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Consider The Ways In Which 'Is There Nowhere Else We Can Meet?' Explores The Issue Of Sexual Difference.

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Nadine Gordimer's short story of a young white girls encounter with a black boy has themes of controversial sexual difference. The story begins with a clever prophetic metaphor, 'reversal of elements' where the white sky is blackened by smoke. This speaks of the role reversal that is about to take place between the races of the boy and the girl. It warns us that there is going to be meeting and it won't be a particularly pleasant one. The title itself incurs thoughts of a romantic meeting, similar to the title of a Hollywood film. This gives the reader a clue that there is a sexual theme in this story.

Bennett and Royle's chapter 'Sexual Difference' in Literature, Criticism and Theory discusses gender stereotype. Usually there is the use of binary oppositions for e.g. dominant/passive, strong/weak etc. In 'Is There Nowhere Else We Can Meet' the definitions are not absolute. Usually the male is dominant, and to a certain degree he is with his body language, 'there he was in front of her' [...] 'panting right into her face.' But in the scuffle as he grabs her shoulder and pulls her coat she is stronger as she breaks away and in this way she is demonstrating a stronger and more dominant sex. The gender stereotype is challenged and reversed. The girl wins the 'fight' and escapes.

The boy is more visually dangerous as Gordimer describes his appearance, 'a figure with something red on its head', red being the colour related to danger and passion. In the sixth paragraph, 'He had only a filthy rag - part of an old shirt?' he looks dirty and wild like an animal, he is even referred to as an 'it' for the most part of the story. The odour from his unwashed body adds to the untamed and dangerous appearance.

The story is packed with sexual references and phallic symbols. The first being the pine needles the girl carries as she walks. This shows her lust towards the black boy as she rubs them up and down with her thumb, 'Down; smooth and stiff. Up; catching in gentle resistance as the minute serrations snagged at the skin.' This also refers to the myth white people used to tell each other, that black men had barbed penises and could harm women. The line 'she pricked the ball of her thumb' could be a reference to her losing

her virginity. This is a time of innocence for the girl yet also a time where she is beginning to become sexually aware. Perhaps the confines of her society had restricted her sexual growth and her physically moving into a morally relaxed area allows her to experiment and awaken these feelings. There seems to be a point where she puts a stop to her fantasising and drops the 'neat trio of pine needles' returning to consciousness and listening to the rules of the apartheid. This is shown metaphorically as she smells her fingers and decides 'She must wash them'.

Interestingly there are no sexual advances from his side. There is nothing in the story to suggest he is going to rape her. He looks straight past her 'without a flicker of interest as a cow sees you go.' This act could have merely been an act of desperation on his part, trying to get some money to eat in order to survive.

In this text masculinity is represented through her irrational reaction to the 'Fear' of the idea of the boy and not the boy himself. The boy has more power over her when he's just an idea, he is more masculine before they fight than after. For e.g., 'Every vestige of control, of sense, of thought

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