Original Research

Broken promises – A novel’s impact on shaping youth identity

Berit Lundgren, Mathabo Khau
Reading & Writing | Vol 6, No 1 | a86 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/rw.v6i1.86 | © 2015 Berit Lundgren, Mathabo Khau | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 15 June 2015 | Published: 30 November 2015

About the author(s)

Berit Lundgren, Faculty of Education, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, South Africa
Mathabo Khau, Faculty of Education, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, South Africa


In many emerging economies worldwide, and in South Africa in particular, sizeable investments have been made in education with the hope of increasing literacy rates and hence producing a workforce that will fit into the job market. Thus it is important to understand the context and literacy materials within South African classrooms and their impact. This article looks at the novel Broken promises by Roz Haden, which is read in many South African classrooms. From a post-structural feminist theory and functional language theory, we analyse how the portrayal of characters and storyline can have an impact on young readers’ identity construction in relation to the novel’s predominant discourses. The findings show that men are still portrayed as dominant in their own right within society whereas women are defined in relation to men. Unchallenged, this portrayal can continue to perpetuate gendered stereotypes, which would affect young people’s functionality in society. We therefore argue that while novels are good for improving literacy among young people, the messages they contain should be deconstructed and challenged so that young people can make informed decisions regarding their gender identities.


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