In Sarah Penny’s novel The Beneficiaries she cleverly discusses the problems with apartheid by using a ‘Beneficiary’, Lally, to narrate the story of her own life. Lally encounters many problems throughout her life, and the reader asks themselves the question of whether she is brave or not a few times. This literary essay will discuss how Lally is not brave, and acts merely as a tool for Sarah Penny to use a narrator.
Early on in the novel we encounter the “Ice-Chamber”, which is a place (mentally) that Lally goes to so that she scan escape the outside world. While she is in her ice-chamber she blocks off her emotions, giving herself a cold image that makes her appear emotionless. However without the ice-chamber lally encounters an “Unmanning blow that makes her nerves jam against the confines of her skull.” Her lack of emotional stability without the ice-chamber leads the reader to believe that she is not brave, and would rather take the easy way out rather than confronting her emotions, this evident during the prefectural elections and Lally contemplates suicide.
Lally has a serious habit of running away or trying to escape from her problems. The novel explores this in many ways, one of these ways being encountered in the first 30 pages of the book; the World Map. Lally uses the world map as way to escape reality, and give her a sense of freedom. Lallyqlwo runs away from her problems, nto figuratively, but literally as after school she leaves South Africa and chooses to go by her real name Laeticia, in order for her to escape the childhood connotations of the name Lally. It got to a point that one of Lally’s childhood friend’s Pim told her “You’ve been running for so long you don’t even know how to stop.”
Lally’s lack of courage is most evident through her complicities with the system, whether it be the school system (which represents Apartheid) or the Apartheid system itself. Lally fails to be a non-bystander on various occasions, one of them being when a classmate nicknamed ‘Zulu’ was being framed for setting off a firecracker in class by the triumvirate in the class. She says nothing, and is therefore just as guilty as the offenders themselves. “She will never stand up for Zulu.”-Page 56, Lally admits that she would rather be a bystander than help Zulu.
Lally’s constant running away, and her wavering to help people clearly points out that she is not brave, and that she is merely an emotionless girl that is used by Sarah Penny to successfully narrate an emotional story without hindering any facts untrue, as her emotionless allows for a rather objective view of the world that she lived in.