THE CLASH OF BOTH WORLDS
It is plausible that a writer desires to convey not only a single aspect in his or her writings. Nadine Gordimer, in her novel The Pickup, has featured bits of themes on politics, love, race, social class and identity. This paper would focus on how the cultural and racial differences between the East and the West in an inter-racial relationship can be further heightened by social class and identity crisis according to the plot of the story. Julie Summers is the daughter of rich white immigrants in South Africa. However, she is in rebellion against her wealthy background and divorced parents, so she lives independently from them. She finds her solace and seeming family in her group of multi-racial friends in the so called "The Table" at the L.A./EL AY Cafe. The story begins when her car breaks down and she starts a love affair with Abdu, the mechanic at a garage. She discovers that Abdu, whose real name is Ibrahim, is an illegal immigrant from an indefinite Arab country. When Abdu/Ibrahim is notified and is given days to prepare for leaving South Africa, Julie, though against her will, tries to use her family connections to keep him from being deported but finds her attempts futile. In an impulsive resolution and against his initial disapproval, she decides to accompany him to his home. The second part of the novel is set in a small, unidentified Arabian town. Ibrahim immediately begins to reapply for immigration into any of the western states - Australia, Canada, New Zealand, America - while Julie, learns to adapt in her new home. She becomes integrated into Ibrahim's family yet at the same time she increasingly alienates herself from Ibrahim. When he finally gains a permit to immigrate into the United States, Julie, backs out and refuses to go with him.
Nadine Gordimer carefully used “structural parallels” (Franz Meier, 2012, webdoc.gwdg.de): two countries, two race, two people representing the East and West on the global level then two different social class and identity crisis on an individual level.
The two protagonists in the story represent the East and the West: Abdu an illegal immigrant from an unspecified Arab Country and Julie, a daughter of rich white immigrants in South Africa. What Franz Meier noticed was its irony since the West is represented by the country South Africa which traditionally appears to be more of the Orient. Yet as he further discussed in his novel analysis: “South Africa at the beginning of the 21st century indeed seems to be an apt example of what generally are considered to be the unifying features of the West. Its process of political renewal, its liberalism and its economic progress make the 'New South African' society appear decidedly western.” (Franz Meier, 2012, webdoc.gwdg.de) In this way, we can see that Nadine Gordimer presented the effect of a post-colonial community: the South Africa as slowly moving away from its all out Oriental dominance.
According to Franz Meier (2012, webdoc.gwdg.de), “[t]he distinction between East and West, Orient and Occident, is a binary opposition that has fundamentally shaped our cultural discourses particularly since the 18th century.” Even a great number of Nadine Gordimer’s novels dealt with racial, cultural, and identity issues. It was said that the “stereotypical concept” of West “[is] characterized by rationality, progress, civilization, tolerance, honesty and self-control, and the stereotypical concept of the East is negatively defined by irrationality, decadence, archaism, intolerance, violence, corruption and sensual excess. In terms of race, class and gender the West is depicted as white, dominant and masculine, the East as black, subaltern and feminine.” (Franz Meier, 2012, webdoc.gwdg.de)
The initial appearance of the South African city immediately indicated its Western representation through the L.A. Cafe. The fact that it is called EL-AY Cafe retains its South African touch. But it also carried the...
References: Meier F. Picking up the Other: Nadine Gordimer 's The Pickup 1. Retrieved at http://webdoc.gwdg.de/edoc/ia/eese/artic23/franz/2_2003.html on February 13, 2012
Ball M. The mute desert: A Review of Nadine Gordimer 's The Pickup. Retrieved at http://www.compulsivereader.com/html/index.php?name=News&file=article&sid=123 on March 26, 2012
Gordimer, N. (2001). The Pickup. Penguin Group United States of America.
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