens to the conversation of the young men as they examine their fallen comrade. They have to light a match to do so, and they realize that it is Freddy, and he is dead. The man under the truck then understands something horrible. His own son has been trying to attack him, and in self-defense, he has killed his own Freddy.

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