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Personal Reading Study - "Cry Freedom" by John Briley

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Personal Reading Study - "Cry Freedom" by John Briley Q: Choose a novel in which a relationship between two different characters is developed. Show how the developing relationship between Steve Biko and Donald Woods explores the theme of racism and how the novel portrays the effects of racism in South African society. In your answer you must refer closely to the text and to the themes explored, characterisation and Key incidents. "And towards that day, when the isolation that creates hostility becomes the closeness that permits friendship, let us join in the song of South Africa..." As the above quotation suggests 'Cry Freedom' by John Briley, is a fascinating study of the real life relationship between Donald Woods and Steve Biko. The author employs a variety of literary techniques to demonstrate how two very different men with disparate lifestyles become close, and how their relationship develops under complex circumstances. In my essay I will show how the relationship between Steve Biko and Donald Woods develops and I will also explore the portrayal of the theme of racism and the effects it has on the society in which it exists. Briley portrays this through his characterisation, the themes explored and the key incidents throughout the novel. John Briley has successfully engaged my interest in the developing relationship between the two protagonists. Before their first meeting I believe that Donald Woods was not very sure of what he thought of blacks in South Africa and how much freedom they should be allowed to have. It seems to me that Donald Woods, as a white liberal and an editor contradicted himself many times. ...read more.


So far, I had only looked at his funny side. As I have already said, it seemed to me that he always made a joke out of things and looked towards the bright side and I feel, as a reader, that nobody really knew his true colours and how he felt until this quotation. As the novel progresses and the relationship between Steve Biko and Donald Woods is developing, John Briley begins to explore the themes of racism and friendship. Racism, which is one of the themes, is fully explored by the author in a number of ways. In the beginning of the book when Biko and Woods meet for the first time, racism is brought up as an issue as Donald Woods says, "I attacked you for being racist." Here we can see that Donald Woods is accusing Steve Biko of being racist, which to me seems unrealistic, as in my opinion Steve Biko can not be racist. As the novel progresses further and Biko and Woods friendship is developed even more, Biko takes Woods to a black township to illustrate the lives of the blacks and to show how they faced their everyday hardships. As they are sitting in the Shebeen Queens house, Biko, Woods, Tenjy, John and Mapetla get into a conversation which later spirals into an argument about racism. Here Woods is faced with Mapetla who has firm beliefs of what she believes is fair. Woods argues with Mapetla that Blacks cannot go back into history as the 20th century is marching on, for all of them - black and white. ...read more.


Another technique, which is key in the novel, is Woods' reaction to Biko's death. After Biko dies we are able to see just how much their friendship had developed. In the beginning Woods did not approve of Biko's ideas and beliefs. Donald Woods believed that Steve Biko was building a wall of black hatred, and if anyone ought to be banned, it was Steve Biko, but when Woods hears of Biko's death, it is explained as though he had never had such thoughts, "At first he didn't believe it. Biko was too big a name - he was too prominently associated with non - violence." The key part of this quotation is the fact that Woods is now saying Biko was too involved with 'non-violence' to be a target of such hatred. Woods has changed his opinion of Biko and does not think him threatening. This is a key incident as this is when the absolute trust is shown between the two protagonists, the theme of friendship is fully explored and the relationship is fully developed. Therefore, the novel 'Cry Freedom' by John Briley is a fascinating study of the real life relationship between Donald Woods and Steve Biko. Briley helps me to explore the portrayal of the theme of racism and the effects it had on South African society through his use of thought provoking characterisation, point turning key incidents and fully exploring the related themes of racism and friendship. The use of these techniques has helped me to understand the relationship between the protagonists and enabled me to visualise the devastating effects racism can have on individuals. ...read more.

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