Dukwane’s Deliverance: The Setting In The Short Story

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Table of contents

  1. Setting
  2. Physical setting
  3. Social setting

Setting

Neil Ramsorrun’s short story “Dukwane’s Deliverance” is set in London and spans over a couple of days. Although the time setting is not mentioned, we can assume the events probably happen around the time the short story was published in 2010.

Physical setting

The general physical setting is London. Part of the action takes place in Dukwane’s home in Camden, part on the streets, part at the fast food Dukwane works, and part at the hospital.

Camden is a borough in North West London, relatively close to the city centre. The author does not give many details about Dukwane’s house, but we know that his mother is in the kitchen and his father is watching TV in the living room.

The author maps Dukwane’s road to work so readers who are familiar with London can draw a mental map of his route. The street setting is depicted through Dukwane’s eyes:

As he stepped out onto York Way, the sun was setting over King's Cross in the distance, a crimson candyfloss sky broken by a dozen cranes all busy building his city. [...] He could walk to Big Ben in 40 minutes from his house, and could almost see it from his street, but he couldn't really say he felt part of any of it. Yet. (ll. 34-38)

This description helps suggest that Dukwane feels like an outsider in what he imagines is the real London; the London of people who have achieved something in life.

The same setting is presented at midnight, when Dukwane tries to protect a child from being killed and he is stabbed:

The road fell silent for what seemed like the first time that night. He glanced at his shopping list and headed towards the Turkish store. (…)As he crossed the road, the silence was pierced by the sound of footsteps from the alleyway to his right. (ll.71- 76)

This time, the darkness and the silence suggest unknown, obscure things.

The physical setting of the fast food restaurant where Dukwane works suggests that Dukwane finds the place unpleasant and that he is slightly critical of modern fast food culture: “As he rounded the corner from Camden Road to Kentish Town Road, the red neon hen of Holy Fried Chicken was blinking and beckoning him in for another shift of grease and banter.” (ll. 39-41)

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Finally, the hospital setting also illustrates certain social aspects, as Dukwane believes the place is too expensive for what it offers: “Dukwane turned on the TV console above his bed. £3.50 per day to watch the BBC. He switched it off again and plumped his pillows as he settled down for the night…” (ll. 137-138)

As you can see, some elements of the physical setting play an important role in illustrating aspects of the social setting.

Social setting

The social setting in the short story explores issues related to modern London society: the gap between rich and poor, discrimination, poverty, and parent-child relationships.

The story opens by illustrating how those who are intelligent and work hard have an equal chance of getting into a good university, regardless of their background. Dukwane comes from a low-income black family, but he is still accepted to Cambridge.

Unlike Dukwane, who is excited to check if he was accepted at the university, his parents are more cautious. This suggests that they come from a generation that did not trust themselves and that they do not believe in their son’s chance: “ ‘Listen son, it's not the end of the world if you don't get in, remember that.’” (l. 14)

Furthermore, although the father watches the political news and comments on it, he does not believe his son has a chance of becoming a politician one day, even after he finds out that Dukwane has been accepted into Cambridge. He does not even congratulate Dukwane for being accepted, although he does smile at his son, suggesting approval. This suggests that Dukwane’s parents—particularly his father—were probably very pessimistic about their future and resigned to their social position.

However, they do love their son, as illustrated by their reactions when they find out he is not going to be able to walk again: “Hunched over the bed, his mother wept and asked the Lord Jesus to make him better as his father sat in shock.” (ll. 101-102)

The fact that Dukwane has to work although he is still in high school suggests that his family is rather poor. Dukwane’s interactions with his friend Jermaine illustrate aspects related to the differences among the younger generation. Although they both work in the same place, Dukwane wants to do more than his current situation allows, so he applies to and is accepted by the University of Cambridge. Jermaine, on the other hand, seems resigned to his condition; that he will probably work in that fast food restaurant for a long time. Furthermore, Jermaine also illustrates various prejudices that working-class people in London sometimes have about the upper classes: “ ‘Well, they're all loaded, and white, I heard you get the cane from your teachers if you don't do your work. And the older guys are gay and make the younger ones do weird shit.’ ” (ll. 61-62)

The fact that Dukwane is stabbed on the street by someone he knew, and only because he tried to defend another boy, suggests a violent society, in which young people gather in gangs and engage in fights. This is further suggested by Jermaine’s proposal to take revenge on those who hurt Dukwane:

‘It's not right, D. They can't just go around stabbing people. No one cares about us. The police won't do shit, your dad's useless. It's down to you and me. You know the Bengalis my cousin Frankie hangs out with? Frankie says they're into some real heavy shit. He was telling me how one time they did this guy in because he stole their parking space.’ (ll. 127-130)

This suggests that the young generation from the lower classes feels disappointed by local authorities and adults. The youngsters believe that forming gangs is the only way to survive on the streets.

In the story, Dukwane illustrates the exception. He believes that he can change things by studying, by becoming someone important, and achieving his dreams. He wants to be a politician and does not let himself be discouraged by his parents or his friend. At the end, he even manages to overcome his disability, which almost made him give up his dreams.

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