Essay on Richard Rive's "The Bench"
Richard Rive was born in District Six in Cape Town. " The Bench" is taken from his short story collection, "Advance, Retreat " influenced by events during the Defiance of Unjust Laws Campaign from 1952 to 1953.
The story starts with an exert from a speech that is held in Cape Town, South Africa. It is clearly part of a demonstration against the apartheid system. A large black man with a rolling voice says," It is up to everyone of us to challenge the right of any law which wilfully condemns any person to an inferior position."
The lecture is held outdoors, most of the crowd being coloured. The main character in the story, Karlie, a black man, ...view middle of the document...
A white woman jeopardising all her advantages to say what she believes in. Never had he seen anything like this in his home town. A determination starts creeping over his vagueness. Now he wants to challenge, whatever the consequences. He wants to be in the newspaper smiling. This is a turning point in his life.
After the meeting, on the way to the station, Karlie is on the receiving end of a nasty, racialist comment from an approaching car. " Karlie stared dazed, momentarily too stunned to speak." By reacting at all, it shows that he now questions this kind of treatment. To " challenge" like the white woman speaker said, he sits on a "whites only" bench at the railway station. Although this story spans over a limited time, Karlie has gone through an extreme change in his life. He is now determined to fight for his own freedom as a human being. He rebels against his former upbringing imprinted in him and wants to find a new place in society for himself.
This short story was written during the apartheid system. The bench at the railway station...