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Africa Emergent by Nadine Gordimer

A better understanding of literary theory can be gained by investigating the etymology of the word theory itself. Literary theory, then, offers to us a view of life, an understanding of why we interpret texts the way we do. A well-articulated literary theory also assumes that an innocent reading of a text or a sheerly emotional or spontaneous reaction to a work does not exist because literary theory questions the assumptions, beliefs, and feelings of readers, asking why they respond to a text in a certain way. (Charles E. Bressler, 2011) . There are two theories in this story which were Marxist Criticism and Historical Criticism. Marxist Criticism is about expressed the interests of the dominant social, economic, and political group of era. They usually made economic inequality seem just and right, and they made the rule of those in dominance seem natural and legitimate. The purpose of the ideas, then, was to ensure that the dominant group or class remained in power. I think this theory was appropriate because in the story shows that system apartheid had been practiced. This system allowed the whites grew rich by exploiting the blacks. The white made system apartheid illegal so that they can control economic and social system in that country.
Example of Marxist Criticism in Africa Emergent is Racial Oppression. In that story we can see how Nadine Gordimer shows same talents that a white and a black person had but both of them had difference status in the society. The white man is an architect with more formal education. His position holds more prestige and economic value in the society. While Elias a black man, represents non formal education and has low status in the society. Though both architect and sculptor can be thought as an artistic work but still the architect holds more power just because he was a white. If we think logically, the black person should hold more power because the sculptor’s creativity is more innate and he does not go through formal education which means he was a talented person. This examples shows that even though how good the black person is but he still cannot has high status in the society because the government rules. The textual evidence that show they cannot has high status and always imprisoned in the society is “It is enough to be black, blacks are meant to stay put, in their own ethnically apportioned streets in their own segregated areas, in those part of South Africa where the government says they belong.”
Another example of Marxist Criticism in the short story of Africa Emergent is Apartheid Society. Apartheid was a system of racial segregation between black and white enforced by the National Party governments of South Africa between 1948 and 1994. The White People invent Apartheid so that they can still control the economic and social system in the society. In Africa Emergent, Apartheid system is being practiced during that time. For example, the White people and the black people are segregated into different areas. The evidence from the text is “I'm talking about black and white of course. If you stay with it, boy, on the white side in the country clubs and garden suburbs if you’re a white, and on the black side in the location and beer halls if you’re black,” From the evidence the words “country clubs” and “garden suburbs” symbolize luxury life. It shows that only White people are allowed to stay in luxury life while the Black people live in the poor place such as slum and beer halls.
Apart from that, during the apartheid time, it is socially wrong for a white man to be friend with another black man what more to be friend with a black who is a prisoner. In the short story, the narrator did not mention his friend name which was black and in prisoned because it is too dangerous. The narrator can be in the jail. The textual evidence is “He’s in prison now, so I’m not going to mention his name. It mightn’t be a good thing, you understand.” It is difficult for the narrator to maintain friendship with the nameless black man because all the power is with the whites so they cannot be friends on equal terms. Last but not least, the example during the apartheid time is the black don’t have proper education. This example can be seen through Elias Knomo who does not have a formal education. The textual evidence is “Since I’ve been at your place, I’ve been reading a lot of your books. And man, I know nothing. I’m as ignorant as that kid of yours there in a pram.- Elias Knomo”

Another literary theory in this short story is Historical Criticism. The goal of History Criticism is to understand why the author wrote by pointing out how biographical circumstances contributed to the creation of parts of the text. I think this theory is appropriate because there are a lot of relationship between the story and Nadine Gordimer background but mostly is about Apartheid system which she disagree with it. There is relationship between the characters and the author. Nadine disguised herself as the unnamed narrator in this story. In her life and in the short story their situation is actually the same. The situation is she mixed with the blacks even though it is socially wrong. The textual evidence that show she mixed with the blacks is “I’m an architect and the way I was usefully drawn into the black scene was literary that; I designed sets for a mixed color drama group got together by a white director.” Moreover, the minor characters were the character that was once interacting with the writer personally. Nadine has a black friend and he was in prison so in this short story Nadine did not give a name for the black man that was in prison.
There was relationship between the story and the author. Africa Emergent was written as to depict the current issue during that time. This story also shows the laws enforce during that time. For example exit permit. Elias Knomo did not get a passport so he takes an exit permit which was a one way ticket. Last but not least, the relationship between the raised issues (apartheid) and the author. Though she is white, she is very concern about the apartheid issue. She even dedicated her whole life to against apartheid. In conclusion, Nadine explores the theme of defying oppression through the use of characterization, setting, and tone in the short story.

Bressler, Charles E. (2011). Literary Criticism: What is literary Theory. United States: Pearson Education Inc.
Ryan, M. (2007). Literary Theory: Political Criticism. Carlton: Blackwell Publishing.

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