Symbolism in "Country Lovers"

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A Forbidden Love: Thebedi and Paulus
Jennifer Boozer
ENG 125: Introduction to Literature
Instructor: Kristina Stutler
March 24, 2013
Country Lovers by Nadine Gordimer is a short story centered around the theme of forbidden love between the two main characters Paulus and Thebedi. They met when they were kids, as Thebedi used to work on Paulus' father's farm. They used to sneak out and meet at the river bed. After Paulus went off to veterinary school, Thebedi had his baby. When Paulus came back for the summer he heard of her baby being light skinned and killed it so that no one would ever know that it was his baby. The story's theme of forbidden love is strengthened by Gordimer's use of symbolism, imagery, and local color.

Symbolism is a key element contributing to the story's theme. One symbol that repeats itself in Country Lovers is the “gilt hoop ear-rings” that Paulus gives to Thebedi when they were young (as cited in Clugston, 2010). The earrings are a symbol for their love together. Even after Paulus killed their baby girl, Thebedi still wore them when she accused him of “pouring liquid into the baby's mouth” (as cited in Clugston, 2010). Even in her hysteric situation, she still wore those earring that Paulus gave to her. She wore them again when they went to trial. This leads me to believe that after all was said and done, she still loved Paulus, even though she knew they could never be together.

Another symbol that is relevant to the theme is their baby. Their baby was living proof that they were in love with each other. After seeing the baby with his own eyes, Paulus seemed to have panicked; anyone who looked at this child would know that it was not Njabulo's. Njabulo was Thebedi's husband who was the “opaque coffee-grounds colour that had always been called black […] the same colour of Thebedi's face” (as cited in Clugston, 2010). They would know that the father of this child was a white man. In their culture, it was socially...
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