Chaos and Order from the Mind of Nadine Gordimer
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      Transformation through Natural Chaos
Maureen needs to turn inward, to reflect on her own guilty responsibility for the perpetuation of racial apart-hood, before turning outward, to grasp natural laws from the wilderness and to re-orient herself to the freedom of wide open space. Hayles explains: “The more chaotic a system is, the more information it produces. This perception is at the heart of the transvaluation of chaos, for it enables chaos to be conceived as an inexhaustible ocean of information rather than as a void signifying absence” (8). Beyond Maureen's fantasy of touring the black homelands on a camping trip, she can now learn the truth of black existence. The children integrate quickly: forming friendships across the color line, adapting to local games, and scampering from hut to hut. But the parents hesitate, grieving over the loss of possessions and hunting for territorial markers. Commenting on her own political development, Gordimer writes: “I had to be part of the transformation of my place in order for it to know me” (W&B 130). Active participation in the new community and leadership in the rebuilding of order would also allow Maureen to fully transform self within July's world. 
For isolated moments, Maureen sheds inhibitions and allows her surroundings to purify. When Maureen stands naked with rain water pouring over her breasts, she rinses away the protective illusions of a corrupt society and exposes the raw, vulnerable, and evolving self to the elements. Natural forces work quickly: “Soon her body was the same temperature as the water. She became aware of being able to see. . .” (JP 48). Almost immediately Maureen regains “a sense of direction,” suddenly able to “stick a pin where there was no map” (JP 49). The flickering light which helps her penetrate the darkness comes from the dimmed headlights of her former servant's return to the encampment. Despite the physical blackness of his skin, July now represents light, both for penetrating vision and reassuring heat. Maureen will readily sleep in “the coarse warmth of the rescuers' blanket,” but only rarely will she allow July to illuminate the new self and the new order (JP 49).
Water, fire, and mud characterize the primitive village. Bam initially attempts to maintain his identity as a prosperous, important architect by setting up the water tank. As he surveys the village, he notes how the local blacks rearrange "their meagre resources around the bases of nature, letting the walls of mud sink back to mud and then use that mud for new walls, in another clearing..." (JP 26). This regenerative image parallels natural processes of rebirth and decay, of forms and formlessness, of order and disorder. Mud alludes to our genesis, the handful of dirt which the Christian God shapes into Adam and which in turn perishes into dry dust and ash. And conjures the African creation myth of the first white men aggressively claiming all the water to wash their skin clean while the more polite humans remained the color of the black mud from which they were shaped (Wasserman 15). Just as mud slips from the wall, Rowland Smith describes Gordimer's ability to peel "away the protective layers with which well-meaning whites who reject official South African mores try to distance themselves from their inevitably tainted roles" (Smith 106). The dripping mud also recalls the layered build-up of atrocities in South Africa, as the white authorities repeatedly impose additional sanctions after each protest which leads directly to increasingly violent acts of opposition. Manmade order cannot permanently reshape the natural world; the essential property of earth itself and the diversity of the species defy our containment.
       Estrangement from the Old Order 
The Smales resist such natural principles, seeking reassurance through technology. But even the noise from their portable radio mimics the abyss: “through hellish furies of crackling, jungles of roaring, the high-pitched keening of monsters in the sizzling depths of an ocean” (JP 44). Broadcasts remain the only connection with the former civilization; the disorienting static 
occasionally gives way to a clear transmission but merely brings news of the collapsing government order. Desperately seeking some reassurance that the outside world still exists, Bam repeatedly twists the radio dials with “the baffled obstinacy of a sad, intelligent primate fingering the lock on his bars” (50). Without structured, routine communication from other humans, he reverts to impotent animal. As Richard Smyers describes, “another idol” now “succumbs to the seeming disorderliness of the old Africa,” severing the Smales' “only remaining connection with the urban world of European values” (Smyer 25). Toward the end of the novel, Bam refuses fresh batteries, giving up hope of tuning to the military's radio station. He reflects mournfully on science, chaos, and order: “There is no music of the spheres, science killed that along with all other myths; there are only the sounds of chaos, roaring, rending, crackling out of which the order that is the world has been won” (JP 124). Bam is half right; order does emerge from chaos, but new directions in science help us perceive that order ­ and find the rhythmic patterns within. 
Author: Elizabeth Howell Brunner
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