An Analysis of Dream Life and Real life By Olive Schreiner

An Analysis of Dream Life and Real life By Olive Schreiner


Analysis of Olive Schreiner's Short Story Dream Life and Real Life

Olive Schreiner was a South African writer with anti-war ideas and anti-colonialist activism. Her writings touch on various issues including aspirations of women and feminism. In her short story “Dream Life and Real Life: A Little African Story, Schreiner deals with issues such as those of child slavery, ethnicity and gender.
Dream Life and Real Life: A Little African Story is a tragic story of a little girl who’s enslaved by a family and thus suffers a lot. Jannita finds herself herding a collection of Angora goats alone and finally she falls asleep. The writer tells us about the hardship and sufferings of Jannita through her dreams. Jannita dreams of an opposite reality. Her surroundings are beautiful. Her master likes her, his wife gives her a care and her mistress’s son-in-law son says ‘thank you’ instead of kicking her. We then learn that Jannita is an orphan who has lost her father as she dreams of him back. Her father starts noticing her marks on her skin that the Boers leave on her, this, however, isn’t the only thing Jannita suffers from. She suffers from isolation, hunger and brutality.
The author starts her cause on dealing with the matter of Jannita as being a child and she says “If an angel should gather up in his cup all the tears that have been shed, I think the bitterest would be those of children.” Jannita, as female child, gets maltreated from almost everyone in the story except her dead father. Her maltreatments are numerous that she has gets killed. Her hardships start when Dirk, the Hottentot, steals one of her goats and takes it to rwo companions who slaughter and share it. Ironically, it is the Hottentot that lends a hand that she gets beaten by her master Boer after losing the goat. He handed his whip to the Boer to beat Jannita.
Beaten and left hungry, Jannita decided to escape after she has seen a springbuck springing away freely under the moonlight. Then, Jannita say "I–I also!" she said, "I–I also!" Jannita stands upon nature and learns from it to find her destiny for humans only hurt her. Olive Schreiner draws on nature and makes it a perfect escape for Jannita; she uses the moonlight, river, rocks and trees to find shelter when she only she finds brutality and cruelty in people. Bearing in mind the maltreatments Jannita receives from the different people with different races – the Boers (white), the Hottentot (black) and the Bushman, maybe Schreiner suggests that human beings have this tendency to defeat and triumph over the wear people. This might put forward the feminist idea that men use their physical and material power to overpower women who are physically weak and vulnerable.
Nature has provided the solace and comfort that Jannita needs throughout the story. She inspires her escape from the springbuck and joins freedom. Jannita hides in the river that the men can’t find her. She finds a safe natural room among the kopjes. Jannita associates herself with nature that she even wants to imitate nature. Her "I–I also!" is very significant in this regard. Jannita for the first time has the power to express herself and think of her own destiny—her freedom. I think, this might reflect Schreiner’s self speaking for women’s freedom. And indeed, Schreiner is expressing her ideas through literature just like Jannita enjoy the cool wind by the river.
Jannita has suffered hunger with the Boers but now in the plain she finds food. She has only needed to work and get it. And that’s what she has done; with a sharp stone she cuts the roots of a kippersol and chews it. “It was very delicious to her. Kippersol is like raw quince, when it is very green; but she liked it.” Schreiner is suggesting here that Jannita enjoys fruits that she, by herself, obtains from the field. This is clear when she says: “when good food is thrown at you by other people, strange to say, it is very bitter; but whatever you find yourself is sweet!” Schreiner suggests that women should be independent and get their rights themselves. She says that even those little rights given to women are not enough and “bitter”. Women have to fight for more rights and once they get them, they are “sweet”.
Jannita is a person with a kind heart—this is her tragedy. We notice that Jannita tries to feed the conies. Importantly, even though, Jannita has received much brutality from the Boers she hasn’t ceased of being kind to them. When she hears that the three men will burn her master’s kraal, she tries to warn him. This is a very significant event in the whole story. This can be interpreted in many ways; the first interpretation is that Jannita has been mind controlled by the Boers and she couldn't free herself from the mental slavery. Maybe this broadly speaking is the case with oppressed people including women. Their minds have been indoctrinated and can’t think independently so they keep following the masters blindly. It is also plausible that Jannita wants to tell her master about the conspiracy against him. But this failed. Schreiner perhaps wants to say that such ways of being kind to the Master will never lead the oppressed people to achieve their freedom. One has always to fight for freedom.

Abderrazak Baddou

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