Born from a white mother and a black father, Bessie Head grew up in the early stages of Apartheid South Africa. In Maru she reflects upon her own experiences of love, loneliness and prejudice. Prejudice spreads as one discriminates against another and creates false images. Love contradicts loneliness, which diminishes as the plot progresses. Prejudice affects love and promotes loneliness.
Initially one may assume that prejudice is only between different races. However, Bessie Head displays tribal prejudice through, “the expressions of disgust on the faces of the Batswana nurses as they wash the dead woman’s body for burial” (page 9-10). The nurses are reluctant to wash the dead woman’s body because she was Masarwa. Masarwas are considered as, “a low and filthy nation” (page 8), because they have decided to sustain their ancestral ways of life and customs. They have thus been pushed to the margin of society, “owned as slaves” (page 19), by the authoritative and affluent chiefs of the community. Being associated with Masarwa would infer that one stoops down to their level. For this reason, Moleka’s love for Margaret is suppressed. He loves her but is not keen to sacrifice his status for her. By, “[sharing] his plate of food and fork with one” (page 51), he wishes to show the community that Masarwa are equal to Batswana and eradicate the belief that they are non-human. Moleka attempts to terminate prejudice immediately. He does not understand that, “prejudice is like the skin of a snake. It has to be removed bit by bit” (age 48). This metaphor illustrates to the reader that change occurs over a long period of time. According to Moleka, this plate sharing becomes a symbol for the emancipation of the Masarwas and qualifies Margaret to be his equal. Moleka is a hypocrite because he wants to change other people’s attitudes towards Masarwa but he is not willing to walk down the aisle with Margaret. His prejudicial demeanours compel him to quash his feelings towards...
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