Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
The fiction of Nadine Gordimer embodies a political conviction: a belief in the inevitable collapse of minority rule in South Africa and an end to the oppression of the black majority. At the same time, Gordimer is concerned about the fate of the individual within the political context. This thesis suggests that the theme of self-definition is equal in importance to the political theme in Gordimer's novels, and moreover, that the two themes are interdependent.
The theme of self-definition in relation to politics in South Africa is explored in two major novels, The Conservationist and Burger's Daughter. The first has a male protagonist whose tendency to use power, domination and denial is destructive to his consciousness, as it is politically. Burger's Daughter, with its female protagonist, presents a character who is able to integrate different aspects of her experience by means of relationship and through a process corresponding to the pattern of initiation as found in various religious traditions. Both novels deal with the question of relationship to the shadow side of reality, what is disregarded or rejected in oneself and in the political situation.
In these two novels, neither the personal nor the political is found sufficient for consciousness or for culture. Gordimer's exploration of these themes is expressed in the idea of tension between opposites, similar to the concept of the polarities of Yin/Yang in Taoism. This thesis examines how Gordimer develops the theme of opposites by means of character and symbols to make a distinctive literary and political statement.
Russell, Sheila Grace Brownlie, "Nadine Gordimer: The Definition of Self in The Conservationist and Burger's Daughter" (1986). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 6052.
McMaster University Library