In part nine of Mandela’s A Long Walk to Freedom, he discusses the strides that him and other prisoners made in attaining some rights while at Robben Island. He was able to participate in checkers tournaments, attend concerts, and perform in a drama society. This is a big change in comparison to the conditions he was experiencing at his prior prison.
Mandela took advantage of all these opportunities and including furthering his education. Ironically, many people completed a degree in prison, while many black South Africans outside of jail did not have this opportunity.
While Mandela is discussing his interest in the plays, he states that he got a lot out of reading these dramas.
“What I took out of them was that character was measured by facing up to difficult situations and that a hero was a man who would not break even under the most trying circumstances” (Mandela 456).
I thought this was very interesting and portrayed Mandela. He went through a plethora of things in his lifetime that none of us have experienced and still he remains strong. He represented the voice for himself and the other prisoners in prison. Everything Mandela experienced was a test to see if he would break down. I believe the prison guards and white population were hoping Mandela would break down and eventually comply with what they were asking him to do. They were hoping he would not continue to work to get what he wanted, but he did not. He continued to be the voice of the people. This is what makes him a hero.
Mandela discusses when he was asked to play Creon in the play Antigone. Creon is an older king fighting a civil war. He is patriotic and believes “that experience is the foundation of leadership and that obligations to the people take precedence over loyalty to an individual.” Creon draws similar parallels to Mandela as he is patriotic and respects his citizens. Mandela is a leader like Creon which is a way to achieving justice.
“Of course you cannot know a man completely, his character, his principles, sense of judgement, not till he’s shown his colors, ruling the people, making laws. Experience, there’s the test” (Mandela 456).
This reminded me of a quote earlier in the book. In Treason, Mandela talks about how a nation should not be judged on how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones. These quotes are similar; you cannot get to know a person until he is a leader and is the voice for the people. In this quote, it reminds me of the white population of South Africa. Whites make up a very small population in South Africa, but they are the majority. As a result of how they treat their black citizens is a portrayal of their character and in this case, it is a negative one.