Themes and message

The main themes of the short story “Pink” by Judith Thompson are taught racism and love. These themes are enhanced through motifs like violence (Nellie is shot dead, Lucy is verbally aggressive to her) and social status (Lucy is constantly aware that she and Nellie belong to different worlds). The message of the author is critical of the apartheid system which taught white children to perceive discrimination as something natural and which created many victims like Nellie among the black population.

Taught racism

The underlying theme of the text is taught racism—the way children assimilate racist attitudes from a young age because they are born into a racist, discriminatory system. This theme is first emphasised by the choice of narrator. The narrator is a white ten-year-old girl named Lucy who was born and raised during the apartheid era in South Africa. Consequently, racism is part of her everyday life. This becomes evident in her monologue, which reveals that her experience and her parents have taught Lucy not to consider racial discrimination as wrong and immoral. Ironically, Lucy believes the exact opposite.



Despite the overall theme of racism, the text is also about love. As a child, Lucy felt loved, cared for, and pampered by her nanny, Nellie. The woman gave her affection and complied with her wishes. This made Lucy feel that she loves Nellie more than her own parents. Given the fact that Nellie took care of all of Lucy’s needs, we can assume that Lucy’s parents were not very involved in her early upbringing.


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