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Burger’s Daughter | Analysis of Nadine Gordimer’s Burger’s Daughter


Burger’s Daughter | Analysis of Nadine Gordimer’s Burger’s Daughter

Gordimer’s posthumous novel, Burger’s Daughter depicts the effects of apartheid in the life of the protagonist, Rosemarie (Rosa) Burger who is a South African white woman. Rosa Burger wants to locate he identify in the contemporary political situation in South Africa. She is a masterfully drawn character. She presents the real political situation or goes against the complicated background of South African politics and race relations. She feels loneliness. She faces problem creating relationship with others. She even faces psychological, political, social, economical problems to live in her own country being a daughter of a privileged white family. She faces various problem as mentioned above because of the effects of apartheid.

Rosa’s father Lionel Burger, as both physician and disciplined revolutionary who lies in prison. Rosa’s family seems to have more than enough money. There are black servants and even an informally adopted black child who is being reared in the family as a son. Party members, whether white, black or coloured are continually being assaulted together at the large family which creates the problem in the apartheid regime. She lives in a state of existential loneliness. She is well aware of the emotional neglect where she has suffered in her life but with no way to balance anyone for it. She is without a passport in a nation that makes her worthless. She keeps long affair with the student Conrad seems promising but later on she withdraws, thinking it “incestuous”. She has emotional entrapment by the memory of her father and her inability to believe that she has a truly personal future or destiny.

The protagonist, Rosa Burger, true witnesses her spiritual betrayal of her father in fact. She obtains a passport by appealing directly to an influential apartheid loyalist, Brand Vermeulen. Then she visits her father’s first wife and enjoys in Nice a period of cathartic-if “decadent” freedom. She obtains from this woman Katya Bagnelli a degree of emotional support that she failed to get from her mother. She becomes a lover of a professor from Paris Bernard Chablier. Chablier invites her to be a mistress for ever but she refuses. She unexpectedly sees the African Baasie, her childhood; “little brother” who is a student in France. She refuses to be utopian in her expectations as in her treatment of Baasie.

As we know that apartheid means Separateness in Africans languages. It was a system of ethnic separation in South Africa. It is the official policy of the superiority of the white race. The ruling policy of apartheid dictated that people be legally classified into racial groups the main ones were black, white, coloured and Indian. Blacks legally become the citizens of homelands. The homeland system disenfranchised black people in ‘White South Africa’; their voting rights were restricted to the black homelands. In this regard, African workers have been prohibited, schools have been segregated and mixed marriages made illegal. Consequently, apartheid policy badly affects the area of political, social, economics.

Apartheid incorporates with many issues including racism, segregation , alienation, ambivalence, psychological victimization has been given a powerful expression produced by apartheid along with social, political, economical, cultural effects in Gordimer’s posthumous novel Burger’s Daughter. Segregation is inevitably bound with politics and its affects to the individual creating alienation hints to the general problematic estrangement under which one feels a loss of his/ her belongingness in own supremacy. Its behind is racism and it is the belief system and discrimination its practices. The main characteristic of racism is prejudice and discrimination which brings sense of segregation and alienation. Therefore, apartheid affects psychic of the people. Apartheid creates the ambivalence position in the society as well as in the life of the protagonist, Roja Burger. Ambivalence refers to a simultaneous attraction towards and repulsion from an object, person or action. The complexity and resistance do exist in a fluctuating relation within the colonial subject. Likewise, ambivalence basically is unsettling to colonial dominance. In fact, controversial proposition lies at the center of ambivalence. Therefore, it can be said that the concept of ambivalence is reflected to the privileged class people. Gradually, the policy of apartheid turns towards the self victimization of superior class personal development. It fully disturbs the mind of the protagonist and the protagonist victimizes psychologically in own supremacy. Psychologically, the protagonist Rosa Burger feels loneliness and experiences ambivalent position.

In Burger’s Daughter, Rosa Burger wants to locate her identity in the contemporary apartheid policy in South Africa. She becomes orphan after her parents’ death. In this situation she feels loneliness remaining alone in the family. She faces problem creating relationship with others. She even faces psychological, political, social problems to live in her own country being a daughter of privileged white family. Rosa’s father Lionel Burger is both physician and disciplined revolutionary who involves in the antiapartheid movement so he victimizes even being the white person. Later on Rosa tries to fulfill her father commitment to go against apartheid policy and she returns to Africa from France and joins into the destiny but she is arrested by white racial government and put in Pretoria prison. It shows she is in ambivalent position and she herself as a white burden as well as psychological self victimization. The apartheid policy turns against the whites, though protagonist Rosa Burger is a daughter of a privileged white family.

Apartheid thus not only affects to the black, white, Indian and coloured people but also affects to the white people in political, social, economic sectors. It deeply affects to the psychology of the people of all races in South Africa during the apartheid policy. It creates the ambivalence position of the central character, Roja Burger within own supremacy. That is, Roja Burger ultimately suffers psychologically due to apartheid policy.


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