Study Notes on ‘Nelson Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom’ are given here with key-points summary, meanings, themes, characters and literary devices.
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Notes – Nelson Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
This chapter is an excerpt from Nelson Mandela’s autobiography Long Walk to Freedom. It focuses on the momentous occasion of his inauguration. Not only does it signify the end of apartheid and racial segregation but it also signifies the birth of the democratic republic of South Africa.
The excerpt also provides a unique insight into Mandela’s thoughts on the inauguration and apartheid. It also stresses on the importance of freedom and courage over oppression and hate.
SUMMARY – Key Points
Broadly, Nelson Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom can be divided into:
- Mandela’s Inauguration as President
- Mandela’s Speech
- Mandela about Apartheid
- Mandela about Other South African Patriots and their Courage
- Mandela about Love and Hate
- Mandela about a Man’s Twin Obligations
- Mandela’s Idea of Freedom
Mandela’s Inauguration as President
- It took place on 10th May, 1994 in the Union Building in Pretoria.
- It was attended by dignitaries from around the world.
- Mandela was accompanied by his daughter.
- It marked the triumph of humanity, liberty and peace over oppression.
- Mandela brought out the irony that not long ago he was regarded as a criminal and now he was hosting dignitaries from all over the world.
- He pledged to fight against poverty and discrimination.
- Mandela pledged never to let his nation be ruled by tyranny again.
Mandela about Apartheid
- Mandela’s inauguration marked the end of the one of most oppressive systems in human history – apartheid.
- Apartheid is a system of racial discrimination where white-skinned people dominate over the dark-skinned people of their land.
- Apartheid, Mandela notes, had caused immeasurable suffering for his people.
Mandela about Other South African Patriots and their Courage
- Apartheid also produced courageous men and women who had risked their lives to fight oppression.
- It is through their sacrifice that Mandela understood the idea of courage.
- “…courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.”
- By calling himself the ‘sum of all African patriots’ before him, he paid his tribute to the brave men and women who paved the way for Africa’s freedom.
Mandela about Love and Hate
- Mandela believed that no one is born hating other human beings. Rather, they are taught to hate.
- He believed in mankind’s boundless capacity for goodness and love.
Mandela about a Man’s Twin Obligations
- Mandela believed every man has two obligations – one to family and one to country.
- In an unequal society, a man cannot fulfil both obligations. Every man must be free to be able to do so.
- Mandela had to put his people’s needs above those of his family’s.
Mandela’s Idea of Freedom
- Mandela realised that his freedom was an illusion only on reaching adulthood.
- He further realised that other members of his community too were not free.
- One cannot truly enjoy freedom if one’s fellow men and women are in chains. This realisation led Mandela to give up his own freedom and fight for the freedom of his people.
- Mandela’s idea of freedom is all-inclusive. He believes that everyone must be free – not just the oppressed, but also the oppressor who is imprisoned by hate.
The two major themes of the chapter are:
- Freedom vs Oppression
- Courage vs Hate
Freedom vs Oppression
- Mandela contrasts the freedom enjoyed by his country now to apartheid and its consequences.
- Freedom is impossible if it is restricted by a higher authority.
- One cannot also be free if one’s fellow people are in chains.
- Freedom is all-inclusive. Everyone – even the oppressors – should be free.
Courage vs Hate
- Mandela develops the idea of courage by reflecting on the sacrifices of African patriots.
- The immeasurable suffering caused by apartheid produced brave men and women who were willing to do what it took to dismantle it.
- Even though they suffered and were afraid, they risked their lives for the cause of the country.
- In contrast to the innate ability of courage that Mandela emphasises, hate is often taught. Hate leads to discrimination on the basis of race or religion.
The excerpt provides a brief glimpse into Nelson Mandela’s character.
The first black president of South Africa
An Idealist: His speech shows his belief in the ideals of human dignity, liberty and freedom of fellow human beings.
Brave: Mandela braved prison and other untold sufferings to ensure freedom for his countrymen and women.
Intellectual: His speech to the world leaders, his reflections on apartheid, courage and freedom reflect this.
A True Revolutionary: Mandela gave up his family and personal freedom to take up the cause of the revolution. He also believed that everyone should be free.
The Use of Contrasts
Mandela uses contrasts in the chapter to reflect on ideas of courage, apartheid and freedom. Some of the contrasts used are:
Union Building Pretoria: A building, once a seat of white supremacy, would now form the first democratic, non-racial government of South Africa.
White vs Rainbow: Mandela uses the plain colour white to refer to the domination of dark-skinned by the white-skinned. In contrast, he uses the word ‘rainbow gathering’ to refer to all the people assembled for the inauguration.
The South African generals and police saluting Nelson Mandela. Only a few years back these same people would have put him in prison.
The two anthems – the vision of whites singing ‘Nkosi Sikelel –iAfrika’ and blacks singing ‘Die Stem’, the old anthem of the Republic.
Two Systems of Thought: Apartheid which is based on race and skin colour is one of the ‘harshest, most inhumane’ systems of oppression in human history vs the Republic which ‘recognised the rights and freedoms’ of all people regardless of skin colour.
‘Depths of oppression’ can create ‘heights of characters’ – the untold suffering faced by the African people produced great heroes.