The Moment Before the Gun Went Off


This study guide will help you analyze the short story “The Moment Before the Gun Went Off” by Nadine Gordimer. You can also find a summary of the text, as well as inspiration for interpreting it. 

Presentation of the text

Title: “The Moment Before the Gun Went Off” (1992)
Author: Nadine Gordimer
Genre: Short story

Nadine Gordimer (1923-2014) was a South African writer and activist who received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1991. She was also a joint recipient of the Booker Prize in 1974 for her novel The Conservationist. Her works typically deal with moral and political issues, particularly those pertaining to South Africa, such as apartheid. She was active in the anti-apartheid movement and joined the African National Congress during the days when the organization was banned. 


Below, you can read an excerpt from our study guide: 


A few symbols help Nadine Gordimer’s message become even more powerful in the short story.

The buck that Van der Vyver wants to selectively kill to protect the Kudu family becomes a symbol of sacrifice and it also comes to symbolise Lucas. Instead of killing the buck to protect the Kudu family, the farmer accidentally kills Lucas, his son, who becomes an innocent victim. If by killing the buck, Van der Vyver would have protected the animal family, he now has killed Lucas and has to protect his family of the consequences of this event.

The barbed security fences symbolise isolation but also fear. As a white farmer, Van der Vyver feels the need to isolate his farmhouse and protect it from infiltrators who might plant landmines that could kill his family. Besides fear, the barbed fences also symbolise the isolation and clear separation between whites and blacks during a tense political regime.


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The Moment Before the Gun Went Off

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