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A Story a Day #17: Nadine Gordimer



February 22nd, 2020

"Six Feet of the Country"

Nadine Gordimer


A South African couple moves from the city to a small farm in the country. They have servants that live on the farm with them. One night, one boy wakes them up because something is wrong. When the man goes to see, there is a dead man in their hut. It is the servant's brother who walked down from Rhodesia. The man has the medical authorities take the body awake and check for what killed him. The brother is very adament about getting the body back, but the authorities have already buried him. With some haggling, they get back the body and plan to hold a funeral, however, during the funeral the father notices that this is not his son, but another man entirely. The couple tries desperately to get the right body back to no avail.


This is a very complicated story and many of the descriptions of the servants were condescending and racist. I have not read a story that is so open about that in a long time. Though the narrator and his wife clearly have racist thoughts, they display some actions of compassion by trying to do right by their servants. However, the lengths they must go to are repeatedly questioned and complained about.


While I am sure that this story was written in a different time and culture, it exemplifies the fact that humans are not one dimensional. These farm owners are racist and exploit the labor of people because of their color, but they attempt good actions on their servants' behalves. Many people today are uncomfortable at confronting their own racial and sexist prejudices because they fear those labels will rule them as an entirely bad human being. Of course, this is not the case and few people are entirely bad. Our society enforces these prejudices and it is a good action to acknowledge them and work on being better.

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