Original Research

Gordimer’s rendition of the picaresque in A Sport of Nature

M. Wenzel
Literator | Vol 14, No 1 | a689 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/lit.v14i1.689 | © 1993 M. Wenzel | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 03 May 1993 | Published: 03 May 1993

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M. Wenzel, Potchefstroom University for CHE, South Africa

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Abstract

The aim of this article is twofold: firstly, to explore the picaresque elements present in Nadine Gordimer’s A Sport of Nature and secondly, to relate them to her more pronounced stance on feminism which has evolved since the 1980s. I suggest that an appropriate reading strategy would not only foreground these issues but also highlight A Sport of Nature as one of her most underrated novels. Following the example of the Latin American authors Isabel Allende and Elena Poniatowska, Cordimer has appropriated the picaresque tradition as an ideal vehicle to depict the elements of social critique and feminist assertion which characterize A Sport of Nature. The ironic retrospective stance on society, conventionally represented by a picaro as a social outcast, is reinforced by the introduction of a picara, thereby underlining the double marginalization of women as subjects and sexual objects. I propose that a feminist-oriented reading of the text which recognizes this subversive quality, would lend a different dimension to its interpretation. The character of Hillela serves as an implicit example of female ingenuity which attains political equality through devious means despite, and as a result of, the constraints of a hypocritical society and an entrenched patriarchal system. Seen from this perspective, the seemingly disparate elements of the novel coalesce to present a damning picture of contemporary society.

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