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Compare And Contrast: ‘A Desirable Society’

2102 words - 9 pages

Both Andre Brink’s ‘A Dry White Season’ and James Joyce’s ‘The Dead’ display two very different societies undergoing artistic, cultural and political transitions. In 1914, Ireland saw the Nationalist party at its peak, where Irish society was desperately searching for a sense of cultural identity and political stability. Joyce takes an apolitical approach in order to objectively show Dublin to his fellow Dubliners in his ‘nicely polished looking glass.’ Andre Brink, in comparison, documents a temporal shift into 1976, during the Soweto uprising, in which the non-white population of South Africa protested against the Nationalist Party’s apartheid regime. Brink, like Joyce, draws upon this ...view middle of the document...

The marches. The police. The gunshots. The dead and wounded carted off.’ (A Dry White Season 1998:41) Brink paints the reader a vivid picture of the atmosphere the Soweto uprising created. The short sentences each supply a snippet of information, as if Brink himself was a bystander towards the event. Isidore Diala comments upon how Brink recounts the Soweto uprising with precision and attention to detail: ‘Brink’s documentations of the facts of the Soweto riots are almost as rigorous as a faithful transcription of history.’ (History and the inscriptions of torture as purgatorial fire in Andre Brink’s fiction 2002:67) Brink suggests a real conflict in culture within this uprising. The Nationalist Party constantly tried to impose Afrikaans culture upon the South African citizens. However, due to its association with the apartheid regime, if anything the Nationalist Party’s persistence alienated the public from their own culture and forced them to adopt English customs which came about through British colonisation.

James Joyce also tackles the theme of colonisation and the integrity of national identity and culture. The Home Rule Act was introduced by the United Kingdom, after a parliamentary group called ‘The Irish Volunteers’ fought for the implementation of the Act. Michael Levenson comments on how ‘in the interval between Joyce’s completing the other stories in Dubliners and his beginnings to compose “The Dead,” the agitation against British rule in Ireland had conspicuously intensified’ (Living History in “The Dead”1994:166.) The Home Rule Act entitled Ireland to a self-government, and this is when Irish nationalism began to peak. Despite this, Ireland had a weak artistic identity in comparison with England and the rest of the continent. Seamus Deane comments that, in relation to art ‘before Joyce there was nothing.’ (James Joyce: New Perspectives (1982:173) Joyce emphasises Ireland’s lack of artistic identity through the iconic English relics that decorate the Morkan household, which is supposed to be a quintessentially Irish occasion. For example, Gabriel notices ‘a picture of the balcony scene in Romeo and Juliet’ (The Dead 2004:17) which is iconic to England as it is by the playwright Shakespeare. Also, Gabriel considers using a quote from Robert Browning in his speech, and again, considers Shakespeare, two very noticeably British icons. ‘He was undecided about the lines from Robert Browning, for he feared they would be above the heads of his hearers. Some quotation that they would recognise from Shakespeare or from the melodies would be better.’ (2004:8) Joyce demonstrates that at a significant Irish event, there is a definitive lack of Irish symbols, and Joyce makes a point to cast our attention onto such English artefacts to highlight the lack of artistic identity Ireland possessed at this time.

The treatment of artistic and cultural identity is extremely different in Andre Brink’s A Dry White Season in...

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