Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela

by Nelson Mandela

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What did you like about the first chapter of Long Walk To Freedom?

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One appealing aspect of the first chapter in Mandela's autobiography is the way he shows how the systemic condition of racism impacts father and son.

The first chapter shows the extent of racism in South Africa.  It delves into the life of Mandela's father, Gadla Henry Mphakanyiswa.   Gadla is a proud man whose dignity collided with the reality carved out for Africans in an imperialistic society.  When he defies the magistrate's orders, he pays the price.  Mandela writes that his father loses "his fortune and his title. He was deprived of most of his herd and land, and the revenue that came with them." Mandela's father suffered for defying unfairness, and showed the impact of racism.  The price that Mandela's father paid for challenging white authority shows how the painful effects of racism was something passed down from father to son.  Mandela's father almost gives it to his son as a sad inheritance, showing how generations had to cope with the reality of discrimination and prejudice.

However, I liked how Mandela provided a unique contrast to this.  The chapter's opening lines details how Mandela's name means "troublemaker."  I liked how Mandela used this fact to open a chapter on the pain of discrimination and institutional unfairness.  Whereas Mandela's father was ruined by it, Mandela's name can be seen as one that will bring "trouble" to it. What caused damage to his father is going to be undone by his son.  I thought that this contrast between the meaning of Mandela's name and the system he will eventually challenge was a powerful element in the first chapter.

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