Perspectives On Colonialism (A Study Of Alex La Guma’s “A Walk In The Night” And R.K Narayan’s “A Horse And Two Goats”)

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Perspectives On Colonialism (A Study Of Alex La Guma’s “A Walk In The Night” And R.K Narayan’s “A Horse And Two Goats”)


The spread of colonial empire was introduced in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries by the American Revolutionary war and the Latin American wars of independence. Colonialism is “the policy of acquiring and maintaining colonies, especially for exploitation”. Colonialism therefore will be examined in Alex La Guma’s “A Walk in the Night” and R.K Narayan’s “A Horse and Two Goats”. They both showcase the ailments of colonialism in their respective works. Apartheid in South Africa has perpetrated on the lives of South Africans and perhaps death of a character in La Guma’s “A Walk in the Night”, due to ‘racism’. For clearer understanding of this study, it is pertinent that the concept ‘race’ and ‘oppression’ be defined. ‘race’ is “any major biological division of mankind, distinguished by colour and texture of hair, colour of skin and eye stature”. Oppression- “is the act of oppressing, the imposition of unreasonable burdens, either in taxes, services, excessing rigorous government severity”. ‘Racial oppression’- “the severity or misery imposed on a particular people with the same biological features by another group or specie of mankind”. Therefore, colonialism will be examine in South Africa’s apartheid regime, how South Africans were treated and La Guma tells how a character (Willieboy) his killed unlawfully in “A Walk in the Night”. Also how Narayan showcases instances of colonialism in “A Horse and Two Goats”. Really, colonialism has caused Africans so many problems, which some of these generate till date. The means to stop this phenomenon occurrence is for Africans to live in unity.


Table of contents


1.1 Background of the study

1.2. Introduction

1.2.1. History of colonialism

1.2.2. Definition of colonialism

Race` Oppression Racial Oppression

1.1.4. Indirect rule

1.2 Aims and Objectives

1.3 Scope and limitation

1.4 Justification

1.5 End Note of study.


Literature review

2.1 Narayan Review

2.1.1 Malgudi

2.1.2 Critical reception

2.2 La Guma Review


Literary analysis of Alex La Guma’s “A Walk in the Night” and R.K Narayan’s “A Horse and Two Goats”.



Racial Oppression

3.3.2 Racial discrimination

3.3.3 Racial violence

3.4 Characterization

3.4.1 Michael Adonis

3.4.2 Willieboy

3.4.3 Uncle Doughty

3.4.4 Police Constable Raalt

3.4.5 Joe

3.4.6 Andries

3.5 Setting

3.6 Point of View

3.7 Conclusion


Literary analysis of R.K Narayan’s “A Horse and two Goats”.




Culture clash

Wealth and poverty


The man (American)


The wife

The Shopman


Point of view





Comparative work of Alex La Guma’s “A Walk in the Night” and R.K. Narayan’s “A Horse and two Goats”.




Perspectives on colonialism in Alex La Guma’s “A Walk in the Night” and R.K Narayan’s “A Horse and Two Goats”.


History of Colonialism.

[The word ‘colony’ comes from the Latin colonial a place for agriculture:] colonialism has a long history. In antiquity, the Egyptians, Phoenicians, Greeks and Romans all built colonies.

Modern colonialism started with the Age of Discovery (15th Century). Portugal and Spain discovered new lands across the oceans and built trading posts. For some people, it is this building of colonies across the ocean that differentiates colonialism from other type of expansionism. These new lands were divided between the seventeenth century in Spain and made the creation of the British Empire, French Colonial Empire and the Dutch Empire. It also saw the establishment of some Swedish overseas colonies and a Danish Colonial Empire.

The spread of colonial empire was reduced in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries by the American Revolutionary war and the Latin American wars of independence. However, many new colonies were established after this time (late nineteenth century), including for instance, the German colonial Empire and Belgian Empire. In the late nineteenth century, many European powers were involved in the scramble for Africa. The Russian Empire and Ottoman Empire existed at the same time as the above empires, but are often not considered colonial, because they did not expand traditional route of conquest of neighbouring territories. There was, though, some Russians colonization of the Amerians across the slave trade.

Slavery has existed to varying extents, in different forms and at periods in almost all cultures and continents. Between the 7th and 20th centuries.Arab Slave trade (also known as slavery in the East) took approximately 18 millions slave from Africa, via Trans- Saharan and Indian Ocean routes. Between the 15th and the 19th centuries, the Atlantic slave trade took up till 12 million slaves to the new world. From 1654 untill 1865; slavery for life was legal within the bound of the present United States. According to the 1860 U.S census, nearly four million slaves were held in a total population of just over 12 million in the 15th states in which slavery was legal. Of all 1,515 605 families in the 15 slaves states, 393,967 held slaves (roughly one in four), amounting 8% of all America families.

In 1807, the United Kingdom becomes one of the first nations to end its own participation in the slave trade.

Furthermore, between 1808 and 1860, the British West Africa squadron seized approximately 1,600 slave ships and freed 150,000 Africans who were aboard. This was done to sweep the African and American seas of the atrocious commerce with which they were the infested. Action was also taken against African leader. Who refused to agree to British treaties to outlaw the trader, for example against the usurping king of Lagos deposed in 1851.Anti-slavery treaties were signed with over 50 African rulers. In 1827, British declared the slave trade privacy, punishment habit. The Empire of Japan modelled itself on European colonial Empires. The united state of American gained overseas territories after the Spanish – America war and the term ‘American Empire’ transit to colonialism was coined.

1.2.2. Definitions of colonialism.

Collins English Dictionary defines colonialism as “the policy of acquiring and maintaining colonies, especially for exploitation”1.

The Merriam – Webster Dictionary says it is “something characteristic of a colony and by one power over a dependent area or people”2. In the Osterhammel’s book, he asks “How can colonialism be defined independently from colony?”3. He determined this on a three-sentence definition.

“Colonialism is a relationship between an indigenous majority and a minority of foreign invaders. The fundamental decisions affecting the lives of the colonized people are made and implemented by the colonial rulers in pursuit of interests that are often defined in a distant metropolis. Rejecting cultural compromises with the colonized population. The colonizers are convinced of their own superiority and their ordained mandate to rule”4.

Meanwhile, this study will examine perspectives in La Guma’s “A Walk in the Night” and R.K Narayan’s “A Horse and Two Goats.” These authors treat colonialism in their stories but focus on different aspects of the subject. South Africa’s social; setting before the independence was based on the apartheid ideology, which perpetrated denial of human rights to the black majority. In early 1940s, there were indications of apartheid that led to oppression and racism. On 6th April, 1952, Jan Van Rieback arrived Table Bay and founded the first European settlement on the Cape. He was able to establish friendly relation with the Nomadic natives but cattle business continually threatened the relationship. There was a revolt by the natives against the European, as a result of the case of cattle business in 1959. Thereafter, Rieback planted “a wild almond edge as a boundary beyond which no Hottlemind was supposed to go.”5 Peterson. W. (1975, p1). This was the very first barrier against South Africa and the first attempt at the policy of segregation and racism. In South Africa three million whites had settled and there were physical barriers between them and the blacks in every area of life. Those two racial communities developed reflexes in response to each other’s presence. Right from the outset, racial oppression had manifested itself in various ways and remained the official policy in South Africa ever since.

La Guma, a writer and political activist, was born in the apartheid era to a ‘coloured’ (mixed – raced) family in Cape Town in 1925. His parent were active in left wing politics and the labour movement, and la Guma grew- up conscious of the political and socio – economic implications of South Africa’s separated policies. He did not begin writing fiction until after he turned thirty. He wrote five novels over a dozen short stories and many political essays. He was repeatedly harassed by South Africa government as a result of his political activities and emigrated to England in 1966. Most of his work, fiction and non – fiction deals with South Africa subjects, focusing on the conflict between the races. Throughout his work, he stresses the importance of collective action and the need to care for others. In his first novella, “A Walk in the Night” (1962), La Guma describes the political and social existence of the ‘coloured’ people of the District Six slum in Cape Town. He examines the life of the district through the actions of four characters during the course of one. One night. He focuses on the decay and despair of the slum whose residents are frequently too absorbed by their own miserable state of react to it, and this suffer alone. In doing so, he explores. The connection between rights and responsibilities through the unfolding of his characters’ decision and actions.

In the fog of the Season’s End (1972), this most autobiographical novel, La Guma describes the South African struggle through characters who are involved in political resistance, unlike the lonely victims of his earlier works. [Although, the main characters have reclined the conclusion that collective actions is essential to solving the problems of South Africa’s system] the author uses flash – backs to reveal the squalor and despair which are the sources of the political movement. The characters overcome the isolation and disconnectedness which plaque the subject in his earlier works in order to work together towards their good.

Throughout his fictional writings about South Africa, La Guma explores the tension between human rights and social responsibility against the backdrop of the nation separatist policies. The moral development of his characters is closely tied to their potential to improve their country’s future.

Racial oppression and violence virtually permeates the pages of most literary writing on South Africa, from pioneer writings like Williams pioneer’s Turbot Woolfe, to modern writing like Alan Paton’s ‘city’ “ the beloved country”, Peter Abraham’s Mine boy and Tell Freedom, Alex La Guma’s “A Walk in the Night” and levis Nwosu’s Home and Exile.’

“No writer writes in a vacuum”, every writer writes within the scope of human experience medowell, E. (1982, p.34). Racial oppression informs the writings of South Africans and La Guma’s writings illustrate apartheid as practised in South Africa, the policy of strict racial segregation and discrimination against the native negroes. African writer were then compelled to protect against such political injustice the South African regime operated.

For clearer understanding of this study, it is pertinent that this concept ‘race’ which is the noun form of the adjective ‘racial’ be defined. There is also the need to define ‘oppression,’ in order to understand fully what racial oppression really is.

Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary states that “any major biological division of mankind, distinguished by colour and texture of hair, colour of skin and eyes stature.” The dictionary added such term as the Caucasian (loosely white race) negroid (loosely, black race) and mongoloid (loosely, yellow race).by extension, therefore, ‘racial’ mean, of or pertaining to race, family or descent of or pertaining to the races of mankind”.6

Oppression as defined in Webster’s unabridged Dictionary is the act of oppressing, the imposition of unreasonable burdens, either in taxes service, excessing rigorous government, severity.”

Racial Oppression.
This would mean, in essence, “the severity or misery imposed on a particular group of people with the same biological features by another group or specie of mankind”. Racial oppression occurs as result of racism, that is, the belief that racism is wile spread and has caused major problems. The whites who hold that they are superior justify discrimination, segregation, colonialism, slavery and genocide (mass murder).7 Watts Jane (1989, p.243). In the South Africa’s experience, the word used to describe this human injustice is ‘apartheid’. Apartheid is South Africa’s economic, political and social system which is based on race. It is buttressed by a complex legal structure, security system and theology that consolidate South Africa’s wealth, power and privilege in the hands of a white minority. Its social impact makes apartheid one of the most pervasive and oppressive system the world has known, because it disfigures humans spiritually as well physically, the oppressors as well as the oppressed.

Apartheid was a new word, coined for the 1948 election campaign as a short way of referring to a whole package of legislation; the Afrikaner Nationalists promised would be introduced, if they came to power. It meant apartness, separateness, a promise to promote white privilege, remove all civil rights from blacks and segregate all South African’s public amenities.

(R.K. Narayan was born in Madras, Indian). He was born 1906. He is one of the best – known of Indo – English writers. He created the imaginary town of Malgudi, where realistic characters in a typically Indian setting lived amid unpredictable events. His father, an educator, traveled frequently. His grandmother inspired in young Narayan a passion for language and for people. He attended the Christian Mission School, where he said he learned to love the Hindu gods simply because the Christian chaplain ridiculed them. Narayan graduated from Maliaraja’s college in Mysore in 1930. In 1934, he was married, but his wife, Rajan died of typhoid in 1939. He had one daughter, Hena. He never remarried [After short, uninspiring stints as a teacher in editorial assistant, and a newspaperman.]

Narayan wrote his first novel, Swami and friends,in 1935. In it, he invented the small South Indian City of Malgudi, a literary microcosm that critics later compared to William Faulkner’s ‘Yoknapatawpha Country’. More than a dozen novels and many short stories that followed were set in Malgudi. Narayan’s second novel, Bachelor of Arts (1939), marked the beginning of his reputation in England, where the novelist Graham Greene was largely responsible for getting it published in 1945. It is partly autobiographical, concerning a teacher’s struggle to cope with the death of his wife. In 1953, Michigan State University published it under the title Grateful to Life and Death, along with his novel The Financial Expert.

At least, two of Narayan’s novels Mr. Sampath (1949) and The Child (1958), were adapted for the movies. Narayan usually wrote for an hour or two a day, composing fast, often writing as many as 2,000 words and seldom correcting or re-writing. Narayan explores Indian socio-political situation during the colonial era. The need arises to discuss colonial India, therefore arises in other to understand Narayan’s Portrayal of the landscape in his work.

Indirect rule.
The largest application of indirect rule was in British, Asia in hundreds of pre-colonial states, first under the HEIC (mainly the Indian subcontinent and Burma, but also in strategic regions on the route there to, mainly coastal Persian Gulf States) later in the succeeding crown colonies and protectorates. Typically, a British Governor and council of advisors made law for each colony, but local ruler loyal to the Governor kept some of their traditional authorities.

Indirect rule was particularly effective for enabling the British to exploit natural resources and raw materials of vast surbordinate nations, and to establish bases for stationing military in strategic points throughout the globe.

The ideology underpinning, as well as the practical application of indirect rule in European Colonialism is usually traced to the work of Fredrick Lugard the High Commissioner of the protectorate of Northern Nigeria from 1899 to 1906. In the lands of the Sokoto Caliphate, conquered by the British Empire at the turn of the century, Lugard instituted a system whereby external, military and tax control was operated by the British, while other aspects of life was left to local pre-colonial aristocracies who had sided with the British during their conquest. The theory behind this solution to a very practical problem of domination by a tiny group of foreigners of huge population is laid out in Lugard’s influential work. This war the most famous of Lugard’s work regarding indirect rule in colonial Africa. In it, Lugard outlines the reasons and methods that should be employed in the colonization of Africa by British. Some of his justification included: spreading Christianity and ending ‘barbarism.’ he also saw state sponsored colonization as a way to protect missionaries, local chiefs and local people from each other as well as from foreign powers. For Lugard it was vital that Britain gain control of unclaimed areas before Germany, Portugal or France claimed the land and its resources for themselves. He realized that there were vast profits to be made, through the exporting of resources like rubber and through taxation of native populations, as well as profits by British importers and exporters. These resource and inexpensive native labour (slavery having been outlawed by British in 1834) would provide vital fuel for the industrial revolution in resource depleted Britain, as well as monies for public works, projects and markets for surplus production of British industries finished goods. Finally, Lugard reasoned that colonization had became a fad and that in order to remain super – power, Britain would need to hold colonies in order to avoid appearing weak. Lugard pushed for native administration in African colonies. He reasoned that black Africans were inherently different from white European. Therefore, African appointed officials should act as a sort of middle manager in colonial governance. This would avoid revolt because, as Lugard believed, the people of Africa would be more likely to follow someone who looked like them, spoke their language and shared their customs. The technique was employed successfully by European colonial leaders. From these we can now have our full and understandable meaning of what indirect rule is. Indirect rule is therefore, a system of administration which the British colonial government adopted as its colonial policy in dealing with the people by using the traditional rulers, the traditional political institutions – administration, cultural and judicial structures as intermediaries, while the British officials mainly advised and where necessary, enforced colonial regulations.

Colonialism therefore, in a great deal, caused political economic and social havoc. In other hand, it improves us in goods it has done.

This study primarily aims at examining different perspectives of colonialism treated in “A Walk in the Night” and “A Horse and two Goats” (it will seek to look into the various phases of racial oppression, in La Guma’s piece. It will examine how brutally racial oppression. Perpetrated and infringed on the lives of South Africans, which in-turn led to frustration and death).

Also R.K. Narayan’s “A Horse and two Goats.” Narayan, an Indo-English writer’s side of colonialism will also be examined in this study. How blacks and whites relate with each other, make friends and transact business. (negotiate on commodities). The form of colonialism in Narayan’s piece is different from that in La Guma and that is the main reason, this study is much concerned with the perspectives on colonialism, as the topic implies. At the same times, this study will be highlighting the contributions of Alex La Guma towards the struggle for racial identity and equality, and how La Guma has been able to dialectically profer solution to the problems of apartheid in South Africa. This study will as well examine R.K. Narayan’s perspectives on colonialism, how a white man and a black man relate to one another in the Indian society. In Narayan’s work (“A Horse and two Goats”), there is a major theme which is poverty leads to misunderstanding.

The story, lives from the growing gap between the two protagonists (Muni and the white man). The language problem is treated as if was really no problems at all, even though, the two communicate only through body language and by following their assumption-which creates a comic effect. When the American takes out money, Muni gather that he wants to buy the horse – stature, but takes this to mean historic and religious interest- the horse is a religious object and totally out of the sphere of things that might be for sale. However, it is Muni poverty life that makes him gathers that, the American wants the horse-stature. So, fun is made of the ignorant Western people who do not know about the mythology or religion or history of India. The story shows the ignorant of the Western world towards other cultures. We only get to know what the characters think because of the omniscient Narrator. (Western materialism mindedness contradicts Indian spiritual mindedness).


This study will be limited to (only colonialism, which will equally be examining some vices like racial oppression, apartheid, frustration and death of the innocent in the case of South Africa, using selected novel). La Guma’s “A Walk in the Night” and R.K. Narayan’s “A Horse and Goats”, and the various manifestation of colonialism in the two stories.


Colonialism is defined as imposition of a culture over another, backed-up by expansionist and economic adventurism. European, capitalist countries. Established political, economic, military and cultural hegemony over other parts of the world which were not technological strong and therefore could not resist domination.

Originally, it was the idea of protesting a market for industry at home, to the idea of created a new protected market for industry by seizing colonies abroad; this was so in the late 19th century. There is no doubt that the problem of apartheid in South Africa would have attracted the the interest of researchers in time past. However, none has explicitly examined the pre-occupation of La Guma with colonialism in relation to Narayan’s treatment of same. An example of a similar research is “the concept of violence and racism” in the novel (“A Walk in the Night”) and that Peter Abraham. Here, the researcher says that violence is the end resort to the struggle against apartheid. Another similar work is, ‘apartheid’ in South Africa, a study of peter Abraham’s Mine Boy and Lewis Nkosi’s Home and Exile. This research work discusses the general atmosphere of ‘apartheid’ in South Africa and the way the people lived with it. This study is different from others, as it specifically discusses the issues attached to ‘colonialism’.

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