"A Sunrise on the Veld" is a short story written by British author Doris Lessing. It tells the story of a boy who is filled with the excitement and wonder of life and the world around him. However, he soon discovers the darker side of reality, which is that living things must die. "A Sunrise on the Veld" has significant meaning for all readers. It explores feelings of invincibility that many people have had in their youths. It also describes feelings of fear, anger and grief that most humans feel when they must face the reality of suffering and death. After witnessing the death of a small helpless buck, the boy comes to the realization that there are events and circumstances in life that he cannot control.
At the beginning of the story, the boy awakens early in the morning and feels like he has control over himself and his environment. He has trained himself to wake at half-past four without the use of his alarm clock. He thought of staying in his warm bed awhile longer. “But he played with it for the fun of knowing that it was a weakness he could defeat without effort: just as he set the alarm each night for the delight of the moment when he woke and stretched his limbs, feeling the muscles tighten, and thought: Even my brain--even that! I can control every part of myself.” He was feeling invincible and full of life.
After getting dressed in the cold of the early morning, the boy crept quietly through the house so as not to wake his parents. He took his gun and went outdoors, taking his dogs with him. He was aware of every sensation he felt; the cold ground beneath his feet, the dew covered grass, and the chilled steel of his gun. He was filled with a fascination of the world around him. “Then he began to run, not carefully, as he had before, but madly, like a wild thing. He was clean crazy, yelling mad with the joy of living and a superfluity of youth." He thought he could “contain the world and make of it what I want." He soon learned otherwise.
While in his state of exuberance, his celebration of life was interrupted by the small cries of a creature in pain. As the boy went to investigate the source of the cries, he saw a buck in the grass dying, and covered in black ants. “As he drew in his breath and pity and terror seized him, the beast fell and the screaming stopped." He realized there was nothing he could do for the poor animal. He had no control over this. As he looked at the dying buck he said under his breath, “I can’t stop it. I can’t stop it. There is nothing I can do." The boy was “suffering, sick, and angry. He expressed himself verbally, using language that he had heard his father use. The ants were around him and he shouted defiantly at them saying, “Go away! I am not for you--not just yet at any rate. Go away.” “And he fancied that the ants turned and went away." The boy still wanted to believe that he had control over things concerning his life.
After the buck’s skeleton had been stripped clean by the ants, the boy went over to examine it closely. He thought about how it looked when it was alive. Perhaps it was running and romping in the veld earlier that morning, just as he had. He thought of how it must have sniffed at the cold morning air and walking through the grass. The boy discovered that the buck’s leg had been broken. Trying to think of how it could have happened to a young and sure-footed animal as this, he determined that it had to be that some adversary had broken the buck’s leg. “A buck was too light and graceful. Had some rival horned it?" The boy came face to face with death, and knew it happens to all living creatures. He also realized that even though he could control what he does to some extent, there were things in this world that no one can control. The knowledge of fatality, of what has to be, had gripped him and for the first time in his life; and he was left unable to say: "Yes, yes, this is what living is."