You Can't Get Lost in Cape Town Analysis

Zoë Wicomb

Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The first-person narrative point of view of “You Can’t Get Lost in Cape Town” creates a powerful effect on the reader. The narration is highly sensual, beginning with the touch of the cardboard lining in the narrator’s cheap handbag and continuing with the sight of the women on the bus, the flutter of the fetus in the womb, the pain of the abortion, and the morning after when she smoothes back the wet black hair of the fetus before depositing the newspaper-wrapped bundle in the garbage. All of this makes the internal viewpoint highly visual and visceral rather than intellectual. The dialogue between the two women on the bus, which dominates the central section of the story, is related as heard, without editorial comment from the narrator, although she does, in the style of stream of consciousness, at times relate the external events with her own internal symbolism and the reader sees more clearly what is driving her.

Cape Town itself plays a minor role in the story, as details of it are relayed while the narrator moves through it to her date with the abortionist. The imagery of the surroundings, the mountains and the ocean, as well as the remembrances of the veld of the narrator’s childhood, play off the images of the city, the buildings, shops, roads, and trains: the fertile veld and the city of dustbins, where God has left but the trains run on time.

Interestingly, the tone is on the whole detached. It becomes clear that throughout...

(The entire section is 406 words.)