Ah, Woe Is Me

A) Summary of The Story: In the beginning of this short story we are introduced
to Sarah, an aging black servant living in South Africa. She works hard for an
upper-class white family and spends all of her money on education for her three
children who are sent to a boarding school. They come home once a year at
Christmas, and the first time the narrator meets the children, she is surprised
at their well-mannered behaviour. She finds, however, that Sarah is a bit harsh
towards them, and she comments on this. Sarah tells her that it is better to
learn the lesson now and grow to accept one\'s fate later. In the course of the
following year, Sarah must give up her job because of her legs, and one day her
daughter comes to the house. Slowly she tells her story to the narrator. How the
younger brother is working now, and how she is taking care of Sarah. The
narrator offers her some clothes and some money and invites her inside for a cup
of tea. When she is about to leave, she starts crying and can only mutter that
her mother is very ill. Unsure of what to do, the narrator hands her a
handkerchief.

B) An Essay About the Text: The setting in this story is South Africa in the
1950\'s. Apartheid and segregation are words that describe the conditions under
which the blacks (the native Africans) live perfectly. The blacks nearly have no
rights and must accept being oppressed by the whites. Sarah is only one of many
poor blacks who only just manages to earn a living by working as a servant for a
rich white family (the narrator). Slavery does not exist anymore, but it can be
difficult to distuingish the life of a slave from that of a native African in
the 50\'s except from the fact that they do after all get paid for their work.
Sarah is very concerned about her children getting a good education. She
probably wants them to have a better life than she has had so far, and while
that is a very noble thought, the facts speak against it. Her children do not at
this time have a very good (if any) chance of getting a good solid education
because it is very expensive, and their mother does not make that much money.
Even if she did make enough money, her legs are bad, and at the end of the story,
she has to give up her job (and thus take her children out of the boarding
school) because she cannot afford to pay for the school. This is what could look
like the final blow to her children\'s future success in life. No education means
no chances of getting a better life in South Africa (and just about everywhere
else, too). But what if she did have enough money to give her children a proper
education - would that guarantee the children a good future life? I gravely
doubt it. As I said before, the blacks live almost like slaves, and as such,
they do not have the opportunity to climb the social ladder. All in all, Sarah\'s
hopes and dreams for her children are all very noble, but, unfortunately, at
that time and place, very unrealistic.
The narrator does not treat Sarah any better than most other white people
in South Africa at this time. While she allows Sarah\'s children to stay in her
house during Christmas, I think the only reason she does it is because she tries
to escape her own bad conscience. It is Christmas after all. Throughout the rest
of the year, she does not even think about helping Sarah\'s children financially
so they can stay in school. Even though she presumably has more money than Sarah
will ever see, the thought of helping her servant out does not strike her at any
point in the story. Her servant is her servant, and servants\' children are not
someone she thinks about. This point is also very clear to see when one reads
the description of the narrator\'s thoughts about Sarah\'s children. She is
surprised at how well they behave, how good their manners are; as if she was
expecting a horde of wild animals instead of normal human beings. She is
undoubtedly not the only one to think this way about the blacks, they were
considered animals by many white people at that time. However, the narrator
seems to excuse