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A Study of the Progression of friendship and its dramatic and political purpose in Athol Fugard's The Island.

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World Literature A Study of the Progression of friendship and its dramatic and political purpose in Athol Fugard's The Island The Island is a story portraying the mental journey of two inmates of the notorious Robben Island jail in South Africa. Robben Island is a island off the coast of south Africa, were there is a jail. During the time of the apartheid, when this play was set, it housed the so-called political prisoners of the time including, the most famous of all of them, Nelson Mandela who was imprisoned for over 30 years. The two inmates have been imprisoned for burning their passbooks in protest to the regime forced upon them. These passbooks were little books that essentially said where they could go and what they could do. In this essay I aim to analyse the friendship, and how it progresses, between the two inmates John and Winston and also how Fugard uses this relationship for dramatic and political purposes. In this play we are presented with two people, Winston and John, who are sharing the same hardships and suffering equally under them. From this alone it is safe to assume that they would not last long under these conditions unless they were both supportive to each other. In the opening scene John and Winston are working away, each is digging a hole in the sand and placing what has been dug ...read more.


The story takes an interesting twist when we learn that the two have been planning a performance of Antigone for a concert in the prison. We witness more tension when it becomes apparent that Winston is not that interested in learning the plot. When asked whether Antigone pleads guilty or not, he answers not guilty. John then reprimands him, but Winston repeats that she is not guilty. Winston then explodes saying, 'To hell with the play! Antigone had every right to bury her brother.' From this it is obvious that the theme and plot of Antigone have affected him greatly. Fugard uses the argument to show us that Winston is still passionate about the cause of his imprisonment; he was fighting against the state for a just cause. Antigone was imprisoned for the same reason; she went against the state and buried her brother to appease the Gods. This is the dignity that he regains at the end In a later scene Winston tries on the costume for Antigone. John then does a send-up of Winston's Antigone, which again leaves Winston enraged. John then shows him that everyone will know it is him under the costume. This helps but only for a short while. Winston remains angry and the verbal fight continues only to be interrupted by Hodoshe's entrance. ...read more.


The play ends with the performance of Antigone, and also with Winston's realisation of the nobility of the cause he and John have fought for, they have laid down their lives in the pursuit of a greater future for all, a truly unselfish act. He tells John to forget him as he will do the same, it is this acceptance and inner-peace that is Winston's redeeming quality both for us the readers, and for John. Fugard portrays that human nature has good qualities and that friendship is so strong a bond that these qualities can be preserved and are always present. At the end of their performance they mime being chained together and jog off the stage, friendship intact once again. This performance has, for Winston, put his dignity and nobility back in place instead of the jealousy and resentment he showed before. The parallels between the political and personal situation here are great, as we see how the struggle of friendship in intense situation emulates political struggles. Both John and Winston are imprisoned for the cause and they regret it at times yet they persevere and do not give up, earlier they talk about another inmate called, 'Old Harry', who has lost all hope and sense of who he is. Old Harry became a simple drone, doing the tasks set by the prison warders with such perfection as they were the only things that meant anything to him. ...read more.

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