Country lovers: a reader’s response

Nadine Gordimer dramatically depicts the theme of forbidden love in Country Lovers, but more than just the depth of this love, the forbidden relationship between races during the years of apartheid. Gordimer brings forward very early the fact of racial division, “ the black children are making along with the bodily changes common to all, an easy transition to adult forms of address, beginning to call their old playmates missus and baasie little master”. Gordimer, 1975) This short story powerfully demonstrates the ever present desire for that which is taboo and the often very tragic end for all concerned in an overtly subjugated society, race notwithstanding. She sets the story in South Africa on the farm owned by the white EysendeckFamily, early in thechildhoodof their son Paalus and the young black girl, Thebedi.

The vivid descriptions or Local Color are depictions ofcultureand landscape within this setting allow the author to depict the atmosphere that shaped the characters moral values of individuals in a particular region. (Clugston, 6. 4) The use of setting, in this case the time and place of the story also illustrates Milhauser’s opinion, “… if you concentrate your attention on some apparently insignificant portion of the world, you will find, deep within it, nothing less than the world itself.

The author also cleverly uses foreshadowing to allude to issues the characters may deal with, “ The trouble was Paalus Eysendeck did not seem to realize Thebdi was now simply one of the crowd of farm children down at the kraal”. (Gordimer, 1975) The overwhelming sense of cultural taboo was evident throughout the story and was recognized by both characters in their need to be secretive in their meetings. The use of foreshadowing and setting strongly supported the themes in the story, allowing Gordimer to bring the reader closer to the heart to the story.

Although Nadine Gordimer grew up in South Africa during the enforcement of apartheid and attempted throughout her years of writing to bring attention to the under privileged; she and many other writers did not have the ability or desire to discuss the unfortunate issues that generations of the often over-indulged and morally corrupt class also had to face, “ I will try and carry on as best I can to hold my head up in the district. ” (Gordimer, 1975) The characters throughout this story were strong and richly developed.

Both Paalus and Thebedi were similarly portrayed as equally developing young people in the illustrations of their interactions with classmates and friends, an example being the gifts they exchanged on holidays and the joy they gained admiration of them. (Gordimer) Ms. Gordimer expertly executed the account of two young people that were lifelong friends and eventually secret lovers and the of pressures that society, class and race can have on those individuals.

An incredible sense of despair is exposed in the passages discussing the issues faced by the characters, Thebedi and Paalus, both showed a feeling of loss of control of the situation when he stated, “ I feel like killing myself”; she could not help but feel sadness for a man she likely still loved, “ her eyes began to glow, to thicken with tears”. (Gordimer, 1975) This effort to bring the ominous mood to the reader is astonishingly effective. In the last portion of the story the dialogue of the main characters demonstrates the deliberate change in the characters.

Paalus becomes very aware of the potentially catastrophic outcome of his and Thebedi’s indulgences. The shift in characterization was brilliantly executed with the seemingly formidable white man becoming the pariah in the district where his family was well respected. The conflict or struggle within both characters became what to do with the baby who was the product of forbidden love in an unaccepting society. Lastly, the reader is made aware of several shifts that have a shift occurred. The first shift being for Paalus and the Eysendeck family by being lowered in status “ left with his mother’s raincoat shielding his face from photographers”.

The next obvious shift of the Judge in his statement in court actually raised Njabolu’s status, ” by commending the honorable behavior of the husband… and even provided clothes for the unfortunate infant out of his slender means. ” (Gordimer, 1975) The final line of the story provides insight on the outcome by bringing to light the fact that the girl “ in her own language stated that “ it was a thing of our childhood, and they don’t see each other anymore’’ The symbolic nature of this last line demonstrated the eventual movement forward of the young woman and her embracing her life as it was set in motion by time and society to be.


  1. Clugston, R. W. (2010). Journey into literature. San Diego, CA: BridgepointEducation.
  2. Milhauser, S. (2008). The Ambition of the Short Story. The New York Times. Retrieved from: http://www. nytimes. com/2008/10/05/books/review/Millhauser-t. html