Comparisonand Contrast between Two Literatures
“Comparisonand Contrast between Two Literatures
Issuesof ethnicity and race can be observed from two literature works ofPatricia Smith and Nadine Gordimer. Patricia smith wrote “What’sit like to be a Black Girl”and Nadine wrote “CountryLovers” (Clugston,2010).These two literature work relate because they share the theme of raceand ethnicity experienced by many people. The contrast andcomparison observed in the poem of Patricia and the short story ofNadine in terms of race and ethnicity are discussed below.
Inmost societies in the world, small racial discrimination elements arestill experienced. Some are too harsh while others have some aspectsthat can be condoned. Racism in some societies is even a norm.Minority communities experience ethnicity and racism in a recurrentmanner. The “country lovers” by Nadine was written during thecolonial period when racism was very pronounced. Nadine was born in1923 three while Patricia was born in 1905. Nadine lived in SouthAfrica while Patricia was an African American performance artist andPoet (Clugston, 2010). Despite of their works being written ondifferent periodic time, they shared a commonality of ethnicity andracism. The setting of the Nadine’s short story was in South Africaduring the Apartheid regime, while the setting of Patricia’s poemwas in America when being black was not a welcome to the natives.
PatriciaSmith uses sentence structure that is jagged and her language isforceful, strong, and shows the topic with seriousness to catch theattention of the reader. The view presented by her poem shows thelife of a young girl who is black, transiting into a black womanduring the time ethnicity and racism was on the rise. According toCornell & Hartmann (2007), being a black woman or a black girlwas not welcomed by majority of people at that era.She says how growing into an adult being a black was seen as wrong.She describes how edges of this girl appeared wild (Clugston, 2010),this is what she writes to show the age of adolescent that takesplace between the age of nine and about fourteen. She also writes howa nine years old girl feels like she is not complete. During puberty,many young people are full of such thoughts. Her poem also presents asociety that is full of racial discrimination. She explains how thisblack girl is uncomfortable with the changes in her body and the hopeof a different and a better tomorrow where the society will be racefree (Kurzban, 2003).
Thepoem goes on narrating how this black girl feels she is not acceptedin the society. She develops the need to have food coloring droppedinto her eyes to make them blue and bleached white hair. These twostatements symbolize her urge to fit in a form of society that ismore acceptable. According to Cromwell (2011), for example, innineteen fifty’s, women and men with blonde hair, white, skinned,and blue eyes were more acceptable than a black woman and man. Shefurther states how the transition from a girl to a woman is hard,without the considerations of acceptable features like taste inmusic, skin color, and color of hair. For smith, life was like fistsand flames and coincided with Motown, this meant the sounds and sitesof fighting and racial aspects that goes along with Motown musicrhythmic blues. This shows the pressures a black girl encounteredwhen growing.
PatriciaSmith demonstrates how a young black girl creates a balance betweenthe babies like mentality she has, with her changing body. She statesthis as jumping double Dutch until the legs pop. During that time,passage into woman hood was symbolized by a white gown worn duringthe wedding day of the young black woman (Russet, 2009). AfterTransition to a woman, a black girl was married off to a man(Clugston, 2010). After her wedding, she is joined by a man in whomshe is supposed to submit to. During that era, a black woman had theresponsibility to submit to their husbands. The poem gives the readeran inside look of how a black girl transforms to a woman in a societywhere race and ethnicity is dominant. The changes that occur in thegirl’s body are explained in psychological and biological manner,making it easier to understand and follow. The story reflects theexperiences of a black girl transforming into a woman, during theracial and ethnicity era in the mid nineteen sixties. The perceptionsand thoughts experienced by an African girl at that time ofprogression and change are also explained by her poem.
Inher short story, “country lovers,” Nadine Gordimer writes about ablack girl who is in relationship with a white boy. The two live inthe same area but their experiences differ a lot. The story settingis in South Africa during apartheid regime (McChan, 2010). Thebedi isthe name of the black girl and she used to work in the farm thatbelonged to the white father’s boy. The black girl lived under hardcircumstances because she was black. During that time, small childrenfrom the farm interacted through playing together. When they were bigenough to join school, the white children went to good schoolsleaving the black to some sort of ‘schooling’ (Hartmann et al.,2007). The experiences the white children get in their schools ismuch different from what the black children. The grades of the blackchildren were way behind of those of the whites and many blackchildren dropped from school to work in the White’s man farm. Mostof the time, the whites went to boarding schools getting experiencesas those of the cinemas and black’s experiences were those of koppies, dams, veld, and mealie lands. All these statements presentracial discrimination against the black during that time.
Cromwell(2007) suggests that black people were subjected to slavery while thewhite enjoyed everything that the black worked for. In addition, thewhite were the bosses and blacks the servants. These traits were tobe followed by their children. Paulus went to a good school so thathe could gain appropriate skills to manage his Father’s farm in thefuture. In contrast, Thebedi joined school for a short period oftime, only to drop out and help in the farm as her parents.
NadineGordimer further states the ages of adolescence when the blackchildren get along with the changes in their bodies. This compares tothe ages described by Smith and the body changes. At this age, shesays that the children transit adults and they start calling eachother baasieand missus(Clugston,2010).Paulus Eysendyck seemed to like Thebedi not realizing she was a farmgirl and was not of his class or his status. Her family was poorcompared to Paulus, who owned big farms. The two used to playtogether when they were small, thus their friendship was formed for along period of time. This changed as Paulus joined school and theirinteraction was reduced. Their meetings were only when he was on aholiday.
Duringthe first Christmas holiday, Paulus brought a painted box for Thebedias a gift. Since he had no gifts for other children, he had to giveher in secret. Before he went back to boarding school Thebedi madehim a Bracelet made of white and grey beans, and a brass wire. Here,Nadine is trying to show how white kids differed from the black dueto the different type of schooling they received. The black kidscould only make things from the farms, since there was no exposure toadvanced schools (Clugston, 2010).
Atage fifteen, Paulus had learnt to flirt and tease with the girls whowere from the other school. The girls were of the same status as himsince they belonged to prosperous farmers as his white father. He hadmade love with a girl he met at a wedding but still brought gifts forthe black Thebedi. They made it a secret and lied about the giftssince their relationship could not be accepted due to theirdifference in color. As time went by, they met at the river. Thisriver is the same river they used to play when they were small.Paulus told her about the experiences he encountered when in schooland all these made her smile all through. During summer, they met atthe river and it was very hot. After swimming in the river, they madelove and this continued that summer (Clugston, 2010).
Atage eighteen, Paulus acquired a driving license and he was left tomanage the farm when the parents were away. At age eighteen, Paula onthe other hand got married. Race and ethnicity is portrayed well bythese statements. The white kid had the privilege to access thingslike driving license at 18, while the black girl was married off bythe parents (Cornel et al., 2007). Thebedi was later married off toNjabulo. She made a mistake of not telling Paulo the truth about hermarriage to another man. Thebedi gets a daughter who is not dark.After coming back from veterinary school, Paulo finds out thatThebedi had had delivered a baby. He is furious about this and swearsto kill himself.
Aftertwo weeks, Paulus put poison in the baby’s milk while his parentswere away. The baby died and the matter was reported to the police.There was no proof that Paula was the one who had killed the baby. Sohe was proved not guilty after one year. The justice system wasdiscriminative even after Thebedi said she had a relationship withPaulus.
Boththe poem “What It’s like to be a Black Girl” and the shortstory “Country Lovers” Portrays ethnicity and racial backgroundexperienced in the nineteen sixties in South Africa. The maincharacter in both of them is a woman who struggles to live in adiscriminative society because of their difference in skin color.Patricia in her poem describes a black girl transiting into womanhoodin a racial form of society and the problems she experiences becauseshe is different. Gordimer short story also presents a black childgrowing into adolescence experiencing cases of discrimination becauseof the relationship she had with a white boy. Their relationship wasa secret because their love was forbidden due their difference inrace.
Ethnicityand racism is experienced all over the world and not many want todiscuss it. There have been laws enacted to prevent and prohibitracial discrimination. People hold the responsibility of ensuringthese laws are successful by not practicing it (Cromwell, 2011).Thebedi and Paulus could not meet publicly to avoid discriminationfrom others. Racism is reflected in “country lovers” when Pauluskills the baby when he realizes it was his. He did that because itwas not acceptable to create a child with a person of different race.Thebedi also did not notify him that she was getting married and thatshe was pregnant, because she believed what they had in common wasjust childhood relationship. There were no intentions for marriagesince they were both from different racial and ethnic background(McChan, 2010).
Whenthe baby was killed by Paulus, Thebedi kept on telling her husbandNjabulo that it was sleeping though no feeding took place at night(Clugston, 2010). This dramatic part of the story shows that Thebediwas afraid of letting out the secret about her relationship withPaulus. The fear might be because of the discrimination she couldhave received if she told the story of what happened between her andPaulus.
Boththe Nadine short story and smith poem shows how a black girl isdiscriminated against both in her native and foreign land. “Whatit’s like to be a Black Girl” narrates about a black girl intransition to womanhood in a society where the whites are dominant.She feels the need to change her appearance to match those of thewhite. For example the blue eyes, bleached hair, and skinny body.“Country lovers” by Nadine talks about a black girl experiencingethnicity and racial discrimination in her native land (Clugston,2010). This is reflected when Thebedi makes a bracelet for Paulus andboys back in school admired it. They asked for the similar one fromPaulus but he promised them that he would ask the natives to make forthem.
Accordingto Russet (2009), the life of the black girl is made difficult byracial differences this aspect is presented in both the short storyand the poem. In both, we see how she tries to fit in suchdiscriminative societies. In” What It’s like to be a Black Girl”Patricia states that being a nine year old black girl has thelimitations of feeling incomplete, edges seem to be wild, and afeeling of being in the wrong place. (Clugston, 2010) this representsa black woman and girl who find difficult working in a predominantwhite corporate world, since she feels like an inexperienced child.She further narrates that the feeling she gets is that of beingincompetent and slow, even though she is well educated and workshard. In addition, she says that no matter how good a black woman is,wrong aspects follows her all the time, especially in an ethnicityand racial discriminatory form of society (McChan, 2010). NadineGordimer in “Country Lovers” is trying to show how a black girldrops out of school to work for a rich farmer and at eighteen she ismarried off to another man. The black children are subjected to lowstandard schooling and their grades are very poor. On the other hand,the white kids go to boarding schools. Thus, the black girl lacks theopportunity to better education (Hartmann et al., 2007).
PatriciaSmith further says that the life of this girl is full of bullets,sweat, and Vaseline. She also states that at this period of time, theblack girl wears a white gown often to please. Doing all this to heris like feeding on a blood smelling breakfast and doing the best toplease people who cannot accept her (Clugston, 2010). Her meaning isthat a black woman experiences torturous life in a foreign world.Doing and saying things in an appropriate manner helps her toovercome all this. In the court, Thebedi decided to tell the truththat she did not see Paulus poisoning the baby. This came after oneyear of torture about her dead child.
Incontrast, “What it’s Like to Be a Black Girl”, poem by Smithwas written more recently than “country lovers”, by GordimerNadine. The short story and the poem were written during differenteras of racial discrimination but they share the same theme ofethnicity and racism. It is very easy to view issues of racism andethnicity from the first stanza of Patricia Smith Poem. Also, thefirst paragraph of “Country Lovers” has traces of Racism.Clugston (2010) suggest that small children from the farm had theprivilege to interact through play. This ended when the white kidjoined school away from the Kraal farm. The play was also prohibitedduring holidays. In the Poem “What it’s like to be a Black Girl”,the title itself denotes aspects of race and ethnicity.
Forseveral decades, the whites and blacks have had equal opportunitiesunder different laws, though they still perceive ethnicity and racein a different way. The white and the blacks suffer from divisiondespite many efforts of integrating the two races. In most cases, theblacks suffer more due to race and ethnicity than the whites. Thus,the whites do not view racial discrimination as an escalating problemin the world (Kurzban, 2003).
Theaspect of racism and ethnicity is demonstrated as being a learningexperience. From “Country lovers” children of different race wereallowed to play together when they were small. These changed as theygrew older. Small Kids from both the black and white community playedtogether but stopped when the whites joined boarding school. It wasdifficult to play with them even after they were back for holiday(Clugston, 2010). In “What it’s Like to Be a Black Girl,” bySmith, the black girl realizes she is different when she beginspuberty. We realize that small children do not recognize theirplaymates’ skin color, until they grow up to be adults and findsociety full of racial and ethnic elements. A black girl thusexperiences so much hardship hence developing a need to have featuresthat are acceptable by the so called society (Kurzban, 2003).
Insummary, “Country lovers” and “What it’s Like to Be a BlackGirl,” demonstrate what being discriminated against is like. Thesetwo works shows us the difficulties and hardships encountered by ablack woman in an ethnicity and race discriminative society. Inaddition, the problem of race and ethnicity is described in a waythat we see both women suffering the same experiences despite of themliving in different time and region.
Thepoem and the short story give a clear demonstration of discriminationthat existed during different periods of time. The authors havewritten the two works in a way that help the reader to imagine thefeeling, place, and time during those days.
Clugston,R. W. (2010). CountryLovers, Nadine Gordimer: The Journey into literature.Retrieved fromhttps://content.ashford.edu/books/AUENG125.10.2/sections/h3.2.
Cornell,S., & Hartmann, D. (2007). Ethnicityand Race: Making Identities in a Changing World. ThousandOaks: Pine Forge Press.
Cromwell,O. (2011). Race, Prejudice, Class Conflict, and Nationalism.Race/ Ethnicity multidisciplinary global contexts.4, (2), 169-182.
Kurzban,R. (2003). Perceptions of Race.TRENDS in Cognitive Science, 4 (7),173-179.
McChan,A. B. (2010). Poemsfor Reflection.New York: Barons Press.
Russet,C.E. (2009). SexualScience: The Victorian Construction of Womanhood.Cambridge: Harvard University Press.