The Parallelism of the Setting and the Apartheid System: A Coffee for the Road Analysis Paper

by Marjorie

            The dominant emphasis on the story’s setting and the constant obstacles of the road trip reflect how the apartheid system demeans the characters‘cultural identity. The author’s focused description on the environment foreshadows how the road to South Africa can become the desert of inequality. Even on the first paragraph, the author already sets the mood about the conformed environment of that wide, low; semi-desert country because of colonialism. The words used in describing about it such as: depressions, vast, wearily, faint, reluctant, and miserly are just some of the key words which best describe the feelings of the natives and the colored people who live there.  On the later part, the story mentions about the exclusivity of the town for the Whites, regarding the natives as servants, dusty brown children living in the crumbling huts, and the black men wrapped in tattered dusty blankets which blatantly show the damaging effects of racial discrimination. Irony is really present in the story because those African people supposed to own their land; however, the Whites never fail to implement the segregation of race that they want. It is highlighted when the Indian woman is insulted by the mad White woman, which made her throw the thermos on the White woman’s face.

            The story also exhibits their need for shelter (which they didn’t have since only Whites are allowed to rent the city hotels), then food (sandwich), and then for a drink (coffee). These are their basic needs which are selfishly not given to them because of their cultural identity. It just depicts that they already adopted some Western culture such as the influence on their appetite. The education the Indian woman has (that is why she knows how to speak English) never changes the way those White people look at them. For them, the people who don’t belong in their race have no right to adopt the Western practices.

The labels that are also mentioned, like Koolies, Kaffirs and Hottentots are also the blatant racial discrimination of the Whites among those colored people. And even though the description about the woman in smart attire with a car indicates that her family has the means to live, the segregated notion of the White woman hinders their right. Though the story started with hope which depicts the hopeful wife to have a better business with her husband, the ending gives an opposite direction because the White policemen become the block again for the almost finished journey. Nevertheless, the mother remains calm which shows her professionalism and the essence of her strong personality as an Indian woman, a mother, and a wife. The last sentence depicts Zaida’s wish on the coffee again, which only shows that no matter how they try to fit in, they will never get what they want and the equality they needed.

Posted my literary analysis because the goddess/doctor of literature gave me a perfect score. :)