Boesman and Lena

by Athol Fugard

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Identify three traumatic events from Boesman's past in Boesman and Lena that his drinking sharpens.

Quick answer:

Three events that Boesman remembers from his past and that clearly traumatize him in Boesman and Lena are the destruction of his shack, the stillborn babies he had with Lena, and his experiences of prison. The past is so traumatic for Boesman that he always tells Lena to live in the present.

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Though still quite a recent event, the destruction of Boesman and Lena’s shack by the authorities is no less traumatic. Like so many other people in this racist society, they’ve had their home destroyed to provide prime land for the ruling White minority. This is apartheid-era South Africa, and Black and mixed-race families often had their homes and communities destroyed to make way for White neighborhoods and settlements. One can only imagine how traumatic this must have been for all concerned, including Boesman.

Further trauma from Boesman’s past comes in his memories of the stillborn children that Lena bore for him. One senses that Boesman blames Lena for her miscarriages, which goes some way toward explaining why he bears so much bitterness and resentment toward her.

Finally, Boesman remembers the numerous occasions when he landed in prison for committing violent crimes. As we see on a number of occasions in his abusive interactions with Lena, Boesman is a violent man with a temper. He wants to escape from the past and live in the present, but ironically his capacity for violence won’t let him.

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