10 First Flight

Long Walk to Freedom

Exercise Questions

Part 2

Question 13: Would you agree that the “depths of oppression” create “heights of character”? How does Mandela illustrate this? Can you add your own examples to this argument?

Answer: I agree with the statement that depths of oppression create heights of character. Nelson Mandela illustrates this by giving examples of great heroes of South Africa who sacrificed their lives in the long freedom struggle.

India is full of such examples. During our freedom struggle there was a galaxy of leaders of great characters. Probably the oppression of British rule created so many men of such characters. If we compare this with the quality of political leaders India is having today, then Nelson Mandela seems to be absolutely right.

Question 14: How did Mandela’s understanding of freedom change with age and experience?

Answer: During young age freedom for Mandela meant a freedom on a personal level. The freedom to raise a family, and the freedom to earn a livelihood. After gaining experience the freedom meant a lot more to Nelson Mandela. It was a freedom for everybody. It was a freedom from fear and prejudice. Age and experience made his perspective more wide.

Question 15: How did Mandela’s ‘hunger for freedom’ change his life?

Answer: Slowly Nelson Mandela’s hunger for freedom turned from that on a personal level to a broader mass level. This changed the fearful man to a fearless rebel. He sacrificed the comforts of a settled family life to fight for a greater cause.

Question 16: What “twin obligations” does Mandela mention?

Answer: In South Africa or in any nation there are two obligations for a person. One is at the personal level towards his family. Another obligation is towards the society. Apart from striving for personal goals a person should also work hard to contribute something to the society.

Question 17: What did being free mean to Mandela as a boy, and as a student? How does he contrast these “transitory freedoms” with “the basic and honourable freedoms”?

Answer: Like any other kid, for Mandela also the freedom meant a freedom to make merry and enjoy the blissful life. Once anybody becomes an adult, then antics of childhood look transitory because most of the childish activity is wasteful from an adult’s perspective.

Once you are adult then someday you have to earn a livelihood to bring the bacon home, then only you get an honourable existence in the family and in the society.

Question 18: Does Mandela think the oppressor is free? Why/Why not?

Answer: Mandela does not think that oppressor is free. Because, the oppressor is, the prisoner of hatred and prejudice.

A Tiger in the Zoo


He stalks in his vivid stripes
The few steps of his cage,
On pads of velvet quiet,
In his quiet rage.

He should be lurking in shadow,
Sliding through long grass
Near the water hole
Where plump deer pass.
He should be snarling around houses
At the jungle’s edge,
Baring his white fangs, his claws,
Terrorising the village!

But he’s locked in a concrete cell,
His strength behind bars,
Stalking the length of his cage,
Ignoring visitors.
He hears the last voice at night,
The patrolling cars,
And stares with his brilliant eyes
At the brilliant stars.

Summary: This poem tries to depict the mental condition of a caged tiger. The tiger is taking to and fro steps in the cage as if trying to while away the time. The tiger should have been in its natural habitat sliding through the long grass. It would have been trying to catch a live deer. But in the cage the tiger is so fed up that it even ignores the visitor. The last line heightens the contrast between freedom and captivity. Brilliant stars outside the cage seem to be more brilliant than those brilliant eyes behind the cage. It seems that the tiger also understands the freedom that the star might be enjoying.