Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 276
The protagonist of the play, Sizwe (also known as Robert Zwelinzima and The Man) is a young African man with a wife and four children. He has come to Port Elizabeth from his home in King William’s Town to look for work and a better life. Unfortunately, he is refused an official permit and is told to leave town in three days.
When he finds the body—and identification papers—of the dead man, Sizwe assumes the man’s identity in order to stay in Port Elizabeth. It is not an easy decision for him: he worries about the loss of his identity and what it means. When he goes into Styles’s studio to get his picture taken and announces his name is Robert Zwelinzima, it reflects his acceptance of his new identity.
Buntu is the friend who convinces Sizwe to assume the dead man’s identity. He is a good man and generous friend: he lets Sizwe sleep on his couch; takes him out drinking; and helps him find a way to stay in town. After Sizwe assumes the dead man’s identity, Buntu helps Sizwe find a decent job. The Man
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Styles is the owner of a photography studio in New Brighton, Port Elizabeth, South Africa. He is courageous enough to quit a steady job and start his own business, which was difficult for a black man at that time. He enjoys his work because it gives people a personal history and record of their lives. Styles takes pictures of all kinds of people from families to individuals.
See Sizwe Bansi, The Man
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