Themes

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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 170

As the title indicates, the novel is set on a farm in Africa. The period is the late 19th-century. Unusual for the era, the author was a woman (although she originally published under a male pseudonym), and the main protagonist is female.

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Gender issues form the primary theme of this coming-of-age story. Lyndall, the modern woman, longs to escape the confining farm life and seek education as well as a fulfilling personal life. Her longings extend to sexual freedom, and she ends up having an affair and out-of-wedlock pregnancy, for which she pays with her life. Another, more conventional female character, her cousin Em, provides the contrast by showing the reader what women’s lives more typically were in the day.

The general contrast between traditional and modern is a broader theme into which the gender questions largely are inserted. The difficulties European settlers face in making a living in the rural African setting is part of this dichotomy, although Schreiner seems uninterested in challenging the appropriateness of the arrangement.

Themes

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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 144

The Story of an African Farm is a novel by South African writer Olive Schreiner. The novel chronicles the lives of three people: Lyndall, her best friend Waldo, and her cousin Em. The novel has a coming-of-age theme in the first part of the novel.

The theme of spirituality and the search for a spiritual path or awakening is evident in Waldo's character. He is interested in the deeper meanings of life and the universe, and from his philosophical evolution, especially during his teenage years, we see a theme of existentialism.

Lyndall represents and vocalizes the philosophy of the author, Oliver Schriener, herself. Lyndall was a freethinking and fiercely independent young girl at the beginning of the novel, and she later became a feminist as a young adult. The theme of feminism is present in parts of the novel that involve Lyndall and Em.

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