Let us use My Children! My Africa! as an example to help understand the steps you need to take to prepare for your literature exam.
Learn some facts about the playwright
Harold Athol Lannigan Fugard was born on 11 June 1932 in Middelburg, a small town in the Karoo. Athol successfully directed his first full-length play, No Good Friday. The play showed at the Bantu Men’s Social Centre in Johannesburg. My Children! My Africa! premiered at the Market Theatre, Johannesburg, in June 1989.
Understand the historical background to the play
Fugard’s plays are usually set under the shadow of the apartheid system. Read about key events that occurred during the time the play was set in. My Children! My Africa! is set in the mid-1980s. The intensity of the struggle for freedom was at its height. Township schools like the fictional Zolile High in the play were often at the forefront of violent resistance to apartheid forces.
Use summaries to revise
Write a summary of the whole play that describes the plot, characters, how they are introduced, etc. We will start you off…
My Children! My Africa! tells the story of the friendship of two young people, Isabel Dyson, a privileged white girl, and Thami Mbikwana, a highly intelligent township youth. Their meeting occurs when a teacher, Mr M, organises an inter-schools debate between their schools.
Make a list of what happens
Make a list of what happens in each act and scene to help you remember so you can describe it in detail. For example:
Summary: Act 1, Scene 1
- There is an inter-school debate in Number One Classroom at Zolile High.
- Mr M rings the school bell and calls for order.
- Mr M reads out the definition of a debate from his dictionary.
Analyse the play
To completely understand the play you need to read the entire play. Don’t panic if you don’t understand every single word of the text. Aim to understand the meaning of a whole speech. Ensure that you understand the dramatic structure of the drama, the plot, characters, themes and imagery and symbolism.
Dramatic structure of My Children! My Africa!
|Exposition||Mr. M organises an inter-schools debate between the matric classes of Camdeboo Girls High School and Zolile High School. Isabel Dyson and Thami Mbikwana sum up their arguments.|
|Inciting incident that sets off conflict||Thami makes it clear that he will not allow Mr M to rule his life.|
|Rising action||Mr M orders Thami to be in the English literary quiz team. However Thami later withdraws from the team. There is conflict between Thami and Mr M who argue about how the struggle for freedom should be conducted.|
|Climax||Mr. M is accused of being an informer. The Comrades organise stay-aways in the township. There are violent protests in the township and Mr M is killed.|
|Thami and Isabel meet and confess their love for Mr M. Thami says he did try to save Mr M’s life. He plans to go into exile to join the Struggle.|
|Conclusion||Isabel goes to the Wapadsberg Pass to be near the spirit of Mr M. She promises to make her life useful. She wants Mr M to be proud of her. She says, “The future is still ours, Mr M.”|
It is important to realise that the examination is not intended to catch you out! The examiners want to give you an opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge, understanding and personal interpretation of the drama you have studied. They want to see how well you can express your responses to the questions they have set.
Find more help in X-kit Achieve Literature Study Guide: My Children! My Africa! (9781928226598)
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