Student Question

Analyze the plot of "Valley Song".

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Athol Fugard’s play, set in post-apartheid South Africa, has two central, intertwined plot lines. One is concerned with the younger generation growing up after the apartheid system was dismantled. This plot concerns a black teenage girl who decides to move to the city. The other centers on an older white man who leaves the city to return to the countryside of his youth. They are not only connected through another elderly man, a “coloured” farmer who is the girl’s grandfather, but also due to related passions for the arts: the girl is a singer, while the white man is a playwright. The rural setting is the Sneeuberg Valley of the Karoo region.

Farming plays an important role, both literally through the playwright’s new vocation and figuratively as seeds stand for the beginnings of new life. Its social significance is strong as well, for the grandfather, Abraam Jonkers, is a long-term tenant farmer—a status that stands for the systemic oppression of the black and colored majority under apartheid. Seventeen-year-old Veronica dreams of a career as a singer, far from what she sees as an isolated outpost. She even invents songs about the bus that will take her away.

If the white man—called the Author—buys the land on which Jonkers has been a tenant, he will let him stay and continue to farm. This arrangement seems be viable only if Veronica stays on to help and to work as a house servant for the white man. Even though she knows it will hurt her grandfather, Veronica decides to leave anyway. In the end, he gives her his blessing and she assures him that his upbringing will help keep her strong and focused. The Author, who also understands the creative pull that draws her, will also be a greater support to Jonkers and his farm.

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