RESISTANCE AND COUNTER-RESISTANCE IN "MY SON'S STORY" BY NADINE GORDIMER. ________________________________________
My Son's Story is a novel set in apartheid South Africa at a point time when black Africans and coloreds just begin to resist the cruel and unjust system. The writer constantly addresses the central theme of resistance and mentions the many forms in which resistance to apartheid took place. The efforts of the authorities to contain the resistance are also well detailed in the novel. Throughout most of the novel, Nadine Gordimer weaves the plot around one man who gets involved in the freedom struggle and how his life and his family changes through his involvement in the struggle. Early in the novel, indifference and complicity are some of the strategies that the non-whites use to react to the apartheid system. To the fact that non-whites were barred from certain areas, these members of society resigned themselves to the situation through comments such as "What did it matter that the seaside hotels, the beaches, pleasure grounds with swimming pools were not for us? We couldn't afford hotels, anyway..."(page 21)
However, the seed of resistance begins to germinate among some of the non-whites such as Sonny, who did not go as far as to believe Kafka "that the power with which people are held exists only in their submission."(page 17) The complicity existing among colored people vaporizes as it becomes obvious that their security, safety and well being is not assured under apartheid rule, and their fate not much better off than that of the real blacks. So though at a much earlier time "the blacks were clustering around enormous ideas. Equality..."(page 23) already, it was not long before many colored people became aware of their responsibility in the same struggle. From a passive Sonny "who had cousins in the Cape who belonged to a resistance" and who "followed political trials in the newspaper"(page 24) became a Sonny more sensitized to the plight of his own kind. Children demonstrating out in the streets were shot dead by the police. The mass media, particularly newspapers, began making the public aware of the need for a resistance to the system. In the schools and out on other buildings, graffiti became a form of anti-apartheid expressions and resistance literature. In the black schools and colored schools, children began to stay out of class re-enacting the scenes where their schoolmates had been killed. They carried posters and slogans bearing messages such as "We don't want this rubbish education apartheid slavery police get out of our schools"(page 25-26). The colored children copied their black counterparts and recognized them as siblings. To such a degree that their actions such as "wearing bottle-top jewelry, passing a zoll round in the lavatory"(page 26) could not be construed a mere schoolyard craze. The school children were clearly unstoppable in their drive and resistance and "quickly picked up a king of pidgin terminology that was the period's replacement for schoolboy slang"(page 26-27). As the demands and actions of these young 'revolutionaries' became more strident, Sonny attempted to channel it towards peaceful means. However, though he may have succeeded in keeping stones out of their hands, not the same can be said about keeping petrol and matches out of their hands. A boycott of classes and demonstration of solidarity resulted in petrol bombs being used to set property, especially vehicles on fire. Frustration led to ugly incidents of destruction, and the police reacted with arrests of suspects (page 44). The youth exhibited their rebellion by putting on "Freedom T-shirts, secretly pot every day."(page 31) Anyone sympathetic or associated with the resistance quickly developed a police record with their identification that could be used for their future incarceration. Like a wild fire through the dry grasslands, so did news about people involved in resistance activities...
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