Student Question

What are the key plot elements of Valley Song?

Quick answer:

Athol Fugard's play Valley Song exhibits all the major elements of a play, including protagonists (Buks and Veronica) and their goals, a climax when Veronica must bring the wandering Buks back to the present, and a resolution in which the characters finally come to a peaceful agreement.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Let's talk about the various parts of Athol Fugard's play Valley Song. An exposition provides an introduction to the setting, characters, and themes of a literary work. At the very beginning of Valley Song, The Author offers a reflection on pumpkin seeds and the joys of living off the land as he introduces us to Karoo and the Valley and to Abraam "Buks" Jonkers. We meet Buks's granddaughter, Veronica, shortly after, and the play is off and running. This first small scene, acted on a bare stage with only The Author standing in the center, is the play's point of attack, the very first thing we see and hear. It may seem odd, but it sets a reflective tone that carries throughout the entire play.

Valley Song has two protagonists, Buks and Veronica. They both participate equally in the play's action, climax, and resolution. Veronica is restless. She is a dreamer and a singer who wants more than life in her small town. She wants to live in a big city, to sing on TV, and to experience all the excitement of such adventures. Buks, on the other hand, values his place on the land that he has always known. He wants Veronica to stay with him, for he still grieves for her mother, who left the Valley and died far away alone in a big city.

We first realize that something might be amiss in the lives of Buks and Veronica when Buks speaks of a white man looking at the house and the land, thinking, perhaps, of buying it. Buks worries about his position. Will he be allowed to stay in his home? Or will he be driven away? This worry provides one inciting incident that gets the play moving.

Shortly after, we listen as Veronica expresses her desire for "Adventure and Romance" (7). She is bored and not satisfied with her life. She longs for something more than singing in church and at school, and we begin to wonder where her desires will lead her (a little bit of foreshadowing that points to events to come).

The first complication and conflict sets in between grandfather and granddaughter when Veronica sings her new song for Buks, a song about a railway bus that expresses Veronica's longing for a different life. Buks doesn't want to hear it, for it brings back too many sad memories of Veronica's mother, but Veronica doesn't want to sing anything else, and the two sit in a "hurt, estranged silence" for the first time (10).

The action rises as Buks tells Veronica the story of her mother, who ran away and died alone in the city. All seems well again, but Veronica has not forgotten her dream. In fact, she sneaks out of the house nearly every night to watch the singers on a neighbor's TV (standing on an apple box and looking through the window). Veronica converses with The Author about dreams.

As the play continues, Buks and Veronica learn that the white man will probably buy the house and land, and Veronica is furious. She wants to take action, but there is really nothing to be done but try to appease the new owner. The grandfather and granddaughter speak again of Veronica's ideas about the future, and the conflict between them escalates until Veronica hates their land and all that it stands for.

Finally, one day, Veronica receives a letter from a friend in the city inviting her to come and live with her friend. Veronica lies, trying to hide her intentions from Buks, who is furious when he discovers the truth. He forbids her to go, and Veronia sinks into a sulky silence, refusing to sing at all, despite Buks's pleas.

The play reaches its climax one day when Buks, lost in memories of the past, sees Veronica but fails to recognize her. He thinks she is his daughter, come back to him at last. Veronica finally understands her grandfather's pain, and she sings once again as she brings him back to the present. Still, though, Veronica cannot stay in the Valley. She must follow her dreams, and finally Buks agrees. The play resolves in an agreement between grandfather and granddaughter, one more discussion about dreams between Veronica and The Author, and then Buks heading off to plant a new crop of pumpkins.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial