The opening scene shows a road that goes between two fields. White kids play rugby on one field while black kids play soccer on the other. This image, of the road running between the two fields, acts as a symbol of the deeply rooted segregation in South Africa, even after apartheid has ended. It is fitting, then, that Nelson Mandela's car drives down the road in the middle, because it symbolizes the ways he will unify the two sides.
While many of Mandela's staff members cannot understand why he is so obsessed with the game of rugby, and often pays more attention to the Springboks team than to foreign policy, Mandela maintains that the country's ability to unite around the Springboks team is a symbol for their broader unity across political and racial lines. In this way, rugby becomes a symbol for the country itself, a unifying pastime that brings together people who might not otherwise agree. Sports involves a group of individuals coming together towards a common goal, and its basic structure is symbolic of the nation itself; Mandela's efforts to motivate the Springboks team to perform better than they thought they could runs parallel to his desire to unite a divided nation and get individuals to care about one another and work towards the prosperity of the whole.
White Bodyguards (Symbol)
On Mandela's first day in office, he does not fire any of the white representatives who worked for the previous president and the white bodyguard team goes to join Jason and Mandela's usual bodyguards. Jason is furious, suggesting to Mandela that he has hired some of the very men who have oppressed black South Africans in the past. Mandela urges him to use forgiveness, and suggests that forgiveness is a powerful weapon, because it is disarming. The white bodyguards become a symbol of Mandela's disarming capacity for forgiveness and compassion, his belief that humans are stronger together, and that hatred can be defeated through unification.
We see Mandela shake the hand of Francois and his teammates at various points throughout the film. When he goes to the first rugby game, he shakes all of the players' hands and they are awestruck by the gesture, but they have not yet come to know Mandela's powerful motivational presence. At the end of the film, he shakes their hands before the match, then shakes the hands of the New Zealand players, a symbol of his compassion for all people, even his competitors. Finally, after the Springboks have won the game, Mandela shakes Francois' hand, a gesture that signifies the fulfillment of their shared goal.
Chester Williams (Symbol)
Williams is seen getting off the bus with the rest of his Springbok teammates in order to conduct a coaching clinic for the young black boys who are waiting eagerly for them. The boys surround Chester and cheer his name, all seeking to touch him. Chester is a symbol of black integration into the world of the Afrikaners. As the only black team member on the Springboks, Chester is a symbol for the potential for South Africa to unify, for black and white fans and players to come together in the pursuit of excellence.
Invictus Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Invictus is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.