Essay on Alex La Guma's The Lemon Orchard

Essay on Alex La Guma's The Lemon Orchard

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Stable Meaning, the Perversion of Nature, and Discursive Communities in Alex La Guma's "The Lemon Orchard"

South African writer Alex La Guma was an active member of his country's non-white liberation movement. One of the 156 people accused in the Treason Trial of 1956, La Guma wrote his first book, A Walk in the Night and Other Stories, in 1962 (Wade 15). "The Lemon Orchard," a story which appeared in this debut work, is a gripping piece about the horror and cruelty of racism. In the story, La Guma describes in chilling detail how a black teacher (who had sought legal redress for being beaten up by his principal and church minister) is roused from his sleep and led to a lemon orchard by four white men for whipping. At the beginning of the story, the moon is "hidden behind long, high parallels of cloud" (La Guma 15). La Guma is apparently suggesting that the moon (representing Nature) does not wish to witness what will occur, since it hides itself behind clouds and shows its disapproval by refusing to cast its light on the men.

However, the story ends with Nature mirroring, even anticipating the violence that will happen. For instance, the trees have "angled branches" with "tips and edges" which "[gleam] with the quivering shine of scattered quicksilver" (19). In addition, the moon comes out "from behind the banks of cloud" (19). Words such as "angled branches", "tips and edges" as well as "gleamed" conjure up an image of shiny, metallic weapons (such as knives or arrows) associated with violence and death. The word "quivering" and the moon's emergence also suggest that Nature is waiting with bated breath for the impending beating. La Guma's depiction of Nature condoning the beating (since it mirrors and anticipates the imm...


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...estigate this phenomenon in other apparently stable texts.

Works Cited

Booth, Wayne C. A Rhetoric of Irony. Chicago: Chicago UP, 1974.

Brooks, Cleanth. "Irony as a Principle of Structure." Literary Opinion in America. Ed. Morton Dauwen Zabel. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1951. 729-741.

Hutcheon, Linda. Irony's Edge: The Theory and Politics of Irony. London: Routledge, 1994.

La Guma, Alex. "The Lemon Orchard." Into The Wind. Ed. Barrie Wade. Surrey: Nelson, 1990. 16-19.

Montgomery, Martin, et al. Ways of Reading. Advanced Reading Skills for Students of English Literature. 2nd ed. London: Routledge, 2000. 161-171.

Wade, Barrie. "Foreword." Into The Wind. Ed. Barrie Wade. Surrey: Nelson, 1990. 15.

Wilson, Deirde & Sperber, Dan. "On Verbal Irony." The Stylistics Reader: From Roman Jakobson to the Present. Ed. Jean Jacques Weber. London: Arnold, 1996. 260-279.

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