A Dry White Season

by André Brink

Start Free Trial

What role does Ben Du Toit represent in South African society under apartheid in A Dry White Season?

Expert Answers

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

Ben Du Toit represents a minority of white South Africans who took an active role in objecting to the draconian laws of Apartheid that were in place from 1948 to 1994. While some members of this group became conscientious objectors, objecting to doing their compulsory military service, Du Toit took his stand in a different way.

Upon finding out that Jonathan had been a victim of the type of police brutality that was so common during Apartheid, Ben adopts the role of resistor, protector, and activist.

When Jonathan's father, Gordon, disappears while looking for his son in police custody, Ben's role is to take up this search, and for playing the role of investigator, he ends up paying the ultimate price.

While most white South Africans either sat back and enjoyed reaping the benefits of Apartheid or turned a blind eye to it, Ben Du Toit is portrayed as one of the rare characters who could see the regime for the disgrace that it was.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Ben Du Toit is one of a relatively small number of South African whites during the apartheid era to stand up and publicly oppose the regime. He seethes at the racial injustice around him, which is brought home to him by the suspicious disappearance of his black gardener, Gordon. Ben sets out to uncover the truth of what happened to Gordon, but this is a dangerous undertaking. South Africa at that time was a virtual police state, with sudden disappearances and extra-judicial killings of the regime's opponents frighteningly common. Ultimately, and perhaps inevitably, Ben's incredible bravery costs him his life.

Ben's courage stands as a stark contrast to the general apathy of many white South Africans in the 1970s, the time in which the story is set. The title of the book itself is an allusion to this general malaise as it manifests itself in the life of the unnamed narrator. But Ben's selfless sacrifice acts as an inspiration to the narrator, holding out the possibility that other white South Africans may follow his shining example and stand up to challenge a system based on racism, injustice and brutal repression.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial