Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 574
Almost all the action of A Dance in the Sun occurs on a farm near Mirredal, a small, nondescript village in the barren Karroo area of South Africa. Two university students, the unnamed narrator and his friend Frank, are hitchhiking to Cape Town from their hometown of Lyndhurst (probably modeled...
(The entire section contains 574 words.)
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- Critical Essays
Almost all the action of A Dance in the Sun occurs on a farm near Mirredal, a small, nondescript village in the barren Karroo area of South Africa. Two university students, the unnamed narrator and his friend Frank, are hitchhiking to Cape Town from their hometown of Lyndhurst (probably modeled on Kimberley). Marooned for the night in Mirredal, where a wedding party has filled the only hotel, they are directed to a nearby farm, which in the past has taken guests.
The plot of the novel has to do with the consequences of a crime committed several years before by the Fletchers, their hosts. An old African named Joseph, who is loitering near the farm in the darkness, asks the narrator’s help. He has bribed the black house servants to steal a letter, but he cannot read it; later, he wants the students to tell him what is going on in the house. Finally he tells them his story.
Ironically, Mr. and Mrs. Fletcher also want their help. They anticipate trouble—the nature of which they do not specify, though it is clear that it has something to do with Joseph—and they assume that if guests are in the house the trouble can be avoided.
Four years before, Joseph had left Mirredal to find work. When he returned six months later, his sister Mary, who had been working for the Fletchers, had disappeared. The servants told him that she had had to leave because she had borne a “yellow” baby. Joseph could not trace her, and when he went to ask for help from Mrs. Fletcher’s brother, Ignatius Louw (“Nasie”), Mrs. Fletcher flew into a rage and said that her brother had gone. When Joseph realized from her reaction that Nasie was the father of the child, he went to Johannesburg to work and save money so that he could come back to Mirredal to find out what had happened to his sister’s child.
The letter Joseph has stolen is from Nasie, saying that he is returning. He returns that evening, and in the middle of the night he gets into a violent argument with Mr. Fletcher. His rage against Fletcher is clearly the result of his grief and guilt about the black woman whom he permitted the Fletchers to take away from him. Fletcher had paid Mary to leave with her child, and because Nasie had violated the Immorality Act in his affair with her, he had permitted Fletcher to give him some money to run away. Now Nasie has returned to the only place where he feels at home, but his rage against Fletcher is so great and his situation is so frustrating that he can only break up the furniture. He again disappears into the night, and Fletcher orders Joseph off the place. Joseph refuses to go, however, because he knows that he can prove Fletcher’s guilt: He has witnesses.
The rest of the night, the boys plan how to help Joseph. “We were adults now,” the narrator says. The next day, though, Joseph refuses their help. He says that he wants to work for Fletcher, and it appears that he believes he can blackmail him into giving him a good job. Before the boys leave the farm, they see Joseph telling Fletcher that he will work there, and the novel ends with Fletcher, in his rage and humiliation, stamping the ground, “dancing” in the sun.