Summary – Chapter Seven
David decides to visit Lucy on her smallholding and sets off now there is ‘little to hold him back’. She has lived there for six years and was there initially as part of a commune. When it broke up, she wanted to stay and farm the land properly and helped her to buy it.
She has been living there with Helen, but when he arrives Lucy tells him Helen has been in Johannesburg since April. He asks if she has been nervous on her own and she says no as she has the dogs and a rifle (which she has never used). He considers it to be curious that he and her mother, who is another intellectual, have produced this ‘sturdy young settler’. He then thinks perhaps it was history that had ‘the larger share’ in this outcome.
He unpacks in Helen’s room and notices the drawers are empty and thinks that she must be away for more than a while. Lucy shows him around and reminds him to not waste water. She also shows him the boarding kennels and it is explained that she makes her money from keeping dogs and selling flowers and garden produce. It is also explained how her new assistant and co-proprietor is Petrus and that she is a ‘frontier farmer’. He thinks how this is ‘history repeating itself though in a more modest vein’.
Their conversation turns to his university work and he explains that he has resigned and was asked to resign. Petrus appears briefly and when he and David are alone David says how isolated it is here and how he worries about Lucy. Petrus agrees that everything is dangerous but adds that everything is alright here.
The narrative shifts again to the conversation between Lucy and David and he explains that he would not accept the compromise and would not accept counselling: ‘“It reminds me too much of Mao’s China. Recantation, self-criticism, public apology.”’ He continues and says these are ‘“puritanical times”’ and ‘“private life is public business”’ and he would not oblige.
The chapter ends with him being woken in the night by the dogs barking, and one in particular barks ceaselessly. He asks Lucy if it goes on every night and she says one gets used to it.
Analysis – Chapter Seven
In this chapter, the isolated setting of the farm is reiterated as is the apparent vulnerability of David’s daughter, Lucy. The threat of danger is alluded to in the necessity of a rifle and the constant barking of the dogs through the night. This depiction of rural life sets the scene and is a foreshadowing of the later attack on both Lucy and David.
The ‘puritanical times’ of the environment David has lived in and is now excluded from, and the dangers associated with Lucy’s position are both referred to in this chapter. In this way, a contrast is made between their lives and different aspects of South African society (from a white person’s perspective) are made apparent.