Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 278
The book You Can’t Get Lost in Cape Town is by Zoe Wicomb, and it focuses on being a person of color in South Africa during the apartheid. The story focuses on Frieda Shenton, who is a “colored” teen living in the country.
Her parents teach her to try to act like a white person in order to seek a better life.
One quote that helps to focus on the sense of identity that the book struggles with is this one:
In the veld, you can always find your way home.
In South Africa and countries that are near to it, the “veld” refers to grasslands. So, this quote serves both a literal and a metaphysical purpose. It’s easier to see further in grasslands since there are no trees or other obstructions in the way, but it’s also referring to the character’s roots, as well as the clear disparity between the colored and white populations.
This also connects to the title of the book, which indicates you can’t get lost in Cape Town because it’s always going to be obvious where you “belong” due to the segregation in Apartheid, the period in history where South Africans were separated into Coloured and white parts of society.
Another quote that demonstrates this is . . .
Mr. Weedon spoke not one word of Afrikaans. For people who were born in England the g’s and r’s of the language were impossible, barbaric.
Zoe’s mother describes this man as a “gentleman, a true Englishman.” This demonstrates the longing of some of the people of color in South Africa to live more like white people from England.
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