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Compare and Contrast: ‘A desirable society’ Essays

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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 inspiration to offer a truthful commentary upon South African society. Although both novels are placed within entirely contrasting contexts, both display similar themes of political unrest and social division, which reveals two very flawed and undesirable societies.

In this essay I will compare and contrast the ways in which Joyce and Brink portray the societies that they are a part of. I will compare the treatment of colonisation, segregation and both cultural and nationalistic identity in each novel, and argue the integrity of each author’s commentary and critiques upon two transforming nations.

Colonisation plays an important role in both Brink’s A Dry White Season and Joyce’s The Dead. Brink bases the events of his novel around the Soweto uprising, in which South Africa’s non-whites fought against the Nationalist Party’s apartheid regime. The main conflict was over the Nationalist Party proposing schooling in non-white schools to be carried out in both English and Afrikaans languages. The non-white student population much preferr...


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...ue of national identity, with the influence of colonisation and conflicting ideas. One detail that is consistent in both Joyce’s The Dead and Brink’s A Dry White Season is the completely apolitical and factual approach the authors take. Without forcing any ideas upon the reader, Joyce and Brink allow us to construct our own opinions upon the way in which their societies operate.



Works Cited

Deane, Seamus. 1982. Joyce and Nationalism. Sussex: The Harvester Press

Diala, Isidore. 2002. History and the inscriptions of torture as a purgatorial fire in Andre Brink’s fiction. Texas: University of North Texas

Levenson, Michael. 1994. Living History in “The Dead.” New York: St Martin’s Press

Pecora, Vincent P. 1986. “The Dead” and the Generosity of the Word. PMLA 101.2

Schwarz, Daniel R. 1994. “The Dead” A Critical History. New York: St Martin’s Press


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