Symbols in the movie Tsotsi

The movie Tsotsi is rich in visuals. The power of these visuals come from the extensive use of symbols. This paper will be viewing some visual symbols in the film: the craps game at the beginning, the shocking scene where David’s dog is killed and Tsotsi’s gun. This writer also hopes to go beyond what the symbols represent and draw conclusions on both David and the township he lives in.

The craps game at the beginning of the film is a good way to introduce the characters, but the way the scene is presented shows more than just a simple game of craps designed to show the general characters. The two main images that are shown in the first opening seconds of the film, the rolling of dice and the tapping of the knife, consume the whole screen. This is more than just drawing our attention to these images there is nothing but these images, it is clear the directors are trying to a get message across. The first image shown is one of the dice used in their craps game and the second image seen is that of a cheap knife being tapped against the table. These two images show the way of life and mentality of this group. Someone else throwing the dice of your life and violence is the only way to change the roll. Their lives are tenuous and as unpredictable as the roll of a dice.

The image of the dog is a powerful image that will stick with the audience. The dog served the purpose of explaining David’s lack of humanity, but the scene of the dog sticks with us for more than the mindless violence. The dog represents everything that is missing in that society. The dog embodies morals such as loyalty, protection of the weak and most importantly innocence. David had all of these attributes in him as well, but when the dog died, David died as well, and Tsotsi was born. David would only exist again once the baby healed his emotional scars. That is why this scene sticks with us for we mourn the loss of decency.

One item that rarely leaves Tsotsi’s side is his gun. The gun is a perfect symbol of Tsotsi. The gun shows the two separate people living inside David. On the one hand we have David who has morals and is absolutely destroyed by the death of his dog and on the other hand, we have Tsotsi who is utterly unfazed by his “brother”, butcher, stabbing a man for no real reason. These two people could not be more different yet they are in the same body. This duality works like a subtle version of Gollum in Lord of The Rings. Much like how Gollum casts aside the ring to become Smeagol again, Tsotsi places his gun down before giving away the baby becoming David again.

This film paints a bleak picture of both Tsotsi and the society in which he lives. The film paints this picture with powerful symbols such as the craps game, the dog, and Tsotsi’s gun. From these symbols, we can see the chance based mentality of Tsotsi and his “brothers”, the lack of morality in the society and through the gun we can see the rebirth of David.

Is Dr.Sheppard a Reliable Narrator?

The novel “The Murder of Roger Ackroyd” by Agatha Christie relies on its narrator Dr.Sheppard to provide both the direction and misdirection to her novel. While it is true that nothing Dr.Sheppard says is patently untrue, his attempts at omission and deception make him, above all, an unreliable narrator.


By chapter 10, Dr.Sheppard has already concealed three items of supreme importance. The first item he omits is that the death of Mr.Ferrars was most certainly murder. This was crucial to our understanding of Mrs.Ferrars, but Dr.Sheppard only revealed after being backed into a corner by Hercule Poirot. The second item of importance is that he himself is the blackmailer of Mrs.Ferrars. The third critical omission in the 10 chapters is that it was Dr.Sheppard who committed the murder. This third point does sound obvious, but it is of the utmost importance to our question. How can we call a narrator reliable if he drags us through a wild goose chase while he is fully aware of, and omits the final answer for as long as he can?


Dr.Sheppard also uses some other more subtle methods other than blunt omission. For example, on page 699 Dr.Sheppard writes “I am rather pleased with myself as a writer.What could be neater, for instance, than the following: “the letters were brought in at twenty minutes to nine. It was just on ten minutes to nine when I left him, the letter still unread. I hesitated with my hand on the door handle, looking back and wondering if there was anything I had left undone.” Dr.Sheppard uses this paragraph to deceive us as to his whereabouts for the crucial 10 minutes that the murder takes place in. If you read the phrase closely[,] you will notice that those ten key minutes have been left out, but due to the nature of the writing one will not catch this unless they look at the statement very carefully. Dr.Sheppard himself even notes the deception stating “All true, you see. But suppose I had put a row of stars after the first sentence! Would somebody then have wondered what exactly happened in that blank ten minutes?”. How can we call a narrator reliable if he goes to such lengths with the express purpose of deceiving his audience and prevent us from discovering the truth?


Another instance of deception is the following statement by Dr.Sheppard on page 122 “I ran down the stairs and took up the receiver.”what?” I said. “What? Certainly, I’ll come at once” I ran upstairs, caught my bag, and stuffed a few extra dressings into it “Parker telephoning,” I shouted to Caroline, “from Fernly. They’ve just found roger Ackroyd murdered”. In actuality Dr.Sheppard was talking to a patient leaving on a train to Liverpool. Nothing in that statement is necessarily untrue, he did in fact pick up the receiver and say “what?” “What?” and he did in fact tell his sister that Parker telephoned saying that Roger Ackroyd was dead. The key thing to note is that he was simply reporting what he said, he made no claims that what he said was true. While nothing was specifically untrue the intent behind his statements was that of deception and deceit. This statement shows that even while being truthful Dr.Sheppard had the intention of deceiving and manipulating his audience’s perception of the events depicted in the novel.


Perhaps Dr.Sheppard’s conduct can be best described by Hercule Poirot himself “It was strictly truthful as far as it went-but it did not go very far, eh my friend?” (pg.658). Dr.Sheppard was truthful in his recounting, but his recounting did not cover the material required for his audience to make informed judgements. Nor did his writings concisely inform the reader of what relevant information was still in recountings. It has been demonstrated that due to Dr.Shepard’s frequent omission, and constant deception he can only be described as an unreliable narrator.


Mirrors of Crisis

In this paper, the writer will discuss conformity in A Brave New World, Catcher In the Rye and A  Handmaid’s Tale. In addition, this paper will attempt to Prove that conforming in society is a key to happiness, but also question whether it is right to support and work with the society in question.

The society in A Brave New World is a utopia in every sense of the word. This society goes against every single one of our modern morals, from polygamy and encouraging intercourse between prepubescent minors to state enforced morals and the abolition of the family. This work methodically challenges everything we hold to be wholesome and right. Despite the challenges to our morality, it is hard to argue against the society described in A Brave New World, “People are happy; they get what they want, and they never want what they can’t get. They’re well off; they’re safe; they’re never ill; they’re not afraid of death; they’re blissfully ignorant of passion and old age…And if anything should go wrong, there’s soma (psychoactive drug with no negative side effects).” This society is built for human happiness. Beyond the fact that failing to conform is difficult due to state conditioning, there is nothing to fight against. There is nothing out of reach, no heartbreak, no wars, no hatred and anger, there is nothing to rebel against, no tyrannical government, no religious oppression, no moral divides.  in A Brave New World to conform is easy and it is blissful.

A Handmaid’s Tale is the opposite of the society shown in A Brave New World. Where there was peace and comfort in A Brave new world there is mistrust and fear in A Handmaid’s Tale. Where there was safety, security and justice there are secret police and labour camps, where there was a government built around the ideal of happiness there is a heavy-handed theocracy and in place of equality, you have ethnic and gender oppression. This story of dystopia is told by a handmaid named Offred. She is used to bear children to men who have barren wives. All around her there is resistance and sadness. Two handmaidens belonging to a neighbour are disposed of, one commits suicide and one is taken away by the police. If Offred conformed to this society she would be moderately safe and maybe one day she could be happy with her position. Of course, to conform to this theocracy would be helping to hold up a cruel society that commits terrible atrocities on a daily basis. To conform is to have a chance at survival, but the cost of conforming is that you must surrender every common moral and basic human decency.

The Catcher in the Rye is not set in the utopia of A Brave New World or the bleak dystopia of A Handmaid’s Tale, but is our modern society with our modern values examined by a teen on the verge of adulthood. Holden is disillusioned with our society and believes it to be full of “phonies”. He does not want to partake in the trivial and phony conversations and actions in day to day life. He feels that he has no control  “You know what I’d like to be? I mean if I had my goddam choice?”. The thing Holden does not grasp is that the trivial and phoney conversations only need to make up a small part of your life. If he simply conformed to the society and put up with the trivial conversations he could do whatever he wanted on his own time. Our society is not a utopia, but it is far from dystopia. To conform in our society is to deal with trial matters, but for the most part be able to do what you please.

In all the world’s presented in this book conformity is the key to happiness; however, with the exception of A Brave New World conforming requires a sacrifice on our part. In our society the price is a little of your time spent on trivial matters. In A Handmaid’s Tale conforming/ surviving means sacrificing common morals and decency. Conforming is a key to happiness in many societies, but it is up to the individual to determine if the cost of conformity is worth it.