The method of the story is typical of many of Gordimer’s short stories; it is lean and spare, like the stories of her early modernist precursors, Anton Chekhov and Katherine Mansfield. The story communicates by implication rather than by direct statement. It begins with the embrace that gives it its title and then develops that minor but symbolically dramatic encounter into a metaphor that obsesses the lawyer’s wife, but that she herself does not really understand. Throughout the story, the image of her face between the white face and the black face of the two soldiers continually recurs to her, standing for the inescapable dilemma of the white person in Africa.
The point of view of the story is that of an unidentified omniscient narrator, but it sticks closely to the perspective of the lawyer’s wife. One curious element of the story is that although the lawyer seems the central liberal white caught in the revolution of black freedom fighting, it is actually his wife who serves as the reflector of the growing discomfort that the couple feel in their home.
The structure of “A Soldier’s Embrace” moves back and forth between the personal experiences of the wife, beginning with the embrace and ending with her attitude toward her servant, and the more general problems of the lawyer trying to hold on to his place. These shifts are treated in an abrupt, elliptical fashion by Gordimer; the two faces of the story itself—one personal and...
(The entire section is 582 words.)