Theme and message

Racism and segregation

“The Moment Before the Gun Went Off” by Nadine Gordimer explores the mentality and consequences of apartheid

The story draws a parallel between the Kudu which Van der Vyver “raises” and “protects in the bush areas of his farm” and the community of black people who work for him. It is suggested that Van der Vyver employs the same practices to animals and the black workers. One practice is “culling”, which means separating animals from a group according to desired or undesired characteristics. 

In the story, Van der Vyver wants to kill one of the bucks to reduce the deer population. However, he ends up accidentally killing his own son, Lucas, whom he has kept separate from the rest of his white family, because he is black. 

The differences in social standing and the separation between the white employer and the black worker are also illustrated by Lucas jumping in the back of the truck, while Van der Vyver rides in front, in the cab of the car. The extent of their relationship is built on non-verbal “moments of high excitement”. For example, they share the thrill of a hunt, “although often around the farm the farmer would pass the young man without returning a greeting, as if he did not recognize him.” For Van der Vyver, social segregation is more powerful than the blood relations between them.

We notice that one of Van der Vyver's concerns is that the acciden...

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