FISH OUT OF WATER
FLORENCE KHOLIWE SEDIKANE
Fish out of water
Ivan Vladislavic is a South African born writer. He first published this short story “Courage” in the year 1996, two years after the new political party was put in place and democracy evolved (Vladislavic, 1996). In this essay I seek to critically examine the characteristics of My Old Becker, a man who arrives in a black community and is alienated because of his white skin colour. I argue about how his way of dressing, his behaviour and how other characters in the story portray him contribute to express the theme expectation versus reality. Nikita Koloff (2007) once stated that “your habits determine your character and your character your destiny. Your
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My Old Becker instead portrays the opposite. He is dressed in baggy floral shorts that hang just down to his knees along with shiny yellow boots and thick red socks. His attire is that of a regular man without a job in high authority. The narrator goes on to reveal that he is wearing “a shirt dotted with assegais and shields in the colours of the new ruling party” (Vladislavic, 1996:116) which shows that unlike the people in the village who are busy complaining that the government is not living up to its promise he instead is rather pleased and embracing it. Professor Heidi Kruger (2012:12) describes characterisation as “the process by which an author creates vivid, believable characters in a work of art. This may be done in a variety of ways, including; (1) direct description of the character by the narrator (2) the direct presentation of the speech, thoughts, or actions of the character: and the responses of other characters to the character”. The first description that we get of My Old Becker is that of “a white man with a walking” (Vladislavic, 1996:115) since walking sticks are associated with old age or a disability one would have expected him to be either old or disabled. However as the story progresses and the character of My Old Becker grows the reader realises that he is actually a “youngish man” (Vladislavic, 1996:116) who is very much “able bodied” (Vladislavic, 1996:115).