Boesman and Lena

by Athol Fugard

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What is the relationship between Boesman and Lena?

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Boesman and Lena (1969) follows a pattern which is typical of Fugard's plays such as The Blood Knot (1963) and Hello and Goodbye (1966). It explores the controversial and ambiguous relationship between two characters who are inextricably bound together. Such relationship is challenged as a third character arrives. In this case, this third character is Outa whose presence briefly offers Lena a contact with someone else than her abusive husband Boesman. The couple are mixed-race Soth Africans who have been evicted from their home and is forced to wander along the Swartkops River near Port Elizabeth. The action of the play takes place when the apartheid, the system of laws segregating and discriminating black South Africans, was in full force. Through the characters of Boesman and Lena the play explores notions of freedom and identity in a context that is extremely discouraging for both. It also complicates the idea of oppression by showing how an oppressed like Boesman feels the need to oppress in turn. Surprisingly, Lena seems to get a sense of identity from her husband's abuse, although the encounter with Outa makes her see the possibility of claimimg her own freedom.

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