Discuss the extent to which Sonny and his family are capable of preventing the state from exerting their personal life.
My Son’s Story ends with the entire family falling apart, so the question of the extent to which Sonny and his family prevent the state from entering their private life becomes null. We may then question whether they even try to prevent the state from entering their private domain. The story is made up of unexpected ambiguities. Sonny, a schoolteacher becomes a political activist. The political activist, coloured “Sonny”, falls in love with a white woman, his loyalties shift then from the realm of political obligation to the woman he loves. The silent, obedient wife Alia becomes an underground agent for the liberation movement. Baby, the fun loving daughter joins the “Freedom Fighter Training Camp” and Will becomes a writer, his identity shifting back in the direction his father left behind. The transition of South Africa to the future is perhaps represented by this family in Gordimer’s novel. The family is so caught up in the pressures of the state such that it represents the promise and complexity of the future that has always been envisioned. Underlying everything in this novel is the twisted knot of family entwined and tangled with a revolutionary purpose. It does not begin with Sonny crossing the “veld”. It begins much earlier, the traces of a colonial mindset enter even before Sonny and Alia create a family together. The first born male, ‘the son’ first leaves “earth, cement, wood and kapok behind” and takes up education. Sonny grows up to be a man separated from his own community. Admired yet separated. His marriage to Alia is “not” arranged as the customs of the ancestors have been “abandoned by the younger generations.” This statement shows the divide that has occurred between the generations. The colonial mindset has made the younger generation, believe that their own traditions are backward; something that ought to be...
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