Breath of Clarity

The Danger of Traditional Structure

Society’s ability to function is dependent on both structure and agency, as it will collapse if it is completely dominated by a single influence. The establishment of structure is essential in maintenance of order. However, agents need to recognize flaws in the traditional system and question authority so that people don’t eventually lose their ability to exercise free will. The authors of A Walk in the Night and The Python’s Shining Stone use symbolism and allusions to show that it’s essential individuals question traditional practices. The authors acknowledge the benefit of structure, noting that it was originally created to instill values in people. In the context of The Python’s Shining Stone biblical stories are used to motivate individuals to act in generous ways that serve the Gods in order to receive benefits from the divine. In the context of A Walk in the Night, physical abuse is a method authority uses to instill respect in its subjects. Ultimately, though, the literary pieces focus on the negative impact of structure. Since structure and agency are mutually interdependent, agency needs to be exercised within the limits of social structure.

This essay will argue that individuals must make a conscious effort to question and take action against corrupt authority and structure. The Python’s Shining Stone argues that religious myths mislead people to accept false explanations for truth, and it’s necessary that people doubt these stories despite their traditional quality. A Walk in the Night uses pathos to illustrate the post-traumatic effects of physical abusive punishment when individuals fail to exercise free will against authority. The literary claims connect together in that they encourage agents to take action against unjust structure, and argue that people hold a responsibility to challenge accepted thought and behavior.

The Python’s Shining Stone is an African story about the way the moon came to exist, centered on the idea that people will receive more light if they offer up possessions to the divine. The author shows that the citizens rely on the past in order to feel a sense of control over environmental processes. The author highlights that the characters never found proof that their generosity influences the course of events in nature. The characters trust stories from the past enough to make significant sacrifices, essentially prioritizing security over the quest for truth.

The story is a myth that is supposed to instill generosity in the community; however, the interaction between Antelope and Crocodile shows that individuals won’t help others if it doesn’t lead to personal benefit. According to Professor Harold E. Scheub, “out of the contrast between generosity and selfishness emerges the theme of the tale” (Scheub 24). When Crocodile was hungry and came to the farms to ask for food, all the townspeople denied his request. Antelope said, “to you I shall give nothing for you are no friend of mine” (Asere 20). Sheep was the most generous to Crocodile, and also traded for the stone, “so that everyone can see,” (21). Essentially, Sheep prioritized everyone’s need for light over his own basic needs and didn’t end up getting anything in return.

The author uses darkness as a symbol to communicate ideas about selfishness. Antelope illustrates the association between the two when he says, “I shall give you nothing. Take back the thing for which you sold everything and we’ll stay in our darkness as before” (22). When Sheep meets Effion Obassi, the heavenly creature offers the Sheep kernels without needing light in return. It is not until Obassi notices the townspeople’s lack of simple generosity that “he will not let his stone shine out until they bring him a fresh supply” (23). The sacrifices demanded by the Gods in order for the moon to exist assure the establishment of a generous society. Except, the author uses character development to prove his point that generosity practiced out of need, instead of compassion, is not virtuous.

The author organized the sequence of events in this specific order to convey that society needs to question why we accept and practice religion. It is problematic that the only reason the animals decided to be generous is so that they can get the benefit of light for themselves. Originally, Antelope was willing to watch Sheep die of starvation, even though Antelope had enough food to share. This raises questions about society’s approach to religion. Instead of relying seeking light through healthy interaction, we humans rely on a supernatural being that we are uncertain of. We prioritize respecting religion instead of each other, and we accept devoted religious faith as the only means to getting light in our lives. Once the Python’s Shining Stone was in possession of the Gods, everyone thought offering food to the Gods as the only way.

The Python’s Shining Stone teaches the audience to question this closed minded traditional thinking, and A Walk in the Night shows the consequences if this claim is not taken seriously. The novel A Walk in the Night is a captivating literary piece about racism’s impact on a district in Cape Town during the apartheid. Willie, a victim of physical abuse in the story, experiences terrifying allusions to the past that destruct his efforts to cope with the present moment.

The scholarly article “Adolescents’ Perceptions of Attachments to Their Mothers and Fathers in Families with Histories of Domestic Violence: A Longitudinal Perspective,” examines the effect of domestic violence on adolescent-parent attachments. There’s a study in this article that shows attachments to mothers were weaker in adolescents who were victims of physical abuse. The individuals’ experiences in the past create a discomfort and distrust in the present and this is problematic for people who are in a stage of development. This study proves that the author is accurate in his depiction of the way that physical abuse impacts a person’s current psychological state. The author’s ability to articulate this unfortunate reality in the form of a novel is essential in his argument that the consequences of abuse are not worth the negative effects.

Visions of the past negatively impact the way characters respond to circumstances still in their control. Even though Willie is innocent and didn’t kill Mister Doughty, the boy takes off in distrust of the police because “years of treacherous experience and victimization through suspicion had rusted the armor of his confidence” (Guma 46). Willie’s confidence was shattered because in the past the police were able to charge the boy for a crime he never committed. From that experience, Willie realized that any sort of suspicion indicates that Willie will be found guilty. This is why Willie runs from Constable Raalt. When Willie starts to become unconscious following the gunshot, the pain is extenuated, as his mind uncontrollably transcends back to relive his pains of getting physically abused. Willie feels as though he cannot escape the feelings of worthlessness.

The shadow world, which symbolizes Willie’s past emotional state of mind, made it more difficult for him to cope with the pain inflicted by the gunshot. The essay Perspectives on Colonialism explains that the specific point of view the author decides to use allows for the shadow world to be exposed. Iyinolakan says, “the writer delves into the mind of the characters, inner feelings and intents. This stream of unconsciousness technique provides answer to the asked and the unasked questions the novella might generate” (Iyinolakan 59). The author wouldn’t be able to implement the character’s past experience into the present moment if the story wasn’t told from this point of view. The insight allowed the audience to better understand the character, which is an advantage of literature. Often, action is not taken to stop oppression because the effects on the victims are not clearly noticed because inner struggles are not exposed. The author is able to effectively communicate awareness of the victims’ pain through the use of the third person point of view.

Who gets to raise questions about traditional practices that present negative consequences? Reproduction is a way to ensure that the people with similar ideals stay in power. Individuals disagree about whether succession of power reproduces a beautiful organized society or is a corrupt system that reproduces the brutal past. While traditional practices may honor the traditions, it is important to recognize the negative consequences. Without doing so, humanity can be harmed. Questioning tradition is difficult, but it is absolutely necessary in order to make for a society that is innovative. Social structures need to adapt to fit the evolving reality. Even though tradition is familiar, it is definitely flawed. We just need the courage to challenge it.

Work Cited

Asere, Okun. “The Python’s Shining Stone.” The African Storyteller: Stories from African Oral Traditions. Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt Pub, 1990. Print.

Guma, Alex La. A Walk in the Night: And Other Stories. Evanston, IL: Northwestern, 1968. Iyinolakan, David. Perspectives on Colonialism: A Study of Alex La Guma’s “A Walk in the Night”. Unilorin. Department of English Faculty of Arts, University of Ilorin, 11 July 2002. Web. 6 May 2014.

Scheub, Harold. “The Python’s Shining Stone Commentary: Images and Patterns.” The African Storyteller: Stories from African Oral Traditions. Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt Pub, 1990. Print.

Sternberg, Kathleen J., Michael E. Lamb, Eva Guterman, Craig B. Abbott, and Samia Dawud- Noursi. “Adolescents’ Perceptions of Attachments to Their Mothers and Fathers in Families with Histories of Domestic Violence: A Longitudinal Perspective.” Child Abuse & Neglect 29.8 (2005): 853-69. Print.