No witchcraft for Sale

Category: Racism, Witchcraft
Last Updated: 10 Jan 2022
Pages: 5 Views: 1284

Culture at its Best “Piccanin,” shouted Teddy, “get out of my way! ” And he raced in circles around the black child until he was frightened, and fled back to the bush. ” This scene from Doris Lessings “No Witchcraft for Sale” depicts a child being affected by the results of apartheid, a policy or system of segregation or discrimination on grounds of race, in South Africa. Similar to segregation in America, apartheid separated the blacks and white into two different classes; the blacks being of lower class and whites having high rank in society.

Gideon, a cook in Doris Lessing’s short story and the main character, served the Farquar family all of his life. Even though this separation deemed whites as superior, this separation occurred because of cultural differences. As the story begins the audience is introduced to the Farquar’s family who has just brought their first child, Teddy, into the world. This family, the bosses or the masters lived on a compound and represent the oppressors. This family has a cook servant named Gideon who represents the oppressed.

Gideon and the Farquar’s young child Teddy have a strong bond from the beginning. Gideon acted as a father in many ways to the Farquar’s child. Their bond was so extraordinary in this story that is set in a time in South Africa when blacks were treated inferior to whites. Though it was evident Gideon and Teddy’s relationship was real it did not prevent the elements of what racism teaches. Little time was spent by Gideon caring for his family or even being there for his son. Gideon played tirelessly with Teddy catching him when he fell as he learned to walk and tossing him up in the air.

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Gideon’s son could only watch from the edge of the bush and gaze in awe of the young white boy his same age. Each had a curiosity for the other. Teddy once put out his hand in curiosity to touch the face and hair of a black boy. Gideon’s bond is ironic because whites treated the black natives as if they were so much less than they were, yet the very person coaching a white child to lean to walk was a black man who earned the admiration of his superior and increases in his wages over other workers on the compound.

When Gideon says to Mrs. Farquar “Ah missus, these are both children, and one will grow up to be a baas, and one will be a servant” he accepts the fact that no matter how much love he has for the boy that Teddy will conform to the nasty ways of society. Gideon also gave the child his nickname “Little Yellow Head”. This nickname shows that Gideon had a level of love and adoration for the young white child. Although this relationship with the child was evident, is it possible Gideon showed the child so much affection to avoid punishment?

Gideon even realized that the child he had once held and nurtured would grow up to conform to society. This became evident on the day Teddy used his scooter to frighten Gideon’s son and when reprimanded about the mean act gave the defiant response, “He is only a black boy. ” This showed indifference to Gideon’s son as a person by regarding his act equal to what had been done to scatter squawking chickens and irritated dogs. One afternoon as Teddy was walking exploring the outdoors, a snake spit poisonous venom into his eye.

Everyone in the home knew that he could potentially go blind. The child writhed in agony as his mother tried her best to assist her son but she knew not of a cure. When she called for Gideon he sprung into action and ran off into the bush for some herbal medicine that was common among the other African natives to handle being poisoned. When he returned he held in his hand a root. Gideon chewed the root, spit its juices into the eyes of the boy without hesitation even with his mother crying out in protest and pressed it into the child’s eyes guaranteeing he would be cured.

As the reader, I could not help but to feel a certain amount of respect and love towards Gideon, as the Farquar’s did because of his rapid response to help the afflicted child. This quick response was borne out of love for Teddy. Not only were there elements of Gideon and Teddy’s relationship, but certain cultural differences kept the baas’ and natives separate. The natives lived off of ways of the land and kept secrets of remedies to each other. I believe they kept the remedies a secret in order to preserve their culture and practices.

The text reads “No one can live in Africa or at least on the veld, without learning very soon that there is an ancient wisdom of leaf and soil and season-and, too, perhaps most important of all, of the darker tracts of the human mind-which is the black mans heritage. Up and down the district people were telling anecdotes, reminding each other of things that had happened to them. ” In contrast the whites believed in medical advances and were skeptical about the accuracy of some of the natives “bush medicines”.

When the scientist states “We are always checking up on this kind of story, and we draw a blank every time” it proves his disbelief of the African remedies and that he does not trust that they will work. Also the scientist and The Farquar’s try to persuade Gideon to disclose the root by assuring him that the information will be used for the common good. This is a cultural clash because the whites are trying to advance their modern medicine as Gideon is trying to save his cultural practices. Gideon would not let the sacred root of the African witch doctors benefit humanity for a cost.

The friendship between Gideon and The Farquar’s is affected by his defiance. They begin to look at him with disdain and annoyance and Gideon displayed hostility, stubbornness and made contradictory statements about the location of the root. This cultural clash could also be connected to the power struggles displayed throughout the short story. The scientist and Farquar’s wanted power over Gideon so he would tell the truth about the root, but Gideon maintained control by leading everyone into the bush on a wild goose chase.

The text reads “He (Gideon) picked up, without an attempt at looking anything but casual, a handful of blue flowers that had been growing plentifully all down the path they had come. ” Gideon is mocking the scientist and Farquar’s will and intelligence as he had them walk 6 miles in the bush to search for this root when all he did was pick up a measly flower that had been growing down the whole path. He showed them and the readers that he was not afraid to protect his cultural practices.

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No witchcraft for Sale. (2018, Jul 13). Retrieved from

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