My Son’s Story

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

When the respected black schoolteacher nicknamed Sonny leads his students into a demonstration, he commits himself to a course of action which has far-reaching consequences. His family soon realizes that his primary loyalty is no longer to them, but to the movement. They can accept this change, but when Sonny’s need for a friend and comrade who is part of the movement leads him to take a white mistress, the family begins to fall apart. His indifference, his deceit, and his hypocrisy cost him the respect of his wife and children and cause them to take very different paths in life. Ironically, Sonny’s love affair, which at first provides him with much-needed advice and emotional support, eventually costs him the trust of his party leaders, who realize that he has deceived them as well as his own family.

In MY SON’S STORY as in her other novels, Nadine Gordimer realistically reveals the results of choices which must be made in a repressive society. Although in many of her novels, such as the prizewinning A GUEST OF HONOR (1970), the protagonist is white, the pervading sense of tragedy is the same throughout her works. Centuries of oppression, distrust, and hatred, Gordimer believes, have left a heritage which affects every person in the society; and whatever progress is made, decent men like Sonny, who cannot refuse involvement in the movement, yet find themselves losing much and accomplishing little. The growing international esteem for Nadine...

(The entire section is 557 words.)