The short story “The Guilt” by Rayda Jacobs has two main characters: Lilian Thurgood and William Sidlayi. Lilian Thurgood is an elderly white woman who lives in South Africa. She is also a widow and lives alone after her husband’s death. William Sidlayi is a black South African who stops at Lilian’s gate, pretending to be collecting money for an organization. Their encounter highlights the class differences between the whites and the blacks in South Africa post-apartheid, but also Lilian’s prejudices when it comes to black people. 

In Lilian’s flashback, she also recalls meeting an African woman with her two children (p. 126, ll. 10-11), a woman who sold plants (p. 126, ll. 17-19) and a man asking for money, clothes and food (p. 126, ll. 32-37). These characters, although not directly involved in the action, show Lilian’s mixed feelings when it comes to dealing with black South Africans and her guilt about being white and privileged.

You can read a full characterization of Lilian Thurgood and William Sidlayi in the following pages.