A Review of The Test by Njabulo Ndebele

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Joseph M. Flora comments that short stories “take slight situation and read in it the profundities of life”. Choose any one story which you have studied in this section of your course, and discuss the ways in which t does or does not illustrate Flora’s claim.

“The Test” written by Njabulo Ndebele is a short story concerning itself with issue of class inequality existent in the black community. Found in the collection Fools and Other Stories, it uses the township setting and conflict in identity, prevalent specifically in the character of Thoba, to address and somewhat challenge the evident stratification in the black community as well as its cause; while simultaneously demonstrating the role of religion as a tool of self identification and improvement.

Ndebele relates the circumstances of a whole community through the experience of a group of children and simultaneously uses them as reflections of it. The manner in which he assigns certain values or characteristics to certain characters in different places, within the neighbourhood, serves to further highlight the class distinctions. Within the township exists the domestic environment, the street and the veranda— all of which are in conflict with each other—however, with the domestic environment and the street being in direct opposition; and the veranda acting as a transitory space. Thoba and Mpiyakhe are the embodiment of the middle class domestic sphere, whereas Nana is that of the lower class. Thoba is most comfortable at home. It is a place of compliance, security and duty. The street on the other hand requires active participation. Thus when he is playing in the street he experiences feelings of anxiety and “uncertainty” (Ndebele 454). The street and the risks that accompany it cause conflict within him which he is only ever able to resolve at the veranda. In this way the veranda can be viewed t as a place of opportunity and self development. However, this only applies to Thoba and Mpiyakhe (who is...
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