The Graves of a Household

One group of victims shown in the Long Night’s Journey into Day film are a group of mothers who all have shared in the pain of losing their child to violence of South Africa’s police. Not only was the story of these mothers heart wrenching in its own right but in the larger context of the sheer number of similar stories all taking place around the same time is unfathomable and deeply distressing. The day-in-day-out, for lack of a better term, hell of life takes it toll. There is one thing that these mothers have though; the truth. Above all else they were able to get the truth and know that their boys were not really the “terrorists” the media portrayed them as. This reminded me of the importance of the truth – no matter how bitter, hard to swallow, or fresh the wound is the the truth set these mothers on a path to freedom. Immediately following their reaction to the videotape of their children one mother was seen being much chipper and happier. When asked if she was feeling okay she replied “[o]h, yes, very much better, because now I know so much more.” In this instance knowing more does help even if it is of this traumatic magnitude.

Hearing the stories of these mothers reminded me of a Romanticism poet by the name of Felicia Hemans. Hemans’ poem “The Graves of a Household” speaks volumes to the inverse scenario that these mothers could have faced had they never known the truth. A life of misery and want and wait for the children they raised to come home — never to know where or if they are alive. These five stanzas stand to highlight what I am writing about:

The same fond mother bent at night
O’er each fair sleeping brow;
She had each folded flower in sight,–
Where are those dreamers now?

One, midst the forests of the west,
By a dark stream is laid,–
The Indian knows his place of rest,
Far in the cedar shade.

The sea, the blue lone sea, hath one,
He lies where pearls lie deep;
He was the lov’d of all, yet none
O’er his low bed may weep.

One sleeps where southern vines are drest
Above the noble slain:
He wrapt his colours round his breast,
On a blood-red field of Spain.

And one–o’er her the myrtle showers
Its leaves, by soft winds fann’d;
She faded midst Italian flowers,–
The last of that bright band.

The truth these mother found was sharp, jagged, and painful. But it was a truth that most others do not ever have the opportunity to find. The TRC helped bring this truth to light, to set the record straight on who these mothers children were, and to bring the mothers some closure. It is not a good outcome, there cannot be a good outcome to something as violent and brutal as Apartheid. But it was a better outcome for these mothers than the mother in Hemans’ poem — a life of wanting, waiting, and wondering that never frees the mind.

Is Justice Black and White?

There were many parts of the film Long Night’s Journey Into Day that were extremely shocking and horrifyingly true. These accounts of violence during the fight against apartheid presents the question of whether or not the crimes committed during this violent period, on both sides, are capable of being forgiven. Something that I noticed during this film is that during this time of violence, both parties had the same basic mindset: it’s us or them, kill or be killed, black or white. What the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) did well, in my opinion, was provide an understanding environment for those accused of crimes, especially those fighting apartheid. Whether or not justice was served by the commission is questionable, as seen through the hearings of those seeking amnesty and the interviews of the families who lost someone dear to them. The film left a strange, unsettling feeling as the answer is not clear. Justice is not clear cut, not black and white, rather it is a spectrum that depends on the parties involved and the crimes committed. As a side note, one thing I thought was particularly interesting was the statistic that out of the many people who applied for amnesty, 80% of those were black, which was such a jarring statistic to me since the white people in South Africa were the ones in power and they were the ones facilitating the large scale oppression of the majority population.

Roberto’s Inconsistencies

            Ariel Dorfman certainly gives her play “Death and the Maiden” an ambiguous ending, and it leaves the reader wondering two things: if Paulina killed Roberto and if Roberto was guilty or innocent. Since the time interval of events is so short, the reader is never able to get a good judgment on Roberto’s character. When reading the play, I noticed some inconsistencies in Roberto’s character that would make me believe that he is guilty.

            One inconsistency begins in act one scene two when Roberto shows up at Paulina and Gerardo’s home. Roberto and Gerardo discuss how serious the punishment should be for the past dictatorship and they share their opinions on the amnesty of the past regime. Surprisingly, Roberto takes an extreme stance and says that the people of the past dictatorship should all die. He says, “I’m for killing the whole bunch of them” as well as “there are people who simply don’t deserve to be alive.” This merciless and violent stance is expressed quite casually and calmly as well, and these statements would indirectly characterize him as a violent man. Now later in the play in act two scene two, Roberto is pleading to Gerardo to free him and says, “I’m a quiet man. Anyone can see that I’m incapable of violence- violence of any sort sickens me.” This statement is a complete contradiction to his violent stance on the past regime. How could Roberto advocate for the death penalty to all involved in the dictatorship when “violence of any sort sickens” him? I would argue that at the beginning of the play is best way to judge his character because he is not tied up and in his most natural state. This state would show his true personality because he does not know that Paulina is Gerardo’s wife. Also, the violent nature without a doubt line up to what he is accused for.

            The next inconsistency is brought to light by Paulina. Roberto successfully manipulates Gerardo into getting the story from Paulina in order to forge the false confession. However, Paulina gives Gerardo false information in which Roberto corrects in fear of not getting the confession correct. This provides further proof that Roberto is lying and trying to manipulate Paulina into thinking that she has the wrong guy. The corrections that Roberto makes are so unique to the story that in order to know that information he had to have been involved in Paulina’s torture..