Exploring the Text

  1. The protagonist, Collins, notes that words present the truth inadequately, not just because facts can be recorded inaccurately, but because words are insufficient for recording experience.
    • What mistake was made in the newspaper article about him?  What is suggested by the glib phrase “the man who pulled down prison walls and grew geraniums in their place?”  What is missing from this verbal description?
    • Why are the newspapers “stupid” that said “crime wave…robbery…old man knifed in the street?”  Or “the police are investigating and have situation well in hand.”  What do these factual accounts omit?
  2. The protagonist thinks that the freedom the boys escape to is not very appealing.  Describe it.  Why might the boys see it as preferable to being in a reformatory—even a reformatory without walls?  Are the boys in the reformatory imprisoned by other things?  Is Collins also—trapped perhaps by his self-image?  Explain your answer.
  3. Why is Collins so upset about the boy who escaped?  Is it that he’s “an idealist” and cannot “take the blow to his pride?”  Are Collins’s expectations of himself unrealistic?  Explain.
  4. The police sergeant assumes the boy beat up the old lady.  On what are the police basing their assumption?  What realities of the situation make it difficult for the police to behave otherwise?  Are Collins’s attitudes towards the boys in his reformatory more or less humane?  More or less practical?  Explain.
  5. What does Collins assume Ngubane has come to tell him?  What realization hist Collins as he lies in bed?  Why does he repeat to himself the lines from the newspaper:  “the man who pulled down prison walls and grew geraniums?”  Is this line more true than he had imagined at the beginning of the story?
  6. Look at the references in the story to the sky:  the title “Another Part of the Sky;” “the great hard polished winter sky that shone of itself…without answer” (p. 154); the “pang which had never yet found the right moment to claim attention lifted feebly like an eye of lightning that opens and shuts in another part of the sky” (p.157).  What does the sky seem to represent?  Why do you think Gordimer titled the story as she did?  (Look especially at “another part.”)  Does the sky image relate to the epiphany at the story’s climax?