THE moment before the gun went off: Van Der Vyer's true identity

Essay by yvj01 October 2004

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Vladimir jean

In Philosophy the word identity is used to designate a sense of self that develops in the course of a man's life and that both relates him to and sets him apart from his social milieu. To talk about our identity, we try to answer the question, "Who am I?". Identity gives us a location in the world and presents the link between us and the society in which we live. We have different kinds of identity: national identity, social identity, cultural/racial identity, class identity, familial identity, gender identity, sexual identity, etc. Some people say all these identities are formed beyond our control, but I believe this not to be the case. Society, politics, and experiences can greatly influence a person's identity but do not create a person's true identity. A believe a person's identity is under their immediate control. There is a person's true personality and the one they choose to respond to society with.

This is true in the case of Martin Van der Vyver a character of the short story "The Moment Before The Gun Went Off" written by author Nadine Gordimer. "A story set in South Africa during the days of apartheid.

The story takes place in South Africa, on Marais Van Dr Vyver's large farm, presumably in the 80's or 90's. Marais Van der Vyver is a white South African man of Dutch descent, the region Party leader and Commandant of the local security commando. Van der Vyver is married to Alida, but has had a secret affair to a black woman thus resulted in a son, Lucas. Lucas probably does not know that Van der Vyver is his father, or at least we are not told so in the text. Lucas is also one of Van der Vyver's black employees. One day,