A Matter of Taste

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Post-apartheid Society
“A Matter of Taste” by Alex La Guma
Alex La Guma’s short story “A Matter of Taste” talks about the post-apartheid social relationships and conflicts between the mixed races, also known as the coloureds and the whites. Through the observation of John, the narrator, the American Dream is interpreted differently by Whitey and Chinaboy; in other words, by the wealthy and respectable whites and the poor non-whites. Throughout the short story, various examples of characterization and contrasting imagery suggest that even if Chinaboy and Whitey are both victims of apartheid, the racial discrimination is still going to stay; approaching the American Dream doesn’t seem as easy to thoughtful Chinaboy than it may be for the naïve Whitey. Despite the differences in their social relationships, Chinaboy ultimately comes to a realization that he once had similar dreams as Whitey does now, which is to live the American Dream. It may have been harder for Chinaboy but since Whitey’s race is more accepted and respected in the world, it may not be as tough for him to pursue the American Dream, so making him aware of the hardship he may have to face, Chinaboy decides to help Whitey. In this piece of literature, the author portrays different types of characters. Whitey, who can be categorized as a flat character, has a very optimistic yet uncritical thinking of the American Dream. He simply just wishes to “Maybe get a job on a ship an’ make the States” (253). Whereas, railway worker Chinaboy, who can be classified as a dynamic character has an ironic interpretation of the same lifestyle. While sitting in a dirty forest and having coffee, he reminds himself of an image of fancy food from an American book and then shares his experience of the time when he served as a waiter “In one of that big caffies.” (254), explaining the hardship he had to go through. Though his whimsical and thoughtful opinions made it seem as if the American Dream to him was merely a...