The Moment Before the Gun Went Off: Class Discussion

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Class discussion: The Moment Before the Gun Went Off

1. How would you interpret the meaning of this story?
a. In the story, Gordimer connects the two races as victims of the injustices of apartheid. The protagonist, Marais Van der Vyver’s shows interest in the “black boy,” Lucas a victim of freak accident, negligence, and ultimately apartheid. In the story Gordimer’s shows how apartheid has become more than legislation; it has become a mentality that segregates and prejudges. More than just more than just the rear window of that truck separated Lucas and Van der Vyver. And in the end, just as Van de Vyver failed to acknowledge his son, the white community has refused to acknowledge the culture of discrimination and oppression.

2. What is the setting of the story? How does it help the reader better understand the actions that play out in the story? a. The Moment Before The Gun Went Off is set in South Africa around the early 20th century. The date and location of this short story is very crucial to the story as a whole. The time period in which this short story is set in is important because it helps the reader understand the views each characters in the story have toward each other, and cultural norms which the characters take part in. With the knowledge of the story being in the early 20th century, the readers are able to come to understand that back then many farmers had black slaves help them on the farm. In the short story, a white farmer by the name of Marias Van der Vyver accidently shot one of his hunting friends/farm workers, who happened to be black. This cultural aspect of their life is key to understanding why the world made a big fuss about the accident.

3. What is the significance in the title? What is important about the moment before the gun went off rather than after? a. In the moments before the gun was fired, there was a connection between Van der Vyer and Lucas. It showed that they were both people, not a black and a white. Life was simple; It was just a father and son going to look for game together. After the shot, life turned into a tempest of lies, politics and accusations. The moment before is the way that life should be lived, not the way it was after.

4. In the introduction for Gordimer, it says that she writes to have her stories always be contemporary and symbolic of social and historic patterns. Do you think that this is true of this story and why? a. I do. There was a point made on page 2792 that went “But how can those others know that? They don’t want to know it.” I find this to be an exceptional jab at the western world’s view of Africa, even to this day. How often do we actually pay attention or think about problems there? It’s only when we are directly confronted with their issues. IE. War or commercials about starving children. There’s also the fact that news can easily be manipulated on its way to the rest of the world. We don’t know what’s true or false.

5. Newspapers and politics, especially international, are often mentioned within the story. What do you think Gordimer’s reason for putting them into the story is? a. She does this to show how information fails to get around correctly. Stories, like this one, will be interpreted however people can twist them to fit their own agendas. On page 2790, Gordimer writes that it will just become a statistic for anti-apartheid. An interesting thing to note is the line that reads “The papers at home will quote the story as it appears in the overseas press.” This shows information manipulation that will affect those who could be close by and think they know the truth. Overseas press seems to have priority for truth.

6. How did the press play a role in “a moment before the gun went off”? What was the real VdV and Lucas relationship on the property? a. South Africa at this time of era was waiting for something to give on the apartheid. This gunshot and death of a young Lucas sent the state into havoc. The press helped...
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