Noughts and Crosses: historical context

Noughts and Crosses: historical context

The Work and Its Author

  • “Noughts and Crosses” is a novel written by Malorie Blackman which was later adapted into a stage drama. The novel was first published in 2001.
  • Besides the racial tension, Blackman’s work is notable for its exploration of a society rigidly divided along class lines, another reflection of the societal structures seen in historical contexts.
  • It is worth noting that when “Noughts and Crosses” was published, it was during a time that witnessed a revived rise of far-right movements and growing racial tensions globally. These topical issues have contributed to the relevance and popularity of Blackman’s work.
  • The aim of including “Noughts and Crosses” in the syllabus is to provide a perspective about racial relations and societal hierarchies which stimulates thought and discussion.

The Setting and Its Context

  • The narrative is set in a fictional dystopian society. In this world, the Crosses (dark-skinned individuals) are the dominant racial group while the Noughts (light-skinned individuals) are marginalised and discriminated against.

The Historical Parallels

  • The structure of the society mirrors the racial and social divide that was prevalent in South Africa under apartheid (1948-1994). During apartheid, the ruling minority white South Africans enacted discriminatory laws over the majority black South Africans.
  • The play doesn’t only reflect apartheid, but also echoes the racial tensions and civil rights issues experienced in many parts of the world.
  • The struggles and racial divide presented in Blackman’s work bring light to experiences during the Civil Rights Movement in 1950s-1960s America.