Last Updated on August 29, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 249
“A Walk in the Night,” by Alex La Guma, explores the themes of racism and hatred, oppression, segregation, labor exploitation, and white supremacy. All of these conditions characterized life under the apartheid system, and La Guma shows their devastating effect on the people and community of District Six, an impoverished Colored area of Capetown, South Africa. La Guma shows apartheid to be self-destructive and self-debasing, as it deteriorates the quality of life for the white minority as well as for the black majority in the town. The white police force in District Six rules the community, and La Guma paints a grim picture of life in a police state.
La Guma was an anti-apartheid activist, and he wrote “A Walk in the Night” when he was under house arrest. His fierce opposition to apartheid drives the story’s plot. When Michael Adonis murders the Irishman and is fired from his job, La Guma highlights Marxist ideas about the exploitation of workers. He also links the practice of worker exploitation with the pervasiveness of hate. Equally important as the themes of exploitation and hate, however, is the theme of African pride. Throughout the story, La Guma conveys his praise for the working-class black community and his respect for the African people. The theme of rootlessness runs through the story as well, as in the face of oppression, Michael Adonis feels ripped from his roots. This disconnection from his African roots, in large part, motivates him to commit crimes and murder.
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