Literature provides a wide range of themes in different stories, depending on the aims of every author. Authors employ different themes both in stories and poems in order to bring out creativity and pass across their messages to the readers. Themes such as race and ethnicity have been largely highlighted in the literature world (Skerret, 2002). In the ancient times, discrimination on the basis of race and ethnic background dominated most communities, and at the end of the day, one party profited while the other endured (Harris, 2003). In countries where racism is rampant, the minorities are oppressed and are deprived of their human rights. Literature since time immemorial has tried to highlight these issues through stories with the intention of maintaining unity and upholding peace in communities. There was the need to have harmony and togetherness in order to build the national economy. In addition, the issues connected to race and ethnicity and the relationship between communities were explored through world literature. Poems and short stories touching on the theme of race and ethnicity have been written by authors who have aimed at going beyond the line of color. Authors have acknowledged the fact that racism is inappropriate, thus, has brought out the theme in various literary works such as “Country Lovers” by Nadine Gordimer and “Child of Americas” by Aurora Morales. Regardless of the fact that these two stories share the theme of racism and ethnicity, they also contrast in various ways in relation to various literary elements such as content, form and style.
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“Child of Americas”, a short poem by Aurora Morales centers the aspect of cultural multiplicity. The persona appears to be trying so hard to unravel her ethnic background. This particular poem is quite fascinating that the audience is left meditating over the aspect of ethnic distinctiveness. In this poem, the persona seems to be confused about where she came from since she is connected to nearly all ethnic settings. The persona believes that she can be American, Spanish or even Jewish since her lineage is mixed with different individuals from different ethnic backgrounds. The persona is happy with this fact since she has the chance to practice different cultures. It is interesting to note that the persona in this poem has the ability to speak several languages such as English and Spanish (Morares, 1996). Through the persona, a clear perspective concerning how different cultures are connected and interlocked is provided to the readers of this poem. The persona believes that despite the fact that she might not be European or African; she carries the cultures of these different nations within her.
Through the poem, readers are able to realize that all cultures somehow manipulated each other. The aspect of value for any culture is thus brought out through this poem. In simple terms, the author of this poem informs readers to value the cultures of other individuals since the concept of race and ethnicity is connected. The author also tries to pass across the message that individuals incorporate various parts of different cultures as they go on with their normal lives. Therefore, the author argues that there is no single culture or race that is unique from others. It is undeniable that human beings come from various ethnic backgrounds though it is through interacting with one another that they get used to the ways of life of other cultures. The poem somehow urges readers to value other individual’s ethnicities since it is through culture that people are shaped. Regardless of the fact that the persona has been manipulated by other cultures with which she has come into contact with, she has managed to accept and appreciate the person that she is. All the cultures that the persona has managed to interact with play a vital function in her life. The persona is simply proud of who she is.
“Country Lovers” by Nadine Gordimer on the other hand is different from Aurora’s poem in the sense that it is a short story. As mentioned earlier, “Country Lovers” however, still emphasizes on the issue of race and ethnicity just like Aurora’s “Child of Americas”. Nadine’s story talks about a relationship between two lovers from different ethnic backgrounds. The events of the story take place in South Africa during the apartheid regime. During this time, South Africa had outlined strict rules concerning the association amid “black” and “white” people. The laws prohibited black people from having relations with white people and marriage between these two races was not allowed by all means. The main characters in this story are Paulus and Thebedi; a white boy and black girl respectively. Despite the fact that these two characters come from different racial backgrounds, they have a relationship that began in childhood.
Thebedi has been working at her boyfriend’s family farm since when she was young and as they become older they engage in a romantic relationship, though they are not allowed to get married. Paulus goes ahead and joins college and his girlfriend gets married to a black man. A few months later, Thebedi gives birth to a male child that is more of white and not black. This is the outcome of the romantic relationship that Thebedi had with Paulus. However, Paulus returns from college and realizes that Thebedi has a child that resembles him. Paulus immediately gets mad and this reveals the fact that he was never in love with Thebedi. He goes on to kill the child and surprisingly, he does not get jailed due to lack of evidence (Miruka, 2000).
It is clear that the short story plays the role of informing communities of the complexities of the issues of race and ethnicity and the damage that can be caused if these aspects are not well managed. The poem on the other hand focuses on valuing the various cultures that people come in contact with as they go on with their daily lives. The persona in Aurora’s poem indicates comprehensibly that she is connected to various ethnic backgrounds. The persona in this poem, just like in the “child of Americas”, feels that the diversity in her ethnic backgrounds renders her culturally rich. Although the persona fails to have any African or European relatives in her lineage, she still feels that these two cultures have had a great influence on her. The persona also purports that she is at a crossroad. Contrary to the poem, the short story focuses on racial differences based on color. Through the short story, it is clear that the white race was more powerful than the black race in the society.
The outcome of Thebedi and Paulus’ relationship is a mixture of two races. It is also surprising that Thebedi has no problem with this fact, though Paulus finds it hard to live with it and goes ahead to kill his own son. Njambulo, Thebedi’s husband, has no problem taking care of someone else’s child even if the baby is interracial. It is obvious that the short story portrays whites as racists. This is illustrated by Paulus who is not ready to accept a child from two different races. Considering Paulus actions, one wonders whether culture has more weight than life in itself. Paulus chooses to protect their customs at the expense of his own flesh and blood. The relationship between Paulus and Thebedi when they were young is totally different from the one portrayed when they get a son. The two love birds are quite naïve while young and they even meet secretly so that no one notices them. They are aware that they are not supposed to be relating but they go on and have a romantic relationship anyway. The rule that whites should not relate with blacks breaks them apart when they become of age. The two lovers break their long term friendship as a result of racism and ethnicity issues (Miruka, 2000).
Another difference between the two literary works can be seen in the acknowledgement of racial multiplicity. The persona in the poem acknowledges the fact that she is from diverse ethnic backgrounds. The persona has no problem with her ethnical background and has accepted the individual that she is. In fact, she takes it positive and considers it beneficial rather than something that could make her regret. Intermarriages from different races are not a problem for this persona. Through the acceptance of various ethnic backgrounds, the persona realizes her real identity. As mentioned earlier, language is not a problem for the persona since she can speak more than one language. The persona praises the languages that she can speak and she is proud of them. Contrary to this, the characters in the short story appear to have a hard time acknowledging their ethnic backgrounds. Paulus is not ready to have a child with a black girl and he is not proud of the son that the two produce. Paulus does not appreciate Thebedi’s ethnic background and the differences between the two cultures are significantly large. It is next to impossible for the two races to appreciate one another just like the persona in the poem loves where she originated from. In the short story, the marriage between Thebedi and the black man is merely a strategy to avoid any kind of suspicion. It is obvious that the relationship between the two communities cannot be acknowledged. The communities in the short story are aware of the rules concerning racism and ethnicity hence, they do whatever it takes just to make sure that they do not cross those lines.
Both texts also support the concept of racism assimilation or integration. The person in the poem acknowledges the fact that she is a result of several races coming together and she is proud of it. The short story also provides considerable hope for racial assimilation. The baby that Thebedi and Paulus bore is a sign of racial assimilation. Societies have the power to allow racial assimilation and if it were not for the discrimination that existed in Thebedi and Paulus’ world, it is possible that the two lovers could have gotten married and lived happily ever after. Generally, the two literary works try to inform readers the reason as to why it is necessary to appreciate and respect other people’s culture and the consequences of not doing so. Individuals can only develop socially if they accept their fellow men’s culture (Harris, 2003). The short story clearly indicates the problems that people can encounter if they refuse to accept other people’s ethnic background. Diversity in terms of ethnicity is a sensitive issue, which if not handled with much care can cause havoc in communities across the world. Embracing ethnic diversity would eradicate issues of hatred and animosity. Nadine Gordimer utilizes a unique style that tries to capture readers into the narrative. Through the plot of the story, it is undeniable that the events that occur reflect what happens in the real life. Nadine Gordimer has chosen to take a realist stand in her work.
Through the unique style, the relationship between the two characters in “Country Lovers” functions as a vehicle that reveals fatality of racial discrimination not just in South Africa, but in the entire world. It is clear that the friendship between Paulus and Thebedi can hardly blossom and grow into a beautiful union. The turning point and end of this relationship is triggered by Thebedi’s pregnancy. In addition to the issue of ethnicity and race, Nadine also showcases the aspect of power relations in this kind of society. This society also appears to be patriarchal in that the woman has no say in anything. Thebedi is forced to get married to a black man with the aim of controlling that damage that has been done and she can do nothing about it. Thebedi also tries to suggest to the court that Paulus might have killed the child though this accusation does not yield much.
This society seems not to value the voice of the girl child. Thebedi has no power, first because she is black and second due to the fact that she is a woman. The issue of social hierarchy is also question in Nadine’s short story where whites dominated over blacks during the period of apartheid in South Africa. It is clear that in this society, there is an intense imbalance when it comes to matters concerning power relations. The author of “Country Lovers” also utilizes third person point of view. Through third person, readers are able to obtain a neutral perspective of the entire narrative. The readers are thus not given the chance to side with either party. The narrator of Country lovers uses the names of the characters when telling this particular story. The narrator does not take part in the story though she relays it to readers. In “Child of Americas”, the author also utilizes a rich style and incorporates metaphors such as “Spanish is in my flesh” and “European lives in me”. These metaphors are meant to reveal the various cultures that the people of America originated from. As opposed to “Country Lovers” where characters fail to embrace the issue of race and ethnicity, “Child of Americas” is a poem that appreciates other individual’s culture. Through the poem, readers are able to tell that the diversity in cultures is more of a blessing than a curse. The aspect of “self” in America is reinforced through these metaphors. Through the metaphors, hope and a new beginning is granted to those who face the problems of race and ethnicity.
It is evident that the themes of race and ethnicity have been widely used in literature across the globe (Meyer, 1997). These themes try to encourage the mixing of individuals from different races and ethnic backgrounds since this is beneficial to all communities. If this is attained, there will be a high likelihood of people living in harmony without discrimination due to color or background. People would easily intermarry and bring up their families together. Aurora insinuates that the persona became whole after she realizes that she originated from different racial backgrounds. Aurora displays the optimism that the persona has when she admits how she has been positively influenced by culture in her surroundings. The short a story on the other depicts the pressures that befall a community that makes a big deal out of racial differences. Nadine’s work contains rich imagination and creativity (Chapman, 1996).
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