Here we characterize the main character in the short story “The Moment Before the Gun Went Off” by Nadine Gordimer.
Marais Van der Vyver is an Afrikaner farmer living in South Africa, at the end of apartheid. He is a regional Party leader and Commandant of the local security commando. He is married to a white woman, Alida, with whom he has three children: Magnus, Helena, and Karel.
Van der Vyver also has an illegitimate child, Lucas, with an unnamed black woman, who works on Van der Vyver’s farm along with her family. From the hints provided in the story, we can conclude that Van der Vyver is in his late 30s or early 40s.
Van der Vyver's physical description can be seen in this parapgraph which also describes his personality:
And Van der Vyver's face, in the photographs, strangely opened by distress - everyone in the district remembers Marais Van der Vyver as a little boy who would go away and hide himself if he caught you smiling at him. And everyone knows h...