Personal Reading Study
Personal Reading Study – “Cry Freedom” by John Briley
Q: Choose a novel in which a relationship between two different
characters is developed.
Show how the developing relationship between Steve Biko and Donald
Woods explores the theme of racism and how the novel portrays the
effects of racism in South African society.
In your answer you must refer closely to the text and to the themes
explored, characterisation and Key incidents.
“And towards that day, when the isolation that creates hostility
becomes the closeness that permits friendship, let us join in the song
of South Africa…”
As the above quotation suggests ‘Cry Freedom’ by John Briley, ...view middle of the document...
I believe that in these quotations Woods contradicts himself as he
believes blacks should not be given the full right to vote yet when he
caught the Government violating those ‘basic’ ethical premises he
would argue with them. It seems to me that Woods is not too sure what
he believes is acceptable for blacks, and how far they should be
allowed to go in the justice system.
Furthermore, before their first meeting Woods did not approve of
Biko’s black consciousness principles. He believed that Biko’s
principles were all about black prejudice and that he did not want
everything to be fair in South Africa but instead to be the way the
blacks want it to be. We know this as when Mamphela Ramphele went to
go see Mr Woods about the article he had written about Steve Biko,
they entered into a heated conversation and Woods said,
“Your Mr Biko’s building a wall of black hatred in South Africa, and
I’ll fight him as long as I sit in this chair!”
This shows me clearly that Donald Woods was certainly not fond of
Steve Biko and his beliefs and Woods deeply believed that Biko’s
principles were wrong and unfair. However, Woods is being prejudiced
himself as he has never met Biko or spoken to him to come close to a
conclusion as to why he may believe the things he does. It seems to
me that Woods is confused about his own beliefs so he has no right
In a later incident in the book, once Biko and Woods have met, we
begin to see a change in Woods’ attitude towards blacks and the
apartheid system. After a suggestion by Biko, Woods decided to hire a
black man and black women to work as reporters for his paper. During
this part of the novel, we see how Woods had to argue his way through
to get them hired. The board was hard to convince as they argued
about what they would report on and who would care. But we can see
that Woods would not give up as he continued to argue with the board.
This shows to me that Woods was determined to make a change and he
wanted to be a part of helping this to happen,
“Not everyone agreed with him but in the end his determination carried
It seems to me that Woods genuinely wanted to make things better and
now I see that this was just the beginning. By doing this, Woods was
helping to explore the effects of racism as he was helping to include
blacks in a society where a lot of racism existed.
As for Steve Biko, we are able to see aspects of his character
throughout the book, until he dies. We are able to observe what he is
like when he first meets Woods. It seems to me as though Biko had
felt he had been through a lot in his life, but he always seemed to
find a reason to smile. I noticed this when Biko and Woods first
met. At their first meeting they get into a heated conversation about
how blacks were forced to live in townships and Whites had all the
luxuries of the world. Biko says,
“ ‘Now that is a charming idea. Whites in the townships and me...