Characters

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Last Updated on June 27, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 309

Nadine Gordimer was a white South African author and activist opposed to apartheid, causing some of her works to be banned. Her novel My Son's Story is her ninth full-length work of fiction, published as apartheid was coming to an end. The novel has five main characters.

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Sonny

Sonny is a teacher, of mixed race or "Coloured" status, as the apartheid state classified those of both black and white ancestry. He is anti-apartheid and arrested and jailed for it. Feeling very isolated and lonely in his two years in a political prison, he has an affair with one of the few people he can talk to, a white woman who is a member of an international human rights group.

Aila

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Latest answer posted August 5, 2019, 4:49 pm (UTC)

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Aila is Sonny's wife, calm and without any temper. The police find a cache of weapons put in her house without her knowledge. She is forced to flee into exile in Lusaka, Zambia. There she divorces Sonny and marries a guerrilla fighter. She has become a revolutionary. The novel is split on whether this is by Aila's own choice, with her determined to not let Sonny dictate the course of her life, or because circumstances drove her to it.

Baby

Baby is Sonny and Aila's teenage daughter. She is angered enough by Sonny's affair to attempt suicide, and she later joins her mother in exile in Zambia.

Will

Will is Sonny and Aila's teenage son. Sonny's affair leaves him alienated from his father and torn between his parents. He is named after William Shakespeare, narrates the story, and becomes a writer at the story's end.

Hannah Plowman

Hannah Plowman is the human rights activist whom Sonny has an affair with. She is a white South African. Though she grows to love him, eventually she will leave Sonny and South Africa to work for the United Nations on refugee issues.

Characters Discussed

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 317

Sonny

Sonny, a colored man who admires William Shakespeare. He is a schoolteacher turned social activist. Fighting to end apartheid in South Africa, he is arrested, tried, and jailed for two years. While in jail, he is visited by Hannah, a representative from a human rights organization. Although he has a nearly flawless family with a wife and two children, he begins a prolonged and passionate affair with Hannah. The affair has a profound impact on his family and eventually on his credibility in the freedom movement.

Aila

Aila, Sonny’s wife, a beautiful and dignified woman. Reticent, reserved, gentle-tempered, and apparently uncontentious, she becomes a revolutionary without her husband’s and her son’s knowledge, perhaps partly because of Sonny’s affair. Implicated and arrested when a cache of weapons is found in her house, she jumps bail and goes into exile to join her daughter in Lusaka.

Baby

Baby, Sonny’s favorite child, apparently carefree and flamboyant. She attempts suicide for no significant reason other than her knowledge of Sonny’s affair. She later marries a freedom fighter and goes into exile in Lusaka. She maintains close ties with her mother, thus contributing to her becoming a revolutionary.

Will

Will, named after Shakespeare, is the sarcastic narrator of the story. An intelligent young man, he is disillusioned by the discovery that his father is having an affair with a white woman. He is manipulated by Sonny into keeping the secret, though he resents doing so. Having witnessed the transformation of his family under apartheid, he becomes a writer in the end.

Hannah Plowman

Hannah Plowman, a divorced woman, is a white South African working for an international human rights group. Admiring Sonny, she falls in love with him and becomes his mistress and comrade. When offered a senior position by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, she decides to leave South Africa and Sonny.

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