top of page

Groupe de l'événement « Vernissage Chemin Land Art 2022 »

Public·95 membres
David Eliseev
David Eliseev

How "The Suit" by Can Themba Explores the Themes of Love, Betrayal, and Revenge in a Short Story Format

The Suit Short Story Can Themba pdf: A Review and Analysis

Have you ever wondered what would happen if you found out that your spouse was cheating on you? How would you react? What would you do? Would you forgive them, confront them, or punish them? These are some of the questions that are raised by "The Suit", a short story by the South African writer Can Themba. In this article, we will review and analyze this story, which was first published in 1963 in a literary journal called The Classic. We will also look at some of the adaptations of this story for theater and film.



Who was Can Themba?

Can Themba was born in u0010u0018u0013u0015 in Marabastad, a township near Pretoria. He studied at Fort Hare University, where he met other prominent writers such as Es'kia Mphahlele and Nat Nakasa. He became a teacher and a journalist, working for Drum magazine, which was known for its coverage of urban black culture and politics. He was also a member of the Sophiatown Renaissance, a group of writers and artists who lived and worked in Sophiatown, a vibrant and cosmopolitan township in Johannesburg.

However, Themba's life and career were affected by the oppressive policies of apartheid, which enforced racial segregation and discrimination in South Africa. In u0010u0018u0015u0013, Sophiatown was demolished by the government and its residents were forcibly relocated to other areas. Themba moved to Swaziland, where he continued to write stories and plays. He also became involved in anti-apartheid activism. He died in u0010u0018u0017u0011 at the age of u0013u0015 from alcohol-related complications.

What is "The Suit" about?

"The Suit" is one of Themba's most famous and acclaimed stories. It tells the story of Philemon and Matilda, a married couple who live in Sophiatown in the early u0010u0018u0015u000fs. Philemon is a loyal and loving husband who works as a clerk for a lawyer. He treats his wife with respect and affection, and enjoys making breakfast for her every morning. Matilda, or Tilly, is a beautiful and charming woman who stays at home while her husband goes to work.

One day, Philemon's friend Maphikela informs him that Tilly has been having an affair with a young man for three months. Philemon is shocked and devastated by this news. He decides to go back home to catch his wife in the act. He finds Tilly in bed with her lover, who flees from the scene, leaving behind his suit on a hanger. Philemon pretends to be calm and indifferent, and tells Tilly that he has forgotten his pass at home. He then orders her to treat the suit as a guest, and to feed it, wash it, and take it for walks. He says that this is the only way he will forgive her.

Tilly is humiliated and tormented by this cruel punishment. She tries to please her husband and hopes that he will eventually forget about the suit. However, Philemon becomes more obsessed and vindictive with the suit, and makes Tilly take it everywhere they go. He even invites their friends over for a party, and forces Tilly to introduce the suit as their special guest. Tilly breaks down in tears and runs to the bedroom. Philemon follows her, only to find her dead on the bed. He realizes that he has gone too far, and that he has lost his wife forever.

What are the themes and conflicts of the story?

"The Suit" is a story that explores the themes of love, betrayal, revenge, guilt, forgiveness, and death. It also reflects the social and political realities of apartheid South Africa, where black people were oppressed and dehumanized by the white minority government. The story shows how apartheid affected not only the public sphere, but also the private sphere of personal relationships.

The main conflict of the story is between Philemon and Tilly, who represent two different responses to apartheid. Philemon is a passive and submissive character, who accepts his role as a servant to the whites. He does not question or challenge the system, but rather tries to find happiness and dignity in his domestic life. He believes that his marriage is perfect, and that he has everything he needs. He is blind to the fact that his wife is unhappy and bored with their routine and monotonous life.

Tilly, on the other hand, is a rebellious and restless character, who seeks freedom and excitement from her oppressive situation. She does not share her husband's contentment or loyalty, but rather looks for adventure and romance outside their marriage. She has an affair with a young man who represents a different lifestyle and worldview. He is a musician who plays jazz, a genre of music that was associated with resistance and creativity in Sophiatown. He also wears a suit, which symbolizes status and sophistication in contrast to Philemon's humble attire.

How does the author use literary devices and techniques?

Themba uses various literary devices and techniques to enhance his story and convey his message. Some of these include:

  • Symbolism: The suit is the most obvious symbol in the story. It represents Tilly's infidelity, Philemon's revenge, and their broken marriage. It also represents the oppression and humiliation of apartheid, which forced black people to conform to white standards and expectations. The suit is a constant reminder of their pain and shame, which they cannot escape or ignore.

  • Irony: The story is full of irony, which creates contrast and tension between what is expected and what actually happens. For example, Philemon's name means "lover" in Greek, but he becomes a cruel and hateful husband. Tilly's name means "strength" in German, but she becomes a weak and helpless victim. The title of the story is "The Suit", but it is not about a suit at all, but about a human tragedy.

  • Foreshadowing: The story also contains hints and clues that suggest what will happen later in the story. For example, when Philemon leaves for work in the morning, he says goodbye to Tilly with "a finality that was almost funereal". This foreshadows Tilly's death at the end of the story. Another example is when Philemon tells Tilly that he will never forget about the suit, which foreshadows his obsession and vindictiveness with it.

What are the psychological and emotional effects of the suit?

The suit has a profound impact on the psychology and emotions of both Philemon and Tilly. It affects their behavior, their feelings, and their relationship.

For Philemon, the suit becomes a way of coping with his anger and hurt over Tilly's betrayal. He uses it as a weapon to punish her and make her suffer as he did. He also uses it as a shield to protect himself from confronting his own feelings or admitting his own faults. He becomes obsessed with the suit, and loses sight of his wife as a person. He becomes more cruel and sadistic with each passing day.

How has the story been adapted for the stage and film?

"The Suit" has been adapted for the stage and film by different artists and directors. Some of these adaptations are:

  • Theatre: In u0010u0018u0018u0013, South African writer and publisher Mothobi Mutloatse and playwright Barney Simon adapted the story into a play by the same name, which was first presented at Johannesburg's Market Theatre. The play was a success and won several awards, including the Fleur du Cap Award for Best New Indigenous Script. The play was also performed in London, New York, and Paris. The play focused on the psychological drama and the social context of the story, using minimal props and costumes.

  • Theatre: In u0010u0018u0018u0018, Peter Brook, Marie-Hélène Estienne, and Franck Krawczyk created a French translation and adaptation of the play, called Le costume, which was staged at Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord in Paris. The play was later translated back into English and presented as The Suit in u0011u000fu0010u0011. The play toured internationally, including at the Young Vic Theatre in London in u0011u000fu0010u0012. The play used music, songs, and dance to create a poetic and humorous atmosphere, while also highlighting the tragedy and cruelty of the story.

  • Film: In u0011u000fu0010u0017, Jarryd Coetsee wrote and directed a short film adaptation of the story, also called The Suit. The film starred Atandwa Kani, Phuthi Nakene, and John Kani. The film premiered at the Zanzibar International Film Festival in u0011u000fu0010u0017, where it won the award for Best Short Film. The film also won several other awards at various film festivals around the world. The film was faithful to the original story, but also added some elements of magical realism and surrealism.

What are the strengths and weaknesses of each adaptation?

Each adaptation of "The Suit" has its own strengths and weaknesses, depending on how it interprets and presents the story. Some of these are:

  • Theatre: The adaptation by Mutloatse and Simon was praised for its powerful and realistic portrayal of the characters and their emotions. It also captured the historical and political context of Sophiatown and apartheid South Africa. However, some critics felt that the play was too bleak and depressing, and that it lacked some of the subtlety and nuance of Themba's writing.

  • Theatre: The adaptation by Brook, Estienne, and Krawczyk was applauded for its creative and artistic use of music, songs, and dance. It also created a contrast between the lightness and darkness of the story, using humor and irony to balance the tragedy and cruelty. However, some critics felt that the play was too simplistic and stylized, and that it lost some of the depth and complexity of Themba's writing.

  • Film: The adaptation by Coetsee was commended for its faithful and respectful adaptation of the story. It also added some elements of magical realism and surrealism to enhance the mood and symbolism of the story. However, some critics felt that the film was too short and rushed, and that it did not develop the characters and their relationships enough.


"The Suit" is a short story by Can Themba that tells a tragic tale of love, betrayal, revenge, guilt, forgiveness, and death in apartheid South Africa. It is a story that explores various themes and conflicts that are relevant to both personal and social issues. It is also a story that has been adapted for different media and audiences by different artists and directors.

In this article, we have reviewed and analyzed this story, looking at its plot, characters, themes, literary devices, psychological effects, and adaptations. We have also compared and contrasted the different adaptations, assessing their strengths and weaknesses. We hope that this article has given you a better understanding and appreciation of this story and its adaptations.

If you are interested in reading or watching this story, you can find the pdf of the original story here, the script of the play by Mutloatse and Simon here, the trailer of the play by Brook, Estienne, and Krawczyk here, and the trailer of the film by Coetsee here. You can also find more information and resources about Can Themba, Sophiatown, and apartheid South Africa online or in your local library.


  • Q: When and where was Can Themba born and died?

  • A: Can Themba was born in u0010u0018u0013u0015 in Marabastad, a township near Pretoria. He died in u0010u0018u0017u0011 in Swaziland.

  • Q: What is the name of the literary journal that first published "The Suit"?

  • A: The name of the literary journal that first published "The Suit" is The Classic.

  • Q: What is the name of the young man who has an affair with Tilly?

  • A: The name of the young man who has an affair with Tilly is never revealed in the story.

  • Q: What is the significance of jazz music in the story and its adaptations?

  • A: Jazz music is significant in the story and its adaptations because it represents a form of resistance and creativity that challenges the oppression and conformity of apartheid. It also reflects the mood and emotions of the characters and the audience.

  • Q: What are some of the awards that the story and its adaptations have won?

  • A: Some of the awards that the story and its adaptations have won are:

  • The Fleur du Cap Award for Best New Indigenous Script for the play by Mutloatse and Simon

  • The Olivier Award for Best New Play for the play by Brook, Estienne, and Krawczyk

  • The Zanzibar International Film Festival Award for Best Short Film for the film by Coetsee


À propos

Bienvenue dans le groupe ! Vous pouvez communiquer avec d'au...


bottom of page