The Moment Before the Gun Went Off | Analysis

This study guide will help you analyze the short story “The Moment Before the Gun Went Off” by Nadine Gordimer. You can also find a summary of the text, as well as inspiration for interpreting it. 

Presentation of the text

Title: “The Moment Before the Gun Went Off” (1992)
Author: Nadine Gordimer
Genre: Short story

Nadine Gordimer (1923-2014) was a South African writer and activist who received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1991. She was also a joint recipient of the Booker Prize in 1974 for her novel The Conservationist. Her works typically deal with moral and political issues, particularly those pertaining to South Africa, such as apartheid. She was active in the anti-apartheid movement and joined the African National Congress during the days when the organization was banned. 

Excerpt

Here, you will find a short excerpt from our study guide:

Title

From the title of the short story, "The Moment Before the Gun Went Off", readers can almost immediately assume that the text they are going to read will deal with a violent event caused by someone shooting someone else with a gun. However, note that the title reveals almost nothing about the real sequence of events that made Van der Vyver kill Lucas or about the fact that the shooting was an accident. Also, note that the title of the short story is actually part of a longer phrase used in the story: “The moment before the gun went off was a moment of high excitement shared through the roof of the cab, as the bullet was to pass, between the young black man outside and the white farmer inside the vehicle.”

The above fragment shows that Van der Vyver shooting Lucas was not intentional, but an accident caused by the rather quick drive over the pot-hole and the spotting of the buck.

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The Moment Before the Gun Went Off | Analysis

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