“Town and Country Lovers” is a two-part story about interracial lovers who suffer the consequences of breaking the rules forbidding such relationships. In the first story, solitary geologist Dr. von Leinsdorf meets a young, colored (mixed-race) African girl who is a cashier at the grocery store across the street from his apartment. When the store is out of the razors he likes, she makes an effort to get some for him. He asks her to bring them to his apartment, and she soon begins to deliver his groceries for him a few times a week. Before long, the two become sexually involved. He enjoys her company and her sexual availability to him, and he tries to help her by teaching her to swim, type, and improve her grammar.
The cashier tells the other people in the building and her mother that she works for Dr. von Leinsdorf. Still, the police arrive one day to search the apartment for the girl. They have been watching and know that she is there. There is a law (The Immorality Act of 1927) that forbids interracial sexual relationships, and when the police discover the cashier hiding in a closet, she and Dr. von Leinsdorf are arrested.
Dr. von Leinsdorf secures their release from jail through his attorney, and when no evidence of sexual relations is discovered, the charges are dropped. The cashier tells the newspapers that she is sorry for the pain she has caused her mother, and the mother says that she will never let her daughter work for a white man again.
This part of the story introduces Paulus Eysendyck, a white farmer’s son, and Thebedi, the black daughter of one of the farm workers. As children, Paulus and Thebedi played together, but when they are teenagers they begin a sexual relationship. They have tender feelings for each other, even though their relationship is ultimately doomed.
Thebedi marries Njabulo, a kind young black man who has loved her for years. Two months later, Thebedi gives birth to a light-skinned child. That Thebedi is pregnant when she marries is not considered scandalous because men in this culture often insist on finding out before marriage if their women are barren. The child’s light skin, however, reveals who the father really is. Still, Njabulo treats the baby as if the child were his own.
Paulus learns that Thebedi has married and has a light-skinned child. He panics about the child and visits Thebedi in her hut. He asks her to give the baby to someone else to raise, but she does not. Two days later, he asks to see the child alone. Waiting outside the hut, Thebedi hears soft groaning sounds, and the baby soon dies. Officials discover that the baby was poisoned, and Paulus is arrested. Initially, Thebedi says that she knows he poisoned the baby, but when the trial comes, she claims that she does not know what he did in the hut. Paulus is set free.
Thomas E. Barden – Short Stories for Students – Presenting Analysis, Context & Criticism on Commonly Studied Short Stories, vol. 14, Nadine Gordimer, Published by Gale Cengage Learning.