By allowing some twenty characters to speak from their point of view without any reflective narration between the characters and the reader, Brink permits his characters to demonstrate their own dignity and strength as well as to condemn themselves for their own prejudiced and rigid ideas and actions. Piet is the quintessential patriarch; while he rules his wife, family and slaves with his “State Bible” in one hand and his gun in the other, he is also deeply religious, believing himself to be fulfilling God’s will. Alida, although remaining religious, becomes increasingly bitter and nearly numb to all that happens around her. Barend, fearing most that he will disappoint his father, becomes harsh and cruel as he senses that he cannot prevent the inevitable changes that will come with British colonization. Hester, little more than chattel herself, suffers quietly in order to endure until she has the opportunity to choose freely the sexual act which consummates her freedom.
Galant and Nicolaas, however, offer the most intimate examination of the characters’ conflicts and inextricable relationships. They are bound by childhood love and sundered by the experience of slavery. Each in turn attempts to accept the “ordained” roles of master and slave, fails to find freedom and dignity in those roles, provokes the other to greater acts of violence, and, finally, condemns the other to death. Galant knows that murdering Nicolaas will not lead to freedom...
(The entire section is 464 words.)