Town and Country Lovers Analysis
by Nadine Gordimer

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Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Most of Gordimer’s stories and novels evoke a sense of compassion for the characters, who are enmeshed in circumstances of their own creation. She manages to develop in her readers a genuine sympathy—even an empathy—for them; understanding, forgiveness, identification are her goals rather than condemnation, advocacy, and partisanship. Further, she manages to show the ineffable bond between individuals of different races, social status, and value systems that can be developed and sustained by respect for individuals as such: Almost all of her characters come from divergent backgrounds, yet they somehow manage to find fulfillment in each other. “Town and Country Lovers” shows the gradual growth and maturation of love between couples and suggests that when that love is fulfilled in sexual relations, it is honest and honorable—though it can be destroyed through the interposition of an artificial, arbitrary, and extrinsic morality. Ultimately, this becomes a question of whether persons should be allowed to decide their own course in life or be obliged to accept a dictated one.

At times, the author distances herself somewhat too much from her characters and their situations: This distance is achieved largely through what seems at times reportage, though because both parts of the story involve police and courtroom investigations, the journalistic quality of the written style may be defended as especially appropriate. In part 1, one can imagine that the Sunday newspaper reporter was responsible for the description of the girl when the police discover her in the closet:She had been naked, it was true, when they knocked. But now she was wearing a long-sleeved T-shirt with an appliqued butterfly motif on one breast, and a pair of jeans. Her feet were still bare; she had managed, by feel, in the dark, to get into some of the clothing she had snatched from the bed, but she had no shoes.

However, this factually detailed account is at times found in close juxtaposition with rather coy, Victorian language, as in the description of Leinsdorf making love to his sleeping mate: “He made his way into her body without speaking; she made him welcome without a word.” All too often, as here, there is what seems an emotional understatement in which greater feeling and perhaps even passion could be justified. Apparently silent, acquiescent sex is what the lover perceives will make her “like a wife.” However, she is notably less passionate than Thebedi, as well as older and more sophisticated. One of the author’s achievements is her ability to convey through her style the carefully developed and companionable relationship of part 1 and then the more natural, unrestrained sensuality of part 2.

Historical Context

(Short Stories for Students)

European Immigration to South Africa
In 1652, the Dutch East India Company built a fort in South Africa near the Cape of Good Hope. Here company ships acquired provisions on their way to Asia. Cape Town grew from this original settlement, expanding with the growing needs of the company. Company employees were given land on which to grow crops and raise livestock for the company’s needs. Toward the end of the century, the company began recruiting produce and livestock farmers from Holland, Germany, and France (who collectively became known as Afrikaners). Soon, the natives had lost much of their land, and many migrated north.

In 1814, Great Britain purchased the colony from the Dutch and sent thousands of British colonists to expand its land holdings. English law was imposed, angering many of the Afrikaners. By the 1840s, close to fifteen thousand Afrikaners had left the colony, either returning to Europe or settling elsewhere in South Africa.

Apartheid
Apartheid, which means separateness, was the official policy of segregation in South Africa from 1948 to 1990. Before apartheid, racial segregation was part of South Africa’s cultural reality, making it fairly easy for the National Party to implement apartheid after winning the 1948 elections....

(The entire section is 2,025 words.)