What is the significance of the title of Nadine Gordimer's "Jump" and what is its theme?

Expert Answers info

M.P. Ossa eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2008

write5,649 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Social Sciences, and Business

The word "jump" holds a strong significance in the short story "Jump" by Nadine Gordimer.

Thematically speaking, the main character is a counterrevolutionary soldier in Apartheid South Africa who had originally joined the cause against the black government in his home country of Mozambique.

After witnessing what really goes on with the black prisoners taken by the counterrevolution (mainly child and physical abuse, sex trade and other atrocities), the main character "jumps" from his revolutionary faction and goes right to the office of the black revolutionaries to surrender himself and to pass on confidential information.

The man is in awe at his own actions; he would have never considered making that kind of jump, not only from his people, but from the ingrained ideals with which he was brought up. What was to happen next? Who was he going to become after "the jump". He does it, regardless. As a result, he now lives secluded in a Mozambique hotel, estranged from everybody and always in fear of his life. This political "jump" is the thematic significance of the word.

"Jumping" is also important to the story because the word will take on a completely different meaning toward the end; it will signify the solution to the man's problem: the possibility of jumping out of the top of the roof of his hotel and end the misery and isolation that is eating the main character alive.

Therefore, the word "jump" is an effective title to the story considering that the actions of the main character encompass the different meanings of one same word.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial
David Morrison eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2017

write8,852 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Law and Politics

The title "Jump" refers to two crucial existential leaps of faith that the protagonist makes in the story. In "jumping" over to the other side in this bitter, drawn-out conflict, the protagonist has taken hold of his own existence, actively choosing to create a new identity for himself. This is an act of great bravery as it means leaving behind everything that had previously given meaning to his life. Essentially, he has to start from scratch, embarking upon a potentially long, hard road whose final destination is as yet unknown.

But the jump proves a leap of faith too far for the protagonist. Leaving behind his old identity is one thing, but constructing a new one for himself is a different—and altogether more difficult—matter entirely. The man realizes to his cost that such a leap of faith is not sufficient in itself to create a new life; it is simply the prelude to a series of yet more difficult existential choices. The burden of this realization is simply too great for the protagonist to bear, and so he contemplates making another jump, another leap of faith. Only this time it wouldn't be from one life to another, but out of life altogether.

Further Reading:
check Approved by eNotes Editorial

Unlock This Answer Now

Ask a Question