Blog post 3: Burger’s Daughter (Banned Books)

Image credit: Museum Africa (Rise and Fall of Apartheid)

As we discussed in class, Burger’s Daughter shifts from a third person omniscient narrator to third person objective to third person plural to first person plural to first person singular. In many ways this is a novel about Rosa’s inner life, but it’s also a political novel. What point of view do you think is better suited to the goals of a political novel? Why? Provide at least one quote from the reading assigned for Monday to support your claim. Post your 200-250 word comment by 11:59 on Sunday 6/15 and come to class prepared to respond to two of your classmates’ comments.


15 thoughts on “Blog post 3: Burger’s Daughter (Banned Books)

  1. I believe that first person singular is better suited to the goals of a political novel because it conveys the message directly and it is easy for myself to engage in the novel. The whole point of a political novel is to sort of persuade change. It presents the original, and then gives an alternative to that original that can be criticized. Even though different point of views help convey the authors message, personally I think it is stronger to write in the first person. One example to show how I think this is true is, on page 77, when Rosa explains “For us-coming from that house-that was the real definition of loneliness: to live without social responsibility”, it engages me in the writing and makes me think about the meaning of the sentence. So writing in first person plural, in my opinion, engages me in the writer’s thoughts and reading.


  2. The goal of a political novel is to provide a point of view on laws, government, political systems or events. I feel the best way to channel a critical perspective in a political novel would be through the first person. Through a first person perspective, we enter the thoughts and feelings of a character, engrossing ourselves in their point of view on a subject, their personal criticisms of society, the motives that fuel their actions, and sometimes we take in actions and thoughts of a character that contradict with those views, making an interesting political novel. On page 79 we are brought to a first person perspective in the mind of Rosa. Rosa explains that “The revolution we lived for in that house would change the lives of the blacks who left their hovels and compounds at four in the morning to swing picks, hold down jack-hammers and chant under the weight of girders,”. Rosa is emphasizing the harsh labor of black workers who she fights for, but then she adds that the black workers are “building shopping malls and office towers which whites like my employer Barry Eckhard and me moved in an ‘environment’ without sweat or dust”. Interestingly, Rosa criticizes her own character by including herself in the white population who takes advantage of the black worker. Through a first person perspective, we can best absorb a character’s point of view on a political system, actions that are fueled by their point of view, and also their inner conflicts and contradictions they face.

    Daniel Chong


  3. The most effective perspective in which a political piece of literature can be written in is the first person. This is due to the fact that certain other perspectives cause for the ability to have multiple views on things thus making it hard to really drive a point home to the reader. In Burger’s Daughter, the usage of the first person perspective allows for the narrator to provide the most political criticism and conclusive analysis. On page 78 Rosa states that “I myself making the choice of this bench rather than that because a member of the resident sherry gang sometimes stuck up a tedious conversation or – worse – talked to himself,” this conclusion that Rose draws about the individual that comes to this bench and talks to herself doesn’t allow for any other perspective on the individual thus the reader is forced to assume that this man is indeed only what Rose describes him as. Thus through this type of narration it is possible for the narrator to force the reader into viewing certain political perspectives of thought as truth due to the fact that it is the only perspective that they are given and therefore must be read as the truth.

    Dylan Wade


  4. The story of Burger’s Daughter continually shifts between different perspectives. Because this story is a political novel, the first person narrative provides the strongest point of view. It allows the reader to feel what the character is feeling, thus providing a stronger understanding of the political movement. In the beginning of the book on page 9, the story is told from a third person narrative. This gives the reader an insight of the general idea of what is happening. However, this point of view is very limited in describing the details necessary in telling a political story. On page 12 we start getting closer to the true meaning of what is happening. Finally on page 13, the story is told through Rosa’s point of view. Her point of view, seen throughout the story, proves to be strongest in detailing actual events that occurred. On page 67, Rosa states, “I always remembered exactly what had been said in the prison visiting-room dialogue between Noel and me…” “It could also be relied upon that I had found the way to convey to him the messages I was entrusted with.” By using the first person narrative here, the reader is informed of the actual conversations that occurred, that were necessary in the political movement. The reader now knows the specific details that might not have been known if a different perspective was used.


  5. I think for a political novel to be useful, a third person objective approach should be taken. As with many political issues, there is not always a single definitive right or wrong. They say hindsight is 20/20 and is appropriate for any meaningful and progressive political reform. A third person objective is able to reveal additional details and underlying motives better than a first person point of view. For example, the inability for a certain type of change to occur could be due to drugs, organized crime, or other complex dynamic. However compelling and humane the cause, if the underlying forces are over-looked and cannot be addressed, any potential success will only is short lived and the conflict will relapse in a cyclical fashion – because you are only treating the symptom and not the cause. Political issues are also social issues which require many people to be involved. Informed and unbiased portrayal of a conflict can garner attention and support from other-wise neutral people, it can also generate even better ideas, compromises, or solutions – having been born of a more holistic awareness. Being aware of the many facets of a conflict will also reveal potential usurpation or abuse of influence, such as when a proponent of a movement or party is also maneuvering for leverage or fruition of a side or personal agenda. Even if unavoidable for a faction, the added awareness will allow them to further develop their plan in order to achieve better social justice. For a political novel written by supporters of a specific party, it would be understandable to use the first person as it usually explains injustice or poverty better than third person objective. It also captures more emotion and is more compelling and would serve well to captivate and sway sentiment to their movement. This should be used in conjunction with third person coverage in order to appeal to both the mind and heart.


    1. On page 73, Rosa in drawing an idea saying “Even animals have the instinct to turn from suffering.” Although this is in the first person, this is something that could be gained from a third person objective view and by being first person does not really have any real advantage over the third person. From this quote, Rosa is depicting her own struggle and experience of being a controversial activists’ daughter. Animals dont necessarily have a substantial first person point of view but it still used by the first person to highlight a point. It could just as easily been used by a third person objective stance to gain the same effect.


  6. The goal of a political novel is to document and inform the public audience about political affairs. In Burger’s Daughter, we see the same events presented to us in different perspectives and in a way; this allows us to further understand the big picture. For the goals of a political novel, a first person point of view would be ideal to present historical political information because we are able comprehend the events as they are experienced by the character. The situations are presented to us generally and then we are able to further see a more specific inner perspective of how the character feels toward the situation. On page 78, Rosa describes a newspaper article about the dead man on the bench. After encountering the incident at the square she reflects that, “There had been deaths in my father’s house but the death of the tramp in the park was in a sense the first for me” (77). Rosa also further elaborates that “ I had seen my brother dead and my mother and father; each time the event itself, so close to me, was obscured from me by sorrow and explained by accident, illness or imprisonment” (79). From this we have a narration of the situation, and we further get an inner perspective of how Rosa feels. Even though she has witnessed many deaths, this particular one affected her differently because she didn’t see a cause for the death of the man.


  7. Political affairs have two sides. First from the politics itself and the goals it wishes to achieve (such as the communists wanting the proletariat class to unite against the bourgeoisie). And the other side is from the people the movement has affected. It’s difficult to say which is more effective seeing as how the author so intricately and tactfully used both to further enhance our understanding, but for just simply the goals of a political side in a political novel I would say 3rd person omniscient is better suited. Through first person singular, or Rosa’s point of view, we obtain a sense of who Rosa is whether she’s Lionel Burger’s daughter, Rosemarie Burger, or just simply Rosa because to each person she interacts with they have a formed opinion on who she is or what kind of person they view her as. This is evident when she either states “Lionel Burger’s daughter” or “my father.” But through 3rd person we can see not only how everyone reacts but as well as the cold hard facts whether it be from a headmistress’ report to a biographers’ research. First person does give a better sense of emotion allowing the reader to empathize with but sometimes the first person doesn’t know about the total happenings such as how Rosa did not know if her father had tried to recruit Conrad. That may or may not be an essential fact to the history of the movement. 3rd omniscient allows the reader to have a factual grasp of the characters and the times’ history such as on page 89 stating:

    “They were divorced—when? The daughter of the second marriage dint know. The date of her own parents’ marriage was 19th august 1946, the week of the black miner’s great strike on the Witwasterstand. Her mother, Cathy Jansen, was twenty-six and the general secretary of a canning or textile union—anyway, one of the three or four existing mixed unions of coloured and white people at the time. The marriage was supposed to have taken place on 14th august but the best man, J.B Marks, chairman of the African Mineworker’s Union, was arrested on the second day of the strike…by then, both bride and bridegroom had also been arrested, as a result of a rain on the Communist Party offices in Johannesburg on 16th august. Although her name appeared on the charge sheet as Cathy Jansen, she had become Lionel Burger’s second wife while he and she were out on bail, before the preparatory examination opened. And that was on 26th august?—confirmed.”

    Not only does this tell us a bit about the history of what was happening in the political movement but as well as showing these were things the first person singular narrator did not know.


  8. Rosa is attempting to reconcile her personal identity with her identity as Lionel Burger’s daughter. Nadine Gordimer writes, “That future, that house – although my father’s house was larger than Dick and Ivy’s home-improved bungalow, that house also made provision for no less than the Future” (111). Lionel Burger’s house is representative of his legacy, one that his daughter was raised in and now finds herself away from. The house has now been resold and the name-plate has been taken down. Having a third person omniscient narrator allows for the reader to gain traction in the novel, to have a base of certainty of the characters – both their thoughts and actions. Rosa is unsure about her identity however, and having her narrate in the first person allows the reader to follow along with her uncertainty. The first person narration is the voice of the individual within the ideology. Gordimer’s Burger’s Daughter is a political novel only in the sense that the political ideologies and activism act has the setting for Rosa’s upbringing and identity formation. The main idea of the novel isn’t of the politics themselves but instead their consequences. I find the the first person narration more interesting and and insightful as it pertains to the formation of Rosa’s identity.


  9. The goal of a political novel is to give perspective on a particular political event along with its laws and theories. I think third person omniscient is best suited for a political novels because it gives a bigger less objective perspective than a first person narrative. First person narrative is good because it allows the reader to relate to the character and understand them. However a person’s perception of events are sometimes flawed and inaccurate. It is also very one sided which can cause conflict with opposing views. On page 103 Rosa is being described from a third person point of view, “Rosa had her old childhood self possession of being able to evade opportunities as well as advances, stubborn little girl in the woman. And she would not make it easier for anyone by changing the subject; other people were both held off, and held to it.” This is a small example, but it is effective because it gives Rosa’s character without being bias. If the entire novel was in the perspective of Rosa it would be flawed. It would be flawed because Rosa is the daughter of controversial activists so reading her perspective would only allow us to see one side of a struggle. It would also cause the reader to look at her government in a very negative light.


  10. With a novel that deals with such ideologies as communism, it is important to provide a well rounded and universal approach to the characters involved. With regards to which style of narration is best, I believe that a third person omniscient narrator suites the novel the best. This way, the reader is able to see all viewpoints of all the different characters and factions involved; to see how the main character or message is interpreted not just in one characters eyes, but in many. A third person omniscient narrator can go inside the main character just like the first person narrator can, but has the advantage of showing how that character is perceived from many different view points. Also, the reader benefits from a deeper understanding of events that happened before the first person narrator was born, or events that happened when the first person narrator was not around. This quote exemplifies this: “This rhetoric delivered by her father produced no reaction from his daughter outside the degree of attention that she apparently had decided to apportion the whole interview. It had been spoken in a courtroom in January 1947 before she was born;”. A first person only narration would lack the insight as to what that rhetoric actually instilled in the people who heard it. With topics like communism, it is a good idea to see all sides of the issue.


  11. “The girl could not speak; he saw it. Her face drew together, the wide mouth dented white into the flesh at its corners, she held a breath painfully and pressed the accelerator, turning the ignition so that the old car engine was startled.” (108)

    “A good communist must win workers’ confidence by proving himself a good unionist. Communists had served the workers’ cause by organizing unskilled and semi-skilled coloureds and Indians the largest and most neglected sector of the labor force, and through this achievement the Communist party had made a unique contribution to facial harmony in a country constantly threatened by racial unrest.” (91)

    I think that both third person omniscient and first person view are valuable in a political novel, but the third person omniscient is better for creating a whole picture for the reader. The two quotes above demonstrate this fact. In the first quote, the reader gets Rosa’s reaction to what Dick Terblanche said and he that noticed her reaction. Through this quote you get a view of both people in the scene. The second quote tells the reader communist ideas and the actions of a communists group. Similar to this, throughout the reading, historical events were accounted for in an objective manner. In a political novel, it is especially important to see as many sides of the story as possible in order to have a good understanding of the situations. Through an omniscient view a wider perspective can be gained rather than just the view of one character.


  12. I believe that the goals of a political novel include: representing the political situation clearly, giving the reader a good sense of environment and providing enough details so that he/she feels the tensions that arise. A good political fiction would give you a great perspective by describing the thoughts and feelings of multiple people while also keeping the attention on one person so that the novel is focused and personal. Therefore, I believe a third person Omniscient narrator, one who is “an all-knowing narrator who is not a character in the story.” And also can “report the thoughts and feelings of characters, as well as their words and actions,” seems to be, (for me at least) the best point of view for a political novel. Political movements include many people, both the oppressed and oppressors, if this books main goal is to take into account a holistic view of the oppressed, it should include a variety of characters and their views and thoughts. For example, on page 96 in the second paragraph it is a third-person narration that is describing the struggles of the oppressed: “They were not may. They had been to prison and come again, lived through two, three, five years of their sentences-just before Lionel Burger dies in prison, Ivy Terblanche completed her two years for refusing to testify against him. They lived through years-long bans on their movements and association with other people and often were banned again the week restrictions expired.”


  13. In Burger’s Daughter the point of view switches quite frequently which was quite confusing to me. However, if the whole story was only told in one perspective I feel like the story would be too narrowly focused on one perspective if it was told in first person or it would lack the ability to convince the reading audience to favor a certain standpoint if told in third person. I also feel like a third person account doesn’t get the small details that a first person’s account does. If the goal of a political novel is to inform a reader about a particular situation as a whole, then a third person omniscient point of view would be able to get the job done. However, if the goal is to persuade a group or to understand a certain belief then I believe first person would be more efficient. For this particular book, I believe I would prefer a first person account. After the incident where Rosa Burger was sitting next to the man who was dead/dying, she reflects and expresses her sense of helplessness in that situation. “The whole point was that I—we—all of us were exonerated. What could we have done?” I feel that a straightforward use of first person was more effective of getting across the point of how she felt rather than just explaining what happened and leaving it up for the reader to interpret how she could’ve been feeling.


  14. I believe that the third person omniscient narrator is ideal for a political book such as Burger’s Daughter. The reason why a third person narrator is stronger in this case than a first person is because a story told in the third person can still have poetic dialog while still having its main character believable (because no one speaks in lengthy, frequent metaphors). Figurative language is essential in such a politically charged book because it combats its inherent preach. It packages the books moral in attractive prose; for example, I’d rather read the opening lines of Fahrenheit 451, expressing with fire the joy of censorship, then read a man coldly explain to me why censorship feels good to some. An example of the power of the third person narrator is also in Burger’s Daughter when Rosa notes how “the black men slept deeply, face down; they might have been dead. On benches avoided by other people, white tramps with drunkard’s blue eyes and the brief midday dapperness of hair slicked back in the municipal washroom … to find money for a bottle” (74). Here, we see a rich description of a public square which might be unrealistic for an actual character to note. This description also helps capture Rosa’s view of the relationship between black and white men, as the black men appear to be dead while the white men are just looking for a buzz.


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