City Lovers

This study guide will help you analyse the short story “City Lovers” by Nadine Gordimer. We will show you examples of elements in the text that will be relevant for your analysis. In these notes, we will focus on the summary, structure, characters, setting, narrator and point of view, language, themes and message.

Presentation of the text

Title: “City Lovers” (1975)
Author: Nadine Gordimer
Genre: Short story

Nadine Gordimer (1923-2014) was a South African writer and political activist. Her works typically deal with themes such as race, love, and morality. In 1991, she won the Nobel Prize in Literature. She published “City Lovers” in 1975 in The New Yorker.


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The title of the short story “City Lovers” by Nadine Gordimer has both a literal and a symbolic meaning.

In a literal sense, the title is a direct reference to the two lovers: Dr von Leinsdorf and the mixed-race woman. They meet in an urban environment, as their first encounter happens inside a supermarket. Dr von Leinsdorf’s flat is located in a “suburban block”  and in a part of the city that is not inhabited by black or mixed-race people. However, the woman begins to live in his flat after the two of them become lovers.

In a symbolic sense, the title represents the limitations and status of their relationship. The two of them cannot openly be together inside the city. When Dr von Leinsdorf goes to the houses of his colleagues, he cannot take the woman with him. The two never kiss when they leave the flat, showing how their love can exist only in the confines of their home. They are only able to express their relationship freely outside the city, in the countryside, where they “picnicked away up in the Magaliesberg, where there was no one”.

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City Lovers

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