The character of Philemon in the short story "The Suit" by Can Themba

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The character of Philemon in the short story "The Suit" by Can Themba

Philemon is dominated by a need to be in direct command of his own environment; in popular terms, he is a "control freak". He is unable to cope with any threat to his version of "the goodness of life." Tilly's affair occurs outside Philemon's self-imposed boundaries and he is not equipped to react to the crisis.

Philemon removes chance from even the most commonplace activities. His shoes and socks are at hand to be picked up as he sneaks out of the bedroom in the early morning. That "he did not like to wake his wife lying by his side" could indicate consideration, but the addition of "- just yet -" to the sentence reveals that he wants time to organise himself to a state where he is most comfortable. A "serene" wife of "pure beauty" is a requirement for his ideal world.

It is unclear whether Tilly is aware of these expectations, but it becomes apparent that she is either unwilling or unable to meet them. This inconsistency ultimately destroys Philemon.

Philemon appears genuinely happy within his idea of heaven as an "even, unperturbed ... passage through days and months and years." While his pursuit of consistency leaves little space for exception, it results in a state of contentment. He hums a tune while he makes the fire and checks his list of things he needs for the day. Philemon's joy in appearing with the breakfast in his "supremest immaculacy" emphasises the stage-management of his existence. This desire for order is carried over to the bus-stop where Philemon is "sorry to see that jovial old Maphikela was in a queue for a bus ahead of him. The use of "daily bulletin" underlines the idea that...