Does the story have a hero or a villain?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I am not entirely certain if Gordmer's short story contains a clear hero and a clear villain.  On face value, I think that the family would be the hero and the criminal element against which they fight would be villain.  Yet, I think that where Gordimer's genius is evident is that the villain is more in the minds of the heroes.  The heroic family is actually their worst enemy.  It is the construction of a fear of the outside world that causes them to fundamentally question their world to a point where they become victim to their own fears.  I think that this is where there is an inversion of the traditional fairy tale.  In this parody of self and the genre itself, Gordimer is able to develop reality as one in which the complex nature of individuals compels them to be both hero and villain.  The family's own insecurity and fear is what drives them to a point where they become their own enemy, culminating in the death of their beloved child.  From this, one can see that there is no clear and distinct hero or villain.  Rather, human beings possess the capacity to be both simultaneously and sometimes at different moments.