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Dire Situations and Bad Prospects’: Damon Galgut’s Glance at South Africa’s Past and Present in <i>The Good Doctor</>

M Cabarcos-Traseira


Damon Galgut’s The Good Doctor (2003) deals with the present moment in which South Africans wonder how to confront their historical legacy as they attempt to build a different kind of future. At a rural hospital that may stand for South Africa, Galgut throws together a sceptic – scarred by his experience of the former regime’s repressive mechanisms – two foreign NGO volunteers who have been shocked into stupor by violence elsewhere, a woman who has been recently empowered, but whose fear of change leaves her immobile, and a hopeless idealist who will work to make the world a better place, whatever the cost. None of these characters incarnate pure evil or the promise of a better life in absolute terms, as the impossibility of identifying the referent for the novel’s title demonstrates. What the novel leaves no doubt about, however, is the persistence of the racial and social schisms inherited from the past. This paper will analyse the extent to which the meeting of these contrasting outlooks on the country’s situation results in a violent clash, detachment, even violence and death, or whether hope may result from the collision.

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eISSN: 2159-9130
print ISSN: 1013-929X