An Analysis of a Sunrise on the Veld by Doris Lessing

The story, A Sunrise on the Veld, written by Doris Lessing, takes place in Africa, as do many other novels and short stories written by Lessing.  Most of Lessings works are autobiographical and reflect the background of her very own childhood. Much of her work stresses the complexity of life and death with humanitys struggle to understand the world.  In 1925, Lessing and her parents moved to Southern Rhodesia, which is now Zimbabwe, in hopes of getting rich through maize farming. Living on some thousand-odd acres of bush, Lessing had an explorative childhood.  The natural world, which she explored with her brother, Harry, was one retreat from an otherwise miserable existence. In her early childhood, Doris was sent to a convent school and later sent to an all-girls high school in the capital of Salisbury, and later dropped out of school all together. At the age of thirteen, Lessing had found an end to her formal educational years.

Being short of education did not stop Doris from becoming successful. She made herself into a self-educated intellectual and due to her unhappy childhood, felt the desire to become a fictional writer. Lessing believes that fiction reflects cosmopolitan awareness of racial and class inequities. It also shows a concern for moral, political, and psychological attitudes. Lessing wrote a series of short stories all set in Africa. A Sunrise on the Veld is one of many parts to this series. In this story, Lessing describes one of few young white boys who lived in Zimbabwe, whose life was much like her own. She also was one of few white individuals in Africa and had a yearning for exploring the bush at a young age just as he. Drawing upon her childhood memories and her serious engagement with politics and social concerns, Lessing has written about the clash of cultures, the gross injustices of racial inequality, the struggle among opposing elements within an individuals own personality, and the conflict between the individual conscience and the collective good. In A Sunrise on the Veld, her struggle among opposing elements within an individuals own personality, and the conflict between the individual conscience and the collective good, are reflected. Every morning, before sunrise, the boy in the story goes into the bush to hunt. One particular morning, he comes across a monstrous beast, in which he gains interest. After studying at the creature for some time, he realizes he has come across a conflict where is nature struggling against nature.

A buck is being eaten by millions of ants and the boy is struggles with his own personality and conscience. He knows nature is intended to live and die on its own, but he also knows the buck is suffering a terrible death. He stands there watching, contemplating whether or not he should put an end to the bucks misery, or let nature take its life on its own. It came into his mind that he should shoot it and end its pain; and he raised the gun. Then he lowered it again. Listening to her fathers bitter war torn stories could have possessed Lessing to give such a detailed description of the buck fighting against the ants. The boy is experiencing a war between to different sides and watching each side fight with all their ability to win. Doris talks about listening her father give incite and detail about his side fighting with all they had to win. Having seen her fathers war wounds and crippled ness Lessing can relate them to the description of the buck after his battle with the ants. In flight from her mother, Lessing left home when she was fifteen and took a job as a nursemaid. With each new day, comes a new adventure for the boy. An escape from everything he is around all day, an escape from his life, an expedition to the world of nature. Lessing was trying to flee from something in her life and her bitter surroundings, just as the boy is escaping into a rewarding landscape full of his own decisions. When Lessing left home, she was given the right to make her own decisions; she found a job as a nursemaid and began writing her novels and stories. The boy is faced with different decisions he has to make on his own as well. When he comes across the buck, he is challenged with a decision of his own, whether or not to shoot the buck. Lessing can relate to the boy in this matter because she is making him escape into a whole new world just as she did as a young girl.

The African landscape is a valuable commodity in the boys life. Lessing once stated, I believe that the chief gift from Africa to writers, white and black, is the continent itself, its presence which for some people is like an old fever, latent always in their blood; or like an old wound throbbing in the bones as the air changes. That is not a place to visit unless one chooses to be an exile ever afterwards from an inexplicable majestic silence lying just over the border of memory or of thought. Africa gives you the knowledge that man is a small creature, among other creatures, in a large landscape. The last sentence of that statement probably states how the boy feels at times. When he first explained the buck, he seemed like he felt inferior to the animal. There, between two trees, against a background of gaunt black rocks, was a figure from a dream, a strange beast that was horned and drunken-legged, but like something he had never even imagined. This story really reflects on the life of Doris Lessing in a variety of different ways. Through the boy in the story, Lessing may be able to somewhat relive a similar life to hers, yet in a more desirable and rewarding way. By placing the boy in the same African landscape and describing many creatures and the happiness the boy finds in his environment, Doris relates herself to his and relives her past in a rewarding way. By having the boy isolate himself from everyone, she gives a feeling of escapism and shows that his happiness comes from isolation. Doris herself tells of her only happiness being when she isolated herself from others, running away at 15 and later leaving a husband and son behind to find happiness. In the end, Lessing gives you the feeling that the only way in life for her, was isolation. In a sense, the boy is the same way by only gaining a feeling of freedom when he was in the bush. From this story, you can conclude that happiness comes from freedom and the liberty of being able to make your own choices.

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