Boesman, a “colored” (mixed-race) South African in his fifties. He and his wife, Lena, wander along the mudflats of a South African river after being driven away from their home by white authorities as part of a slum clearance. Boesman’s personality is shown in how he reacts to this situation: He accepts his and Lena’s bleak life with a hardened demeanor. That this dispossession is the latest in a series of such incidents in Boesman and Lena’s lives helps to explain Boesman’s cynical personality. His manner is exemplified by his refusal to stop and ponder why he and Lena—or, in fact, South Africa’s nonwhites as a group—suffer such a grim fate as his and Lena’s. Boesman believes that asking such questions of existence is futile. He believes that it is sufficient to know only the surface of life, merely to endure what life deals, and not to question or complain. For these reasons, Boesman is in conflict with Lena, and that conflict constitutes the major tension of the play. Boesman’s rationale for his feelings that he and Lena must concentrate solely on the present and not probe into the reasons for the hardships of their existence is that life is solely the present and that the past—or how he and Lena got to the present—is irrelevant. These beliefs are central to Boesman’s and the play’s development. The height of both the play’s and Boesman’s development comes when he reveals why he holds the beliefs he does about his and...
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