The Toilet | Analysis

This study guide will help you analyse the text “The Toilet” by Gcina Mhlope. We will show you examples of elements in the text that will be relevant for your analysis. In these notes, we will focus on the summary, structure, characters, setting, narrator and point of view, language, theme and message, and help you put the text into perspective. 

Presentation of the text

Title: “The Toilet”
Author: Gcina Mhlope
Genre: Short Story

Gcina Mhlope (1958) is a South African writer and activist whose literary works focus on life in South Africa, particularly from the point of view of natives. Her parents come from two well-known South African tribes, the Xhosa and the Zulu.

See also our topic guide about apartheid.


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The title may seem puzzling at first because a toilet is not exactly a common short story topic, making readers assume the title may have some hidden symbolism. After we read the short story, we realise that it does involve an actual public toilet, where the protagonist hides and reads magazines and books while waiting for the bus and where she eventually starts writing her poems. Consequently, the toilet becomes a symbol of a protective, creative space, the personal space the writers need to express their creativity: “Also the toilet was very small – the walls were wonderfully close to me – it felt like it was made to fit me alone. I enjoyed that kind of privacy.” (p. 24, ll. 24-26); “I call it my toilet because that is exactly how I felt about it. It was very rare that I ever saw anybody else go in there in the mornings. It was  like they all knew I was using it, and they had to lay off or something.” (p. 29, ll. 3-6)

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The Toilet | Analysis

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