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An encounter is an unexpected meeting, and we see the leading characters in ‘Enemies’ and
‘Recognition’ having to come to terms with their past and as their encounters occur we see their changing perspective about certain issues surrounding them and how their characters develop from what they are to what they become.
In ‘Enemies’ we see this being exercised upon by the leading character Mrs Clara Hansen. The title of the story ‘Enemies’ is in itself a description of what Mrs Hansen has
become to her true self, an enemy. A common definition or rather characteristic associated with an enemy is one who hates and opposes and enemies usually in the general context fight a war or battle with another. Mrs Hansen fulfills this definition of what makes an enemy through her struggle within her confrontation between what she has
become and who she truly is.
In the opening pages we are given a description of Mrs Hansen as keeping to herself when she travels and this is justified by her having money, been a baroness, a beauty, and has survived dramatic suffering. This description of her conveys a picture of her as a very proud woman who has suffered and worked hard to get where she is. She is also described as having “The crushing presence of these states in her face and bearing is nearly always enough to stop loose mouths of the people who find themselves in her company.” This description of her conveys the amount of influence she has upon people and she may assume some level of control upon their behaviour. The people who do not behave in accordance in her presence, those who assail her face are referred to as either
stupid, senile or self obsessed, hence, saying that one would not be normal not to do the latter in her presence. “Withdrawn as a castle”, this being a statement giving her a high status especially when used as a simile against a castle, actually making her seem like a queen and very uncommon unlike the ordinary man, and this is the perception that she has of herself.
Her relationship with Alfred is that of master and servant with her being the dominant power. The fact that she was dominant over a male servant, even though there was general oppression against all blacks in the apartheid era, is an inverse upon the social norm of sexism, we actually do not see her beneath the authority of any male within the whole story.
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herself as if she does not need anyone else’s opinion about anything, she is clearly independent. The fact that she had old calf cases from Europe within reach may be suggestive of how she still has European values instilled in her further conveying her perspective on life and why she keeps to herself as it has become a common thought to associate the concept of individualism with a western type of life style or culture unlike the African life style or culture commonly associated with togetherness, working as a community, promoting the inter-action of individuals.
When she is giving Alfred instructions on what to do in the case of need she directs him to her lawyer, which emphasises the way she sees the law on her side giving her power
over any legal issue as she can always litigate any situation through her lawyer. When the train was leaving Alfred stood still while Mrs Hansen inclined her head slightly as if in dismissal, portraying their master servant relationship. Her departure is also emotionless, conveying how she doesn’t have anything to smile about in her life, her
perspective on life becomes more of a business oriented and we see her as a person who really does not have much time for fun and uptight. Her influence to reserve a
compartment to herself, the mentioning of all the tickets that she used money to attain gives me a perspective that she thinks that money can buy her anything that she needs and the fact that she is short sighted in reality may be a connotation of that
she cannot see beyond this concept of her perspective on life.
It is ironical that Mrs Hansen needs medication to make her sleep and for that feeling of pressure on her head, conveying that part of her needs for comfort thrive on
artificial means to be attained, it becomes more ironical when young people ask her whether she had been an actor suggesting that the way she has been leading a false life, a façade, not true to her self, leading her to the loneliness she feels in the present day. So with her introduction before her encounter Mrs Hansen is conveyed as a woman with
what we can call casual perspectives upon life, with no sense of true emotion or joy, strictly business minded, independent and used to the respect that money gives her.
Her journey in the train I think is not just a journey from Cape Town to Johannesburg but also a journey to the re-discovery of her true self. The other old woman serves as a
contrast to Mrs Hansen. When we first see her in contrast to Mrs Hansen when she is nervous before the train departs and we see Mrs Hansen calmly giving instructions to Alfred. Unlike Mrs Hansen who is known to have been beautiful, she is fat and not attractive. She would like to have tea in the dining car unlike Mrs Hansen who prefers
to ha her tea brought to her in her room. Being in contrast with Mrs Hansen she stands as similarly what Mrs Hansen would have been like if she let her true self out. “Alone
she stood a moment in secretive privacy, where everything swayed and veered in obedience to the gait of the train.” It’s within this statement that her life I think begins to be projected within its true sense. Being alone and lonely has become the story of her life as we see further down the story she repeats inside herself’ “alone.” It is within this part of the story when she actually begins to have a self realisation of how she has led her life. She finds herself sitting down dumped out of the way chastising her, referring to herself as an “old fool.” This is the first time we see her giving her own direct
perspective of herself, “seeming on enemy to her real self.” She begins to describe her self and how she has “outwitted” her true self and describes this process of outwitting as a “struggle.” It becomes clear that her own realisation of what she has been doing is actually due to her encounter with her past.
When she sits down to read her newspaper from Switzerland, it is an illustration of her money oriented life, ironically her encounter perpetuates. Her encounter takes her back to the time when she was twelve when she was feeling exhilarated something we do not see in her present times. The locket with her grandfather’s picture being held tight in her hand conveys her dependence upon it, upon someone else, it also conveys her attempt to hold on to who she truly is or was. It conveys her emotional need for someone who is likely to have brought her joy in the past and who removed her feeling of loneliness.
She begins to see herself from a perspective of someone who also has emotion but I think still has some constraints in allowing herself to think that way again, as I think she also saw herself as being weak. It is in this encounter that we also see her panic and also losing control over some aspect of her life which her current character does not portray. I think her encounter reminds her how much of an ordinary person she is and has emotion as the ordinary man, something that money cannot buy her out of. It is here where she realises how her current character has consumed her leaving her trapped in a dead life, with its most sound reality being loneliness. “…before she had lived the journey that took her from a lover…”, she sees the way she has lived her life as a journey moving away from a life without loneliness and the journey becomes more vivid to her as she says “…even old fool could not blur the distinction of that.” Even though she doesn’t enjoy being lonely she also sees the advantage to it and actually finds in a way a shield against being hurt, “…she felt again aloneness as the carapace that did not shut her off but shielded her strong sense of survival…”
Even though she realises her need for fulfilment and need to share with someone she also learns to appreciate in a sense who she has become and the way she has come to live as she goes back to read her newspaper from Switzerland. Mrs Hansen having dinner with the other woman I think serves as teach her more about herself and though we see her more or less leading her life as before she seems to be more open with the lady and some of her traits such as keeping to herself are actually put aside. She actually discusses her past relationships with the lady, hence coming to terms with the realities of her life. It was ironic when the other woman became envious of Mrs Hansen, as in the beginning she is not a character that you can get to know the way this lady has got to know her. We see Mrs Hansen coming to terms with who she is more and more and the other lady goes as far as saying “I might have met someone really congenial”, someone of similar characteristics. When the train stopped I found it to be used in contrast with Mrs Hansen who at the time found herself in between two lives and the way she could choose to live. The title “Elderly woman found dead…” is in my eyes not a complete dying of the
character that she had become and accepting who she is, as one could put it against “IT WAS NOT ME.” I think both these statements are powerful and convey what has happened to Mrs Hansen. I think she has come to partly accept who she is and who she has become and is in my eyes a bit of both characters and sees herself as a new person all together as she is not sad when she leaves the station and actually thinks of Alfred by sending him that message, something I don’t think she would have done if her encounter had not occurred.
To be recognize is to know something or someone who you have known or seen before, and we see how the leading character within recognition seeking recognition for her past and how she recognizes some past issues within the present times, which becomes the catalyst to her encounter. With in the first few lines we immediately get the sense that she does not want to be forgotten nor the achievements of Kobus in the past even though his time of rule was during apartheid times and was enforcing white colonialist rule in South Africa. She still sees the significance of his rule as Prime Minister as relevant not just in the past but also in the present day, “…whether people are pleased about it or fighting against it, that is where their energies lie.” She acknowledges that she is an “old lady” but she fails to see that her husbands rule in time has come and gone and has now become too old for people to keep dwelling in the past. “…still part of me does not want to be forgotten…I have a responsibility towards Kobus’s memory.” I think she wouldn’t want to be forgotten not just as a responsibility towards Kobus but also
because of her own lust for fame and her own recognition. She is suspicious of things that are new because it is those things that will replace the past.
She still finds it partly her responsibility to attend political rallies of the party the Kobus was a part of with the view that they still cherish what he fought for, which to some degree I find is ironical as if she still wanted recognition she would have also shown some way of moving on with the times, instead of wanting people to perpetuate the appreciation of apartheid, a time of oppression, with which its values are not a popular way of living in the South Africa today. She attends the party because of its name and
not because of the values it now represents, values that her husband would not have approved of, conveying her loss of recognition not just within the general public
but the general public but also the party, the once solid ground to enact the values of apartheid, the values of her husband. Due to her constant repeating of that she does not want to lose recognition because she would like her husband to be remembered removes the thought of her being racial and enforces on more the thought of fame. She further expresses that she is not a political person and that she would have been content if Kobus had stayed a lawyer, which conveys the way she thinks what the position of woman in a relationship with her husband is, being that of support to their husband and clearly beneath their husband and genders not being equal. She does not enjoy competition but she realises that is what the only way that one would be recognised and so supported her husband through politics. “I have become strangely jealous of my own
life” she remembers the times in which her husband had great recognition but also lusts for her own recognition and that is why she feels jealous of herself and her past life. In a way she still thinks highly of herself and that is why we see her boggling herself of the contents of the letter and all her ideas being of that that aid the recognition of not just her husband but herself as well. “I do not say this because I expect praise or gratitude”, it is ironical that she even mentions this because the only way to be
recognized by people in a good light, which I think is what she wants is through praise of your accomplishment.
The way she is constantly expecting a political invite and now astonished that she had been so isolated among the politics today conveys how little confidence she has in her
accomplishment to be recognised, she further goes on to say that she was distrustful conveying how she does not find much fulfilment in the means to attain recognition but would still want to have it anyway. This illustrates the degree that she is willing to go to represent her husband also conveying to some degree her love for him. “He taught
me more as a father teaches his child than a man teaches his wife.”, she was also accepting to the way he viewed her as a child and not as an equal and the reason that this was so is because I feel she also viewed herself as one towards him.
Magdalena serves as a contrast to Kobus’s wife we see differences in them but as the story perpetuates we see them as having similar characteristics though Kobus’s wife is
more in control of herself and doesn’t do exactly what she wants to do which is similar to Magdalena in order to maintain an image respectable by all people and very dignified. She describes how “Magdalena always loved feeling important” which is ironical because her seeking of recognition and not being forgotten comes with an element of feeling important, “The President was recognising our importance”, especially as she tell us
of how her husband was an important part of the way the youth lives their lives today, and so we may see them as being similar as they both have a need to feel important,
she also describes this need as one of Magdalena’s failings, its ironical because it may in my opinion be applicable to her also. She sees herself as a good role model for other women further conveying how she sees her self as a good wife and a person of influence in the past. A contrast between Magdalena and Kobus’s wife is shown again through the way they greet the President and they speak to him when he comes around the table with
Kobus’s wife wanting to say more to the President unlike Magdalena who seems to express herself fully thus conveying a difference in them through their action but a similarity in the things they want to do.
She remains reserved in order to keep an image of being very dignified and not losing sight of that she is there in order to represent her husband and his values. Her
description of the bad relationships with the other widows conveys the way she still sees the past as very much of influence upon her social interacting with other people, and unlike Magdalena who seems to have moved on from the past and is why she knows more about politics of the current times.
In her encounter with her house having changed so much and nothing of what she had put up is remaining I think opens her eyes to the fact that times and values are changing including parts of her, that she cannot completely dwell in past, and that it is tradition that times will and always do change, “In a strange way, the sight of this redecorated room affected me more than all other changes…” The luncheon I think became a struggle for her to maintain her appearance and a place to hold on to some of the views she has about current times in comparison to past time, basic views of herself. The changing of the room and her encounter with past faces and colleagues changed her view of herself as one who stands for political values and saw the gathering as more of a time of reconciliation and creating a new South Africa in the sense of peaceful racial interaction, “…some of us bitter foes in the past, and showing the country that such things were possible.” There is a definite irony in the sense that she her encounter with her past through the gathering brings her to terms with the present unlike before and she actually attains I think more recognition in present times with because of the broken racial barriers, hence her past providing her with a way of recognition in the present, “He brought us together so that we can make peace with the past and recognise our common humanity.” The black woman sitting next to her I think also serves as a contrast to her as well as they had reason to both live in the past, both seem to be representing their husbands and both seem to be coming to terms with it but not forgetting it because it makes a great part of their life “I came to make sure no one is
going to take the past away from me.” I think in the end of the story the character still lives her life cherishing what has happened in the past especially after the recognition that she was in seek of, she has attained but I think she would be less
jealous of the way she lived in the past but live in sight of it. She does not seem to have changed the view of herself as her husband’s representative and maintaining his
image but has I think got some satisfaction through recognition and has come to terms with her past in the present day.
In both ‘Enemies’ and ‘Recognition’ the leading characters find their encounters with their past as being of influence to some of their changes in character. In both stories
both characters are faced with a contrast in which they have similarities and become more accepting to the way they lead their lives.
Both stories have an ambiguous ending it is left to us to draw some sort of conclusion on how the character is going to lead their life after their encounter. I do not think there is a complete change in the perspectives of the characters but it is evident that they lose some of their perspectives of themselves and attain new perspectives from their encounters, especially when it comes to coming to terms with their past and accept who they have become without losing sight of who they were and actually living in
appreciation of their past.