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Athol Fugard and race relations : social dynamics under apartheid Dei, Ernest Cobena


South African society operates a highly exploitative and repressive system that uses race to define relations of power and dependence to ensure the supremacy of its white citizens at the expense of non-whites. The major focus of this study will be to explore the impact of the apartheid policies on individual citizens and race-relations in South Africa as portrayed in three of the plays of Athol Fugard. Chapter One, as an introduction, will survey the various legislation Fugard alludes to in some of his plays which ensure racial segregation and oppression and serve as the foundation of apartheid. Chapter Two will look at the impact of the society's obsession with race or skin colour, and its use of it to categorise and control the people as presented in The Blood Knot. In Chapter Three, the restrictions on mobility and human contact, the depravity of the dispossessed, their sense of insecurity, and how they attempt to cope with the absurdity of their existence as exploited victims of apartheid (as evidenced in Boesman and Lena) will be discussed. The relationship between blacks and whites is handled by Fugard in his most autobiographical play "Master Harold" ... and the boys. Chapter Four looks at this play, focusing on how a little white boy under the pressures of personal insecurity draws upon racism in his desire to have a sense of himself but ends up jeopardising the otherwise intimate relationship he enjoys with a black man. In all the plays of Fugard, brotherhood or the affirmation of the bond of oneness among the characters who are in extreme intimate relationships, is continually contested by the imposition of society's racist ideology that undermines the relationships. We also see that Fugard condemns and defuses violence, but carefully shows its inevitability if the status-quo continues. His ultimate concern is the universal human plight that results from man’s inhumanity towards man rather than the particulars of the South African system. His plays examine fundamental truths of existence that are not limited to a single society: man's isolation, his lonely search for warmth, his need to affirm his identity, dignity and existence in a hostile world. Showing how survival in the world of apartheid is made nearly an impossibility, the plays of Athol Fugard are a tribute to the indomitability of the human spirit to survive the dehumanizing impact of this crime against humanity. In the Conclusion, I explore how Fugard advocates for racial harmony. A study of his plays shows that social and political change grow from individual action as the problem of apartheid is man-made. He suggests as a solution to the problem of racism a change in individual attitudes by calling for tolerance and brotherhood among all races, with the realization that all men are equal regardless of race or skin-colour. In examining human relationships and human survival, the plays of Athol Fugard are a contribution to the field of modern drama in the effort to effect social change.

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