Robert's Employer

George P. Landow, Professor of English and Art History, Brown University

In many ways, "Robert and the Dog" appears one of Saro-Wiwa's most powerfully political stories, in part because it effectively shows the gap between even the kindest of the rich and the poor. For example, although the young doctor's European wife, who "was as young and cheerful as her husband," treated the Robert, the house servant, well, even her kindness cannot penetrate the barriers of culture and poverty:

She spent the day asking Robert about African food, watching Robert at work in the kitchen and lending a helping hand where possible. She made sure Robert stopped work early so that he could get home to his family and did not make a fuss if Robert turned up late some odd mornings. And she got Robert paid every fortnight. She even offered to go and visit his wife and family in The Jungle. Robert carefully and politely turned down her offer. He could not imagine her picking her neat way through the filth and squalor of The Jungle to the hovel which was his home. Maybe, he thought, if she once knew where he lived and sampled the mess that was his home, her regard for him would diminish and he might lose his job. ["Robert and the Dog," A Forest of Flowers, 106]

How does Robert's protectiveness relate to the attitudes towards servants in Emecheta and Achebe and to the students' cunning in Violet Dias Lannoy's "The Story of Jesus"?

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