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Fiela's Child- Dalene Matthee Comparisons and contrasts of the Long Kloof and the Forest

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  • September 11, 2004
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Throughout this thought-provoking novel, Matthee shows us how the environment where people are brought up, plays a strong part in who they become. She compares and contrasts the bright, open expanse of the Long Kloof with the darkness of the Forest, as well as the inhabitants of these areas.

The novel tells us the story of a boy who struggles to understand who he is and where he belongs. This boy is Benjamin Komoetie.

Despite spending his younger years in the care of Fiela Komoetie, a black woman, interference by white people upturns his life and sends Benjamin into the Forest to live with woodcutters. This transfer is confusing for a twelve-year-old, and even the insistence of his new white family that he has returned home, cannot quell his longing for the Kloof and his family there.

Matthee frequently uses nature to describe events in the story and also connects shades of dark and light to the places. The people of the Forest are almost backwards in their ways; they have little or no education and their homes are ramshackle huts. However, some of the Forest dwellers are aware of their insignificance to the village people and other outsiders. During a conversation between Elias van Rooyen (Benjamin's new father) and Malie (one of Benjamin's aunts), Malie says:

' "I'm almost forty Elias, and I've been outside this Forest only twice in my life, and that was just as far as the village….-I say again, if we should all die from a plague this very day, few would notice.' (pg.135-136)

The Forest affects its community in many ways: it is the life and death of the woodcutters and families. Yet, being from the Long Kloof, Benjamin (now called Lukas) struggles to escape from a feeling of confinement. The colossal trees that tower all around and block out the sun seem to imprison him further. This reference is just after he reaches his new home, deep in the bush:

' They were somewhere deep within the Forest, it was dark and he was very scared for he did not...