The purpose of this essay will be to argue that Schreiner‟s notion of futurity underpins her fiction, which involves an essentially Marxist1 conception of the economic basis of society determining its superstructure; and a dialectic model of historical and epistemological development, in which progress is the resolution of opposed ideas. I will also discuss Schreiner‟s idealism, and whether attitudes to the future expressed in her work can be regarded as ultimately optimistic or pessimistic. Focussing primarily on The Story of an African Farm, I will also refer to the collections Dream Life and Real Life and Dreams; and her posthumously published short story The Buddhist Priest’s Wife, and uncompleted novel, From Man to Man. Dream Life and Real Life, one of Schreiner‟s earliest stories, contains many of the preoccupations which resurface throughout her work. It is set on a farm where a small girl, Jannita, is abused. Its opening, which imitates the tone of a story told for children, gives way to a disturbing tale in which Jannita is murdered by farm hands when she selflessly prevents the violent robbery of her former abusers. The device of beginning in the tone of a children‟s fable before the grim intrusion of the morbid – reflected in the piece‟s title - is seen again in the Prelude to From Man to Man, in which another small girl plays with her newborn sister, and presents her (again selflessly) with her most treasured possessions, before learning later that the baby was dead. Schreiner is aiming to shock, to reveal that often fiction is akin to a children‟s story, something which simply distracts from life‟s problems. Her act of formal subversion constitutes a dialectic with past storytelling and reading, from which it is concluded dream life is a luxury we do not deserve. She thus formally identifies herself as an engaged writer. This unashamed engagement is reflected in her narrative technique, which allows her authorial „I‟ to intervene, as it does throughout her work, notably in the „Times and Seasons‟ chapter which separates the two parts of (and implies the passage of time in) African Farm.
Schreiner also subverts stories of colonial fantasy such as The Swiss Family Robinson2, in that Jannita is able to furnish her cave, which seems idyllic, using only natural resources; but she is soon weak from lack of proper food and under threat from the workers, who have been corrupted to violence by the seemingly arbitrary social inequality they perceive. This inequality is the basis that must be overhauled if social progress is to be possible. The story anticipates Schreiner‟s polemic Women and Labour in its comment that "When good food is thrown at you by other people, strange to say, it is very bitter; but whatever you find yourself is sweet."3 The fact that the "thrown" food is "good" increases the impact of this sentence; Schreiner consistently idealises work or self-sufficiency as the primary factor in the self-determination and self-respect of an individual or group. In her essay Schreiner reserves special criticism (informed typically by a metaphor from the natural world) for the social parasite, that which consumes without labour, and so is happy to be "thrown" food. 2
Much of Schreiner‟s writing takes the form of allegory, in which it is possible to uncover a philosophy of social change. This is generally pervaded by qualified optimism; her Telos, the better future, will be attained only after suffering and sacrifice. Neither is Schreiner unaware of the discrepancy between her ideals for people and the reality, as in The Woman’s Rose when "faith in woman flickers, and her present is an agony to me, and her future is a despair…", yet she is still able to conclude "Spring cannot fail us."4 In this story the narrator tells of how she has overcome her desire to exercise the power over men her beauty has given her, the resolution being provided by a woman‟s generosity of spirit. The false position of women being corrupted by having to view their looks as a kind of currency to be used in competition with other women is something Schreiner sees as an obstacle. The economic model of capitalist society has found its insidious way into gender relations, and has rooted and institutionalised itself there. In The Garden of Pleasure the tragedy of the woman‟s dependency on her supposedly womanly qualities is allegorised when the woman in the story is forced to give away all her flowers, and as a result, her tangibility as a commodity gone, seems to blur into nothing, as "the grey sand whirled about her."5 Life’s Gifts supplements the argument; a woman, offered the choice between freedom and love, choosing freedom discovers that she may have love also. We are given to understand had she chosen love, she would have had no freedom. However, this of course depends on freedom being available to be chosen.
The story Three Dreams in a Dessert, in which the dessert is equated with mystical experience, tells of two "beasts of burden" who lie side by side. The male creature, "with the knife of mechanical invention"6 cuts the band which bound the female to her burden, thus the "inevitable necessity is broken."7 Freed, the female is for a time helpless. The male, importantly, provides neither help nor hindrance, implying individual men do not necessarily wilfully subjugate women (though may feel unable to challenge the institution, wherein the power difference has become consolidated). This story seems to deal with the end of traditional models of proletarian labour and family. That the knife is identified with "mechanical invention" relates to Schreiner‟s ambivalent feelings towards technological advance and its impact on labour. On the one hand, it is positive, as it releases men and women from traditional designations. On the other, it threatens people with unemployment and creates individuals who are socially superfluous and potentially parasitic. What happens to the initially helpless female we discover in the next dream: a woman has embarked on her way to find objective knowledge. The track must be forged as the endeavour is without precedent; likewise, the woman must shed the vestiges of history, removing her "shoes of dependence" and her ("full of holes") "mantle of received opinions."8 The woman is discovered to have a child, which she is ordered to leave. She obeys, but identifies the child with hope, saying that eventually "his great white wings will overshadow me."9 Sacrifice is necessary to redress the past and effect change. The child becomes a symbol of both this sacrifice, which gives the woman comfort and gives moment to her task, and of the people of the future, who will start from a position of social equality, and so will far surpass anything that can currently be accomplished. The scale of the sacrifice necessary is clear:
And she said, "Over that bridge which shall be built with our bodies, who will pass?" 3
He said, "The entire human race."
* * *
And I saw her turn down that dark path to the river. 10
Schreiner‟s feminism is a component of her humanism, and in the final story of Dreams, The Sunlight Lay Across My Bed, the purpose of the allegory is apparently to indict the wilful ignorance of society to the foundations of (native) proletarian labour upon which the middle class is built. In Hell, men, women and children gorge orgiastically on red wine reminiscent of blood, provided from the "dark"11 other side of a curtain. The producers are allowed only the dregs, as in a corporate society the workers receive only a small portion of the fruits of their labour. The regime seems totalitarian, dissenters are killed, any sign of rebellion is crushed (as the hand from under the curtain which pleads for wine is literally crushed). Yet, in a note of optimism, there are those amongst the consumers who dissent, though they cannot be noticed at first. That the children partake and "play"12 with the wine, attests to consumerism‟s indoctrination of the young via their parents. This society has constructed its morality for its own ends, gravestones here are instruments of repressive forgetting: "Because the bones cried out, they covered them."13 Eventually, the pleasure houses crumble, their foundations rotted. The Marxist connotations of this story are clear, that inequality will encourage revolt amongst the oppressed. Again, labour is idealised: the ruins of one of the wine presses is identified with Christ via a crown of thorns; and in the Heaven the woman is conducted to later everyone toils, irrespective of gender difference (which ultimately vanishes). African Farm imparts the themes of the allegories into a realistic, complex novel, which qualifies their utopianism. Its title provides the narrative with a compositional rule: the narrative does not follow the characters, remaining located on the farm – we hear the stories of Lyndall, Waldo, and Gregory, but as they are subsequently related - consequently avoiding arbitrary movement of the viewpoint. The farm functions as a microcosm. Within its boundaries, various characters arrive, depart, and differently respond to its conditions. That a farm is a working, economic enterprise is a constant factor. Marriage on the farm is shown as the practical economic alliance it is, Sannie‟s shrewd match with Piet being not so different to Lyndall‟s proposed marriage to Gregory. Love is a luxury neither can afford. That the farm is seen as variously rural idyll, constraining prison, simple reality or fertile ground for exploitation, reveals much about the pairs of eyes that so perceive it.
The novel, like Dream Life and Real Life, gains effect through formal subversion. Its first part is largely farcical, the ridiculous, Dickensian Bonaparte Blenkins and Tant‟ Sannie‟s antics are presented humorously, as caricatures. However, against this, sombre notes are struck: the death of the old German whose simple faith has been exploited, Waldo‟s beating. Schreiner is aware that her adoption of typical nineteenth century forms will lead readers to criticise the randomness elsewhere in the novel, but insists it follows the "method of the life we all lead,"14 free from staple fantastic coincidences. The nineteenth century reader may anticipate some kind of happy coming together of Waldo and Lyndall. What we get 4 instead are the deaths of Waldo, Lyndall and her child, and an ambiguous future for the disappointed Em and emasculated Gregory.
The novel‟s epigraph, from Alexis de Touqueville, sets its naturalistic agenda: "The entire man is, so to speak, to be found in the cradle of the child."15 Characters are conditioned by their environments; women become feminine according to a proto-existentialist doctrine, because of the way they are raised. As Lyndall says, it is little girls‟ parents who "begin to shape us to our cursed end,"16 their potential displaced into their relations with men. It is important to realise this existential view of development should, theoretically, make gender equality realisable, if a change in the determinant conditions could be effected. However, Schreiner shows traditional social structures to be rigid, making change difficult.
Whilst characters may attempt to transcend their background through study, this option is not available to all and in any case is likely to result in disillusion. Also, the motivation to transcend one‟s conditions is suspect as it is not developed under conditions of stability. Lyndall as a child wants to become rich and (ironically, with the appearance of Blenkins) idolizes Napoleon, because she is from the first envious - even of her friends; Waldo, because he is male; and Em, who will inherit money. She has been shaped by the context into which she has been born. The position of Lyndall is similar to that of the colonised man in the thought of Frantz Fanon, made envious by colonisation and, if he is not to allow himself to be assimilated into the economics of the system (in her case, through marriage), only able to react with violence. For Fanon, colonialism is "violence in its natural state, and it will only yield when confronted with greater violence."17 Fanon is applying an existential Marxist model of historical dialectics to dispossessed peoples, whose aspirations do not stem from a stable basis, but from a reaction to oppression (envy). Lyndall, though her „colonisation‟ is economic and sexual, is similarly dehumanised by her experience. In Lyndall‟s vision of the future:
"Love will come to her, a strange sudden sweetness breaking in on her honest work; not sought for, but found. Then, but not now – "18
To attain the future, Lyndall constructs herself as antithesis to or reaction against the existing system, but with increasing awareness that for her "Then" will never come. She knows that she has ceased to be „good‟ (Lyndall states "I have no conscience, none,"19 her insistence implying she has willed it away), implying a some might say prescient belief on Schreiner‟s part that revolt against oppression, if successful, may lead to oppression (of men by women, of whites by blacks), all emanating from an initial inequality. Lyndall is compelled to continue, sacrificing herself to futurity. Social progression may be possible after her sacrifice has been understood, recalling the "bridge built with our bodies." Lyndall refuses to love unreservedly whilst gender relations are unequal because, as Gerald Monsman puts it, she knows "reifying dreams of transcendence only make prisons for the spirit."20 To love would be to abort her project of self-determination. Ironically, Lyndall is killed by the symbol of the future, her unwanted baby. She is not quite the "promise of a new kind of woman"21 in a positive sense, as Annalisa Oboe suggests, but a 5 dramatisation of a woman who conditions have rendered superfluous. There have always been Lyndalls, as she understands, timeless as "the wood, the knife that carves on us is the circumstance."22
Lyndall‟s prospects were always limited, she receives her formal education, which she wins through a jokingly figured dialectic opposition - "I bore with all my force on the Boer-woman,"23 at a „finishing school‟ designed to produce women accomplished only in womanly arts, as Lyndall puts it, "souls so compressed they would have fitted into a small thimble."24 Schreiner therefore insists on the model of social base determining its superstructure, of which the school is part, as are its repressive laws. Without change in the economic infrastructure, individual resistance will be futile.
Although they are not the main focus of her work, Schreiner seems to extend the dialectic model to take in some of her non-white characters, though others are like Em, seemingly content with their lots. Ayah in From Man To Man is a model of dog-like obedience, whereas Griet can only articulate her rebellion by performing her chores deliberately badly. Whether Schreiner‟s technique is successful here is questionable, as Griet‟s novelistic function seems to be to intuit (like an animal) Veronica‟s badness, and to provide comic relief. Importantly, as characters are products of their environment, the traditional literary responses of sympathy or antipathy towards characters largely evaporate. We are not asked to condemn materialistic Sannie, rather the environment which has produced her. The novel thus becomes a vehicle for criticism of society, rather than individual character traits, which are shown to be products of society‟s base. As Monsman puts it, Schreiner seeks to "address the causative factors of imbalance as alterable."25 In the attempt, Schreiner calls upon a sometimes uneasy alliance of tragic, humorous, allegorical, and polemical forms.
Religion provides a main theme in African Farm. Schreiner‟s language and referents are biblical, the book having proved most of her early education. In the words of Oboe, who insists on the novel‟s "antithetical" structure, Schreiner applies "the metaphysical language of religion to the context of human reality,"26 both ironically (Blenkins) and sympathetically (Waldo). The novel opens with Waldo‟s crisis of faith, which serves to articulate the dichotomy between the lessons of the old and new testaments. Waldo declares, "I love Jesus Christ, but hate God."27 The conflict goes on to draw attention to the church‟s repressive role in society, which runs counter to the teachings of Christ, upholding instead the values of the commandments. For Marx, religion belongs to the social superstructure, and so responds to changes in the base.28 As society shifts from a feudal system to one based on exchange, the domineering character of God (designed to encourage submissiveness) becomes less important. However, „Thou shalt not steal‟ retains its utility for the purposes of protection of capital (while Christ‟s teachings on the immorality of accumulation of wealth are sidelined). Waldo actualises Marx‟s concept of system-immanent criticism, as a problem that begins as an apparently irreconcilable dichotomy within the church institution evolves into a total negation of that institution. Schreiner suggests, just as she does through her subversion of narrative forms, that we may achieve transcendence through subversive use of the tools we have. 6
The religious impulse, however, may linger, but as a dream such as Waldo experiences at the end of the novel, which does not need church mediation (Schreiner insists "without dreams and phantoms man cannot exist."29) Her target is self-serving appropriation of religion; the church is repeatedly revealed as corrupt: Blenkins, the confidence trickster delivering his ludicrous sermon after the chapter entitled „Blessed is He that Believeth‟ (the questioning Reason of the child conversely identified as the Devil); the man who hectors Waldo into giving money has his percentage; flirtatious ladies drop handkerchiefs among church pews. Belief akin to that of Sannie is seen as standing in the way of the future, as she absurdly asks "When do we hear of Moses or Noah riding in a railway?"30 However, Schreiner is careful not to condemn those who, like Otto, have genuine faith, even if his portrayal is condescending.
Schreiner‟s ideal of heightened consciousness, it is implied, arises from the resolution of conflicts of ideas. Once religion has been left, according to Schreiner, man turns to science, and the study of nature, which is "Not a chance jumble, a living thing, a one."31 The view of the essential, Spencerian unity of all life, pervades Schreiner‟s writing. In places, this conception of unity borders on the mystic, as when the shape of blood vessels is described as identical to that of tree branches or water courses.32 Books are generally symbols of potential escape or transcendence. Waldo feels of the box of books in the attic, "They shall tell me all, all, all."33 For him and Lyndall, they do indeed provide a means of self-articulation and partial transcendence. Later however, he identifies a man as a potential friend because he has "a book in his pocket,"34 though the book turns out to be racist trash. This sounds a note of caution in the idealisation of the written word, knowing it often becomes a tool of oppression; it is wide, critical reading which is necessary. Neither is knowledge a concomitant of happiness. Waldo, when awakened from his musical reverie, seeing the stranger who started him on his road to knowledge, is suddenly ashamed of his appearance.35 The story of the Fall is suggested, with the man as the serpent figure who (out of boredom) offers Waldo the knowledge God would suppress. Waldo‟s shame is not nakedness, but lack of economic affect. Schreiner satirises the suppression of books as dangerous in Blenkin‟s maxim: "Whenever you come into contact with any book, person, or opinion of which you comprehend absolutely nothing, declare that book, person, or opinion to be immoral."36 Schreiner felt the power of art to challenge social infrastructure, through the representation of its negative products. The feather that falls from the bird of truth is associated by Monsman with the quill of the writer.37 Schreiner hoped that her work would "help other people", as well as "comfort" them.38 This is partly a contradictory position: on the one hand she asserts writers‟ power to alter society, on the other they provide only comfort, or isolate criticism in the literary sphere, diminishing real revolutionary potential.
Another of Schreiner‟s ideals is meaningful labour; that Lyndall, Rebekkah, or Bertie want to work as a means of attaining independence is clear. Society is depicted as an organism in which individuals fulfil a role. In From Man to Man, Schreiner refers to ideal society in which everyone, including the artist, has a small but vital role to play, using analogues of social animals like ants and bees. Her Women and Labour, 7 in its title pun, suggests that for women their role may be more than simply child rearing, which is one useful role among others. Schreiner again qualifies her ideal, which would be better called social usefulness; work is not idealised in itself. The navvies from Europe have been made inhuman and grotesque by work, as Waldo realises with stress on the repetitive aspect, "You may work, and work, and work, till you are only a body, not a soul."39 Schreiner realises her views are subject to appropriation by others, and pre-empts this by having two unsympathetic characters espouse them with obvious self-interest: Sannie keeps the Hottentots away from church, as they are "descended from apes, and needed no salvation", where they would have heard the lazy Blenkins declare "Work is the secret of happiness."40 Evolution theory at this time was being widely misapplied and mutating into eugenics, which Schreiner opposes in From Man to Man, a point returned to below.
Schreiner is however herself prone, like many of her contemporaries, to equating social progress with biological evolution. At times she uses language of evolution as metaphor only, as when Lyndall says "the parts [women] are not to use have been quite atrophied."41 But a few pages later, it is declared: "Heavy jaw and sloping forehead – all have gone with increasing intellect."42 The metaphor of atrophy is important, as progress and technology can alter the demands on both the individual, and the social organism, rendering, for example, skilled workers unemployed. Lyndall meets her fate partly because society can find no use for her (except perhaps as an actress), she is superfluous. The death of her baby represents a double failure: a failure on Lyndall‟s part to not encumber herself, and a failure to become useful by raising it. The novel‟s ending certainly does not seem to contain much optimism, the two characters who attempted transcendence are dead, Gregory and Em‟s future is ambiguous, and no shift in conditions has taken place. However, a novel with a happy ending would have less impact for an engaged writer like Schreiner, making the question of optimism within the novel largely redundant – the question instead reverts to one of what effect the novel can have in altering the conditions which produce the tragedies it extrapolates. Schreiner is therefore more ambitious than the novelist that seeks to alter personalities through the presentation of catharsis, instead she wants to alter social fundamentals, and so effectively create a new race of people. Schreiner stated her intention as to struggle "against the adverse material conditions of life" and to "cry out against „fate‟",43 the inverted commas implying „fate‟ is not arbitrary mythological determinant, but a product of economics.
The Buddhist Priest’s Wife44 is reminiscent of Lyndall‟s talk with her „stranger‟ in the cabin, in which he teases her for her scientific philosophising on love. Like that episode, it is ambiguous. In both, we are left unaware of the extent to which the man and woman are in love. Like Lyndall, the woman has given up the notion of childbirth as "a thing one has to get over."45 Also similarly, social usefulness is stressed: "What matters is that something should need you."46 The short story is markedly more modernist in style than Schreiner‟s novels. There is no internal focalisation. We have to glean characters‟ emotions from their actions, for example, the woman‟s incessant pacing and smoking leads us to believe that whether the man will call is of great importance to her. The majority of the story is dialogue implying a wider back-story. 8
Speech is presented either free direct, or with simple reporting clauses with no tonal information, a technique which has a disorienting effect. However, we are able to infer the woman‟s closer interest in the man:
"What a long time it is since we met! Six months, eight?"
"Seven," she said.47
The man and the woman have had a close friendship, possibly a romance, but whilst the woman has retained her theories of equality in gender relationships, the man has receded into conservatism. He is looking to settle with a suitable wife and family (generalising that "a man reaches a certain age"48), is complacent about his servant, who is like both a mother and a dog49 to him, and has gone into politics, gaining an advantage via the use of an underhand manoeuvre. When she challenges him on this, he first disavows responsibility, and is then dismissive, saying "but I did it under advice. However, we‟ve won, so it‟s all right."50 He discourages her going to India, albeit in friendly fashion, joking she is going to become "a Buddhist Priest‟s wife." It is as though he is exaggerating her into a caricature of progressiveness so as to distance himself from his former involvement with her. But even in jest he cannot conceive of her being anything other than a wife. Whilst the woman must be intellectually disappointed with the man, she apparently feels physical desire for him, seems reluctant that he should leave, and asks him to kiss her, before she slips away. The story is framed by observations on the woman‟s dead body, which imply that to renounce love for the sake of others was necessary, but torment to her: "Was she really so strong as she looked? Did she never wake up in the night crying for that which she could not have?"51 All we discover about her death is it occurred eight years after the meeting with the man.
The story differs from African Farm in that it seems not to set out Schreiner‟s vision, but to dramatise her frustration with its attainment. Radicalism for some is shown to be a fad, from which they later distance themselves, and the commitment of women when confronted with the desirability of settling is questioned.
[…] If all women were like you, all your theories of the equality of men and women would work. You‟re the only women with whom I never realize she is a women."
"Yes," she said.52
The woman‟s response is simultaneously flattered and disappointed. She has been recognised as an equal, but negated as a woman.
Schreiner considered the incomplete From Man to Man her masterpiece. Its themes are similar to those of African Farm, with its stress on the unity of life, intellectualism, and the economic and religious subjection of women, which impacts on the lives of the two sisters. Like her other work, it is naturalistic and seems to subvert the form of earlier novels, here notably those of Jane Austen, down to the quietly heroic (but here ineffectual) father. The villains of the novel are the malicious gossips Mrs Drummond and Veronica. Schreiner seems to see this as far worse than anything perpetrated by Blenkins or Sannie, as women hypocritically working against themselves. She wrote, whilst writing the novel, "I bear all kinds of wickedness, but not meanness or smallness,"53 and as Rebekkah writes, the worst thing possible is "the soul 9 that refuses to see the naked truth within itself."54 This seems essentially a condemnation of bad faith, which colludes in repressive structures and so is anti-progressive. Schreiner in From Man to Man seems keen to give even two-dimensional characters like the (Dickensian) Jew a background which explains them. In this case, the Jew is dehumanised by his impoverished childhood and his sister‟s death. In consequence, he has built up wealth in an inhumanly calculated manner, to the point where he can only assess something‟s worth if it "cost well."55 Schreiner is consciously re-examining stereotypes in order to redirect our (literary) antipathies from character to economic base.
Rebekkah should become a writer, but is diverted into child rearing, as Schreiner‟s other characters tried to avoid. (The device of Rebekkah as amateur writer enables Schreiner to put her own views across without resorting so much to the first person.) As a girl, she states that one day she will write "a book something like the bible,"56 relating to the didactic aspect of Schreiner‟s writing, though Rebbekah later modifies her view of that book, seeing it as beautiful but repressive. Her desire to help society is figured at the beginning of the story, when she builds a house for mice. However, "half, she expected the mice to come; and half, she knew they never would."57 Eventually she resorts to pretending her hand is a mouse. Whether this reveals a deep seated pessimism on the part of Schreiner about the effectiveness of her art is questionable, certainly it implies society is difficult to help; and that the engaged artist fantasises about being needed – needing her own necessity, or making a fiction of it.
If Lyndall is a study in refusal to compromise, Rebekkah is a study in compromise. When Rebekkah is contemplating marriage or staying at home she looks "back into the room, then out into the dark."58 After making her decision, the objects in the darkness grow slightly more distinct, but turning back indoors she can "hardly see" her sister; marriage will irrevocably separate them – though her sister‟s prostitution becomes analogous with marriage that denies women economic freedom. Rebekkah‟s wedding is not narrated, instead we have the focalisation of Rebekkah‟s anxiety on its eve, concluding in a frightening, animalistic image of baboons "shouting and fighting."59 Her decision to marry is ultimately resigned and pragmatic, like her reading of the classics in translation, "when she realised she would never have Greek or Latin enough to read the originals."60
Again in this novel, Schreiner allows unsympathetic characters to appropriate her ideas for their own ends. John Ferdinand describes an idyllic image of the future to Bertie, but only wants to seduce her. John Ferdinand is also an avid reader, but his reading (of Milton and Tennyson) endows him with a religious idealism which Bertie cannot live up to, and which paradoxically prevent him from feeling humane sympathy for her. For Monsman, this is one example amongst many of false idolatry in Schreiner‟s writing, which, in reifying character‟s aspirations, acts as a barrier to the truth – which can only be glimpsed in fragments.61 Rebekkah tellingly sees classical realism, rather than false pseudo-religious idealism, as the highest art. 10
Schreiner in From Man to Man clarifies her views on society as a positive unity. For Rebekkah in her writings, religion is opposed to truth because it means accepting the arbitrary will of an unknowable individual.62 The scientific / artistic enlightenment project is gathering momentum that will evolve society collectively to a new level. Great civilisations have failed in the past because they have been patriarchal and elitist; whist Rebekkah‟s vision encompasses everyone, so it cannot be:
drawn back, either by internal disintergration, brought about by that body in the society which has not been included in the advance, or through external and violent conflict with other parts of the race which have not shared its advance.63
Or, more succinctly, and echoing contemporary socialist rhetoric, "Permanent advance must be united advance."64 Anna Maria Gentili points out Schreiner considered herself a socialist who thought that for capitalism, which entails dehumanising conditions, to be properly challenged, a proletarian leadership would need to form, and win concessions as a dialectic process.65 Schreiner goes on to refute eugenic evolutionary arguments on the basis that it is impossible to say which human characteristics may be useful in the future,66 assert that it is acceptable to break unjust laws,67 and imply that the economic–legal basis of society has restricted our evolution by favouring individuals at the expense of the collective.68 Society has the power, thorough consciousness and mobilisation, to negate this predatory model, and replace it with a social model, making evolution in a different direction possible. Evolution theory is synthesised with Marxist-socialist ideology, Schreiner also infusing her historical model with allegory, her "Spirit of the Ages"69 being akin to that of Hegel (from whom Marx derived his conception of historical progress). Schreiner thus idealises education through literature, its power to challenge preconceptions shown in the story Rebekkah tells to dissuade her children from racism, although again Schreiner is not without reservation; the story has much more effect on Charles than on Frank (his father‟s namesake). A key aspect of this education, as seen in From Man to Man and Women and Labour, is the reappropriation of world history to include previously marginalised non-European non-male perspectives.
The stories discussed here are all vehicles for Schreiner‟s own opinions, whether expressed directly or aggregated across different characters, and thus are pervaded by her synthesis of humanism, socialism, anti-capitalism, and insistence that society evolves responding to alterable conditions. Often, effect is gained through formal subversion which requires us to examine the basis of our prejudices. Fictional structure reveals that knowledge is borne out of antithetical opposition. Villains are shown to be conditioned products of a society fundamentally debased. Art and education have the potential to alter these fundamentals, thereby altering society. There are no illusions, however, that utopia will be easily attainable. 11
1 I am not suggesting Schreiner was directly influenced by Marx, but that some ideas coincide between the two, and that a Marxist reading of Schreiner is an illuminating exercise. There is no evidence that Schreiner read Marx‟s work, nor do Schreiner‟s biographers refer to any indication of an acknowledged influence; though Schreiner was an intimate friend of Eleanor Marx after her arrival in England.
2 Johann Rudolph Wyss, The Swiss Family Robinson (London: Trischler, 1891).
3 Olive Schreiner, Dream Life and Real Life (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1912), p.15.
4 Olive Schreiner, The Woman’s Rose, in Dream Life and Real Life (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1912), p.4.
5 Olive Schreiner, The Garden of Pleasure, in Dreams (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1891), p.55.
6 Olive Schreiner, Three Dreams In A Desert, in Dreams (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1891), p.72.
7 Olive Schreiner, Three Dreams In A Desert, in Dreams (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1891), p.73.
8 Olive Schreiner, Three Dreams In A Desert, in Dreams (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1891), p.75.
9 Olive Schreiner, Three Dreams In A Desert, in Dreams (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1891), p.76.
10 Olive Schreiner, Three Dreams In A Desert, in Dreams (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1891), p.83.
11 Olive Schreiner, The Sunlight Lay Across My Bed, in Dreams (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1891), p.153.
12 Olive Schreiner, The Sunlight Lay Across My Bed, in Dreams (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1891), p.151.
13 Olive Schreiner, The Sunlight Lay Across My Bed, in Dreams (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1891), p.153.
14 Olive Schreiner, Preface to The Story of an African Farm (London: Penguin, 1982), p.27.
15 Olive Schreiner, The Story of an African Farm (London: Penguin, 1982), epigraph, p.31.
16 Olive Schreiner, The Story of an African Farm (London: Penguin, 1982), p.189.
17 Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth (London: Penguin, 1967), p.48.
18 Olive Schreiner, The Story of an African Farm (London: Penguin, 1982), p.195.
19 Olive Schreiner, The Story of an African Farm (London: Penguin, 1982), p.209.
20 Gerald Monsman, Olive Schreiner’s Fiction (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1991), p.60.
21 Annalisa Oboe, „Contrasts and Harmony: The Antithetical Structure of The Story of an African Farm‟, in Itala Vivan, ed, The Flawed Diamond. Essays on Olive Schreiner (Sydney: Dangaroo, 1991), p.90.
22 Olive Schreiner, The Story of an African Farm (London: Penguin, 1982), p.257.
23 Olive Schreiner, The Story of an African Farm (London: Penguin, 1982), p.217.
24 Olive Schreiner, The Story of an African Farm (London: Penguin, 1982), p.185.
25 Gerald Monsman, Olive Schreiner’s Fiction (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1991), p.20.
26 Annalisa Oboe, „Contrasts and Harmony: The Antithetical Structure of The Story of an African Farm‟, in Itala Vivan, ed, The Flawed Diamond. Essays on Olive Schreiner (Sydney: Dangaroo, 1991), p.87.
27 Olive Schreiner, The Story of an African Farm (London: Penguin, 1982), p.42.
28 Karl Marx, Foundations for the Critique of Political Economy (London: Penguin, 1973) p.106. Marx produced this study between 1857-61, though it was not intended for publication, and never was published during his lifetime. I therefore am not suggesting that Schreiner is consciously working from a Marxist model, but that their ideas coincide.
29 Olive Schreiner, The Story of an African Farm (London: Penguin, 1982), p.291.
30 Olive Schreiner, The Story of an African Farm (London: Penguin, 1982), p.294.
31 Olive Schreiner, The Story of an African Farm (London: Penguin, 1982), p.143.
32 Olive Schreiner, The Story of an African Farm (London: Penguin, 1982), p.152.
33 Olive Schreiner, The Story of an African Farm (London: Penguin, 1982), p.97.
34 Olive Schreiner, The Story of an African Farm (London: Penguin, 1982), p.253.
35 Olive Schreiner, The Story of an African Farm (London: Penguin, 1982), p.260.
36 Olive Schreiner, The Story of an African Farm (London: Penguin, 1982), p.112.
37 Gerald Monsman, Olive Schreiner’s Fiction (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1991), p.84.
38 Olive Schreiner to Havelock Ellis,12th July 1884, in C.S. Cronwright-Screiner, ed, Letters of Olive Schreiner (London, T. Fisher Unwin, 1927), p.28
39 Olive Schreiner, The Story of an African Farm (London: Penguin, 1982), p.256.
40 Olive Schreiner, The Story of an African Farm (London: Penguin, 1982), p.69.
41 Olive Schreiner, The Story of an African Farm (London: Penguin, 1982), p.189.
42 Olive Schreiner, The Story of an African Farm (London: Penguin, 1982), p.194.
43 Olive Schreiner to W.P. Schreiner, undated (possibly October 1918), Olive Schreiner Collection, University of Cape Town Libraries. Quoted in Gerald Monsman, Olive Schreiner’s Fiction (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1991), p.96.
44 The Buddhist Priest’s Wife survives as a posthumously published short story, compiled from different versions by S.C. Cronwright-Schreiner. Schreiner apparently suggested to her husband it was to have become a novel. (S.C. Cronwright-Schreiner, Life of Olive Schreiner (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1926), p.271.) 12
45 Olive Schreiner, The Buddhist Priest’s Wife, in Angelique Richardson, ed, Women Who Did: Stories by Men and Women 1890-1914 (London: Penguin, 2002), p.14.
46 Olive Schreiner, The Buddhist Priest’s Wife, in Angelique Richardson, ed, Women Who Did: Stories by Men and Women 1890-1914 (London: Penguin, 2002), p.13.
47 Olive Schreiner, The Buddhist Priest’s Wife, in Angelique Richardson, ed, Women Who Did: Stories by Men and Women 1890-1914 (London: Penguin, 2002), p.11.
48 Olive Schreiner, The Buddhist Priest’s Wife, in Angelique Richardson, ed, Women Who Did: Stories by Men and Women 1890-1914 (London: Penguin, 2002), p.14.
49 Olive Schreiner, The Buddhist Priest’s Wife, in Angelique Richardson, ed, Women Who Did: Stories by Men and Women 1890-1914 (London: Penguin, 2002), p.13.
50 Olive Schreiner, The Buddhist Priest’s Wife, in Angelique Richardson, ed, Women Who Did: Stories by Men and Women 1890-1914 (London: Penguin, 2002), p.12.
51 Olive Schreiner, The Buddhist Priest’s Wife, in Angelique Richardson, ed, Women Who Did: Stories by Men and Women 1890-1914 (London: Penguin, 2002), p.9.
52 Olive Schreiner, The Buddhist Priest’s Wife, in Angelique Richardson, ed, Women Who Did: Stories by Men and Women 1890-1914 (London: Penguin, 2002), p.17.
53 Olive Schreiner to Havelock Ellis,24th Jan 1888, in C.S. Cronwright-Screiner, ed, Letters of Olive Schreiner (London, T. Fisher Unwin, 1927), p.129.
54 Olive Schreiner, From Man to Man (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1926), p.189.
55 Olive Schreiner, From Man to Man (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1926), p.369.
56 Olive Schreiner, From Man to Man (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1926), p.53.
57 Olive Schreiner, From Man to Man (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1926), p.35.
58 Olive Schreiner, From Man to Man (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1926), p.86.
59 Olive Schreiner, From Man to Man (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1926), p.92.
60 Olive Schreiner, From Man to Man (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1926), p.173.
61 Gerald Monsman, Olive Schreiner’s Fiction (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1991), p.94.
62 Olive Schreiner, From Man to Man (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1926), p.180.
63 Olive Schreiner, From Man to Man (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1926), p.189.
64 Olive Schreiner, From Man to Man (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1926), p.192.
65 Anna Maria Gentili, Olive Schreiner and South Africa in Itala Vivan, ed, The Flawed Diamond. Essays on Olive Schreiner (Sydney: Dangaroo, 1991), p.72.
66 Olive Schreiner, From Man to Man (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1926), p.196.
67 Olive Schreiner, From Man to Man (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1926), p.200.
68 Olive Schreiner, From Man to Man (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1926), p.216.
69 Olive Schreiner, From Man to Man (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1926), p.225. 13
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Schreiner, Olive. Women and Labour . Dover: New York, 1988
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First, Ruth and Scott, Ann. Olive Schreiner: A biography. London: Andre Deutch, 1980.
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