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Marguerite Poland


Chapter 19:
Questions to challenge you!

Keith Tankard
Updated: 4 March 2014
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We are transported to Johannesburg where the brutality of the gold mines is revealed. Reuben and Tom go to work underground, while Sonwabo becomes a "bride" for the "induna".

Crispin begins his downward spiral that will end in his death. He learns with a shock what is happening to Sonwabo.

Then Victor, whom he has always trusted implicitly, not only introduces him to prostitutes but is also forgetting Frances in his pursuit of the Warburton girl.


Capitalism in its strict meaning is the exploitation of people for the sake of wealth. The gold mines in Johannesburg were typically capitalistic ventures.

The mines were owned by a few wealthy people who forced labourers to work under harsh conditions, live in dreadful circumstances, and be paid pathetically small wages in order to mine the minerals and so make the capitalists wealthier.

Although Shades does not deal with the mainstream capitalists like Cecil John Rhodes, it does nevertheless involve the lesser capitalists like Victor Drake, Charlie Fraser, Sonny Hoek and Harold Stanbridge.

These were the people who saw the opportunity to enrich themselves by exploiting an unsuspecting labouring group that had been devastated by the rinderpest epidemic.

The recruitment of black labour for the gold mines was a typically capitalistic venture. People like Charlie, Harold and Victor saw in the rinderpest devastation the ideal opportunity to become wealthy.

The Xhosa had had their herds decimated. They were therefore approached by shrewd recruiters like Victor to sign up their sons under contract to work on the mines in return for a few healthy cattle.

Cattle were regarded by the Xhosa as a source of wealth but they did not cost much for the capitalists who could buy them cheaply and could therefore afford to give them away as gifts.

It was a form of modern slavery. Vague promises were given of good pay and ideal working conditions. By the time the lie was spotted, it was too late. The labourers could not escape.

There was no chance of rescue. Many labourers died on the mines -- while the recruiters ignored their desperate circumstances.

Have you looked at the questions
in the right column?
Read the left column and then answer
the following questions:

What message is Marguerite Poland attempting to convey by the barbarous name-changing scene that starts this chapter? (4)

[Need help?]

Comment on the various forms of barbarity which are presented in this chapter. (4)

[Need help?]

Victor reveals himself untrustworthy in two ways, viz. with his dinner date at the Warburtons, and his introducing Crispin to prostitutes. Comment. (4)

[Need help?]

Given that Crispin's conscience is as sensitive as his sister's, how would his visit to a prostitute have affected him? (4)

[Need help?]

A missionary came into the brothel as Crispin was clinging to the banisters. He questioned Crispin about what his father and mother might think of his actions.
  • What effect would this reminder have had on Crispin's conscience? (5)

[Need help?]

Charlie Fraser and Sonnie Hoek carry Crispin on their shoulders after the visit to the brothel. Why? (2)

[Need help?]

"Damn Victor to hell! Damn him!" Crispin shouts.
  • Explain why Crispin reacts in this way. (6)

[Need help?]

Try another worksheet?

See also:
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