Long Walk- Part 9- Christmas on Robben Island

In Part 9, Mandela reminisces about the holidays while in jail and the fun that they had.

“What Sundays were to the rest of the week, Christmas was to the rest of the year. It was the one day when the authorities showed any goodwill toward men. We did not have to go to the quarry on Christmas Day, and we were not permitted to purchase a small quantity of sweets. We did not have a traditional Christmas meal, but we were given an extra mug of coffee for supper. The authorities permitted us to organize a concert, hold competitions, and put on a play.  The concert was our centerpiece“  (Mandela 455).

For most people these small things granted to them once a year are very trivial but, for them it was something they loved and looked forward to. Mandela talks about how they would sing a mix of African, English Christmas, and even protest songs. He said that the guards either did not care that they sang protest songs- or did not realize. This stood out to me because I am sure they noticed, but did not care because it was the one happy time of the year for everyone at the prison. It is interesting that one simple holiday can change the way things are even if for only one day. He also talks later on about how prison tests the character of a man and the ones that could still make the best of it were the true men.

I read up on the South African prisons now and found that the conditions have improved in the past years. I think that during apartheid people were in jail for going against the government and now it is more criminals in the jail. I think that people in the ANC were better people and deserved more rights but that was a different time than now.


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