Throughout the world, there are many diverse cultures, each of these distinct cultures have different backgrounds, rituals and practices. These cultures have a profound effect on the minds of their inhabitants. It’s a person’s culture which effects their thoughts, beliefs and their outlook upon life. It doesn’t matter where you are from or where you go to, you always have a piece of your culture with you wherever you are. It is your cultural heritage’s and background which molds your mind, and your thoughts of how you perceive the world around you. In every culture different aspects of the society are viewed differently. Some cultures share similarities with other cultures about how they view things. In many cultures sports plays a key role in the society, and many times the whole community is based around the sports. No matter where you are from, sports will always play a role in the society. Many times in literature you can tell where the setting is or where the author is from by the way the community or society in the literature view sports. If you look at the literature that authors produce and where they are from, you will notice a common trend in all of their work. The cultural heritage of the writer affects the perspective in which they write from or about. The cultural heritage affects the writers perspective in many different ways, among them are stereotypes and the setting of the story and the everyday activities that the character go through. Two prime examples of how an authors cultural heritage affects the perspective that they write from is the South African author Bryce Courtenay and the American author Ernest Hemingway.
Bryce Courtenay was born and raised in South Africa and received his early education there. He spend the majority of his adolescent life in South Africa and in his final year in Africa he spent it in the copper mines of Central Africa, before he moved to England to complete his education.1 Courtenay spent his early life in Africa, and the African culture had a profound affect him. His time in the copper mines also had a penetrating effect on him and it is visible in his writing, when he wrote about the mines in Africa. In the book The Power of One, Courtenay writes form the perspective of a young British boy in South Africa which shows how cultural heritages affects the writers perspective.
It is apparent that the prejudices had a astonishing affect on Courtenay, especially with the hatred between the Boers, Blacks and the British. Because of the hatred going on in South Africa at the time of his growing up and even today, you can sense a tone of racism in his writing. “Please, Meneer, he hates kaffirs (blacks) just like you.”2 Frequently in the book the black are referred to kaffirs and other derogatory terms. Through the years, because of wars and other disagreements the Boers have come to hate the British, and vice versa and the Blacks in southern Africa have always been hated ever since the white Europeans arrived.
This hatred started between the British and the Boers when the British first came to Africa during the slave trade. The Boers from Europe, had migrated to Africa for freedom, freedom of religion and of the prejudices that they faced in Europe. There was peace between the British and the Boers until the Boer republics were found to be rich in diamonds and gold. Fortune hunters, mostly British, poured in to stake claims,3 which belonged to the Boers. That is when the tension increased. Soon after was the Boer War, and since then there has been a great amount of tension and hatred between the British and the Boers. “…he stopped halfway down the alley and shouted in Afrikaans, ‘I’ll get you back for this, you rooinek (redneck, a derogatory term for the English) bastard.'”4 Time and time again in the book you can feel the tension and hatred between each of the groups in South Africa. Another area of his culture that is present in the book The Power Of One is that of sports. There all sports all over this book and in his writings. In the African culture sports are very big. The sports which are the biggest in Africa are rugby and boxing. Both rugby and boxing are key parts of the African culture in the book. Boxing is the central focus of this book as it is huge throughout all of southern Africa and especially in South Africa where the story takes place. It is Courtenay’s growing up in Africa where boxing is a huge sport that affected his writing.
In many cultures sports is a key part of their everyday life. This is also true in South Africa. It’s the sports that gives them a source of entertainment. In South Africa at the time of this story, which is during and after World War II, sports were one of the biggest forms of entertainment, the whole society was shaped around the days sporting events. For many of the poorer people, like the blacks who were suffering from apartheid, sports were one of the only sources of entertainment. As it is mentioned in the story, some blacks traveled many of miles just to see Peekay, the main character of the story, fight.
You also see the cultural differences in the book. There seems to be different sports for different cultures. One of the sports that is perceived more civilized in the book is rugby. It is played by both the British and the Boers, but not the blacks. It is evident at the time that the British thought that they were better than the Boers and the blacks. The Boers thought that they were better than the blacks, and equal to the British. And the blacks seemed to know their place as the low man on the totem pole. So when it came to certain sports, not all of those groups were allowed to participate or would participate.
When it came to boxing in South Africa, it was reserved to the Boers and the Blacks. And was said that it wasn’t proper for the British to box, but many still did. And when it came to boxing the British and the Boers didn’t even what to fight the blacks. Courtenay’s experience in South Africa and their culture is shown in great detail in the story.
It is evident, through this story and that of Courtenay’s experience growing up in South Africa and being exposed to their cultural, and everything that comes along it, has affected his writing. So in fact his cultural heritage affected his writing perspective. His cultural heritage being that of South Africa’s. Ernest Hemingway was born in the United States in Illinois, his lifetime spanned 63 years, and among those years he experienced a couple of wars and a great depression. Hemingway started writing at an early age, after he finished high school Hemingway got a job as a reporter on the Kansas City Star. During World War I Hemingway tried to enlist in the armed forces but was rejected because of an old eye injury. So he then volunteered as an ambulance driver on the Italian front, and in 1918 he was badly wounded. After the war he settled in Paris, France, where he began to write fiction. Later in life Hemingway was a war correspondent in Spain, China, and Europe during World War II.5 It was during those years in the United States and the other countries where Hemingway developed his writing style. In his travel to those foreign countries Hemingway picked up pieces of their culture and their heritage with him. He took their culture and heritage added to what he had from home. Even thought he traveled a great extent of his life, he still kept his culture from home with him. It was these cultural experiences that he wrote the most about. Almost all of his different cultural heritage’s affected his writing perspective. They appeared in virtually everything that he wrote. Being in these cultures many times Hemingway had a first hand experience in their practices. In Hemingway’s case the aspect of a culture that stuck with him the most was sports. Hemingway wrote the most about many sports including, hunting, fishing, bullfighting and boxing. All of these sports were brought to him by the cultures that he was visiting, and by witnessing these events his writing perspective was molded.
The short story by Hemingway entitled “Fifty Grand”, is about boxing and the practices that go on in the American culture. In the story the over-aged welterweight boxing champion is set to fight a bout in which he knows he is going to lose to the young challenger.6 So the champ bets fifty thousand dollars against himself, and in the final round of the match, he has the opportunity to win, but opts to lose and take the fifty grand. As the Brennan the former champ said at the end of the story, “It’s funny how fast you can think when it means that much money.”7 As in the South African culture boxing was very big in the United States, and it is still big today. That story reflected the American culture that was brought up Hemingway. The factor of the American culture that affected his writing is the idea of doing everything you can for a buck, no matter what it takes. As it is shown here, the cultural heritage’s in the United States affected Hemingway immensely. No matter where a writer is from or where they go to, it seems that they pick up a piece of a culture. This piece of culture that they pick up also seems to work its way into their writing, sometimes it just bits and pieces of the culture, other times it is on a much larger magnitude. But this piece of cultural heritage ends up affecting the perspective of the writer. Many times it just a small thing that the writer picks up, and sometimes it is more, but no matter how great or how minute it is, it affects the author and their writing.
Baker, Carlos. Hemingway The Writer as an Artist. New Jersey: Princeton Publishing, 1952.
Compton’s Interactive Encyclopedia. New York: Compton’s NewMedia, Inc., 1995.
Courtenay, Bryce. The Power of One. New York: Random House, 1989.
Hemingway, Ernest. The Snows of Kilimanjaro and other stories. New York: Scribner, 1961.
Magill, Frank N. Cyclopedia of World Authors. New York: Harper ; Row, Publishing, Incorporated, 1958.
Rouit, Earl. Ernest Hemingway 41. New York: Twain Publishers, Inc., 1963.
Young, Philip. Ernest Hemingway a Reconsideration. Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State Publishing, 1960.
1 Bryce Courtenay, The Power of One (New York: Random House, 1989) 519.
2 Bryce Courtenay 107.
3 Compton’s Interactive Encyclopedia. (New York: Compton’s NewMedia, Inc., 1995).
4 Courtenay 222.
5 Compton’s Interactive Encyclopedia.
6 Earl Rouit, Ernest Hemingway 41 (New York: Twain Publishers, Inc., 1963) 61.
7 Ernest Hemingway, The Snows of Kilimanjaro and other stories (New York: Scribner, 1961) 87.