Maru, the well-written and revered novel by Bessie Head, is primarily concerned with two themes: that of love, and prejudice. Set in the rural and unforgiving village of Dilepe, Maru sets about exploring the ability of people to love others, despite their palpable differences. Moving in a circular sequence, the story begins at the end of the novel, where readers are introduced to the main characters, Maru (who gives the novel its title) and Margaret, his new wife. Thereafter, the story moves back in time examining all the past events that have led up to this point.
Finally starting at the “real beginning”, readers are first exposed to the harsh prejudices of the Batswana tribe against the Masarwa people. A dead Masarwa woman and her live baby are found, yet no Batswana person wishes to bury her, and so English Missionaries are called upon to perform the task. Margaret Cadmore arrives, and is utterly disgusted by the discriminative attitudes of the Batswana nurses who have been forced to help prepare the body for burial. Moved by the true plight of the Masarwa people, Margaret Cadmore decides to adopt the baby, and name her after herself- Margaret Cadmore. She believes by giving this child the gift of education and a privileged upbringing, she will defy the prejudiced minds that surround her. Instead, she leads a withdrawn and troubled life of ridicule and rejection. Realizing she has failed her, Margaret Cadmore returns to England, leaving a young and newly graduated Margaret behind, encouraging her to stay and help her own people. And so Margaret nervously travels to Dilepe, to take up a teaching post at Leseding School. There she meets and befriends another teacher- the beautiful and confident Dikeledi, who is surprised by Margaret’s candidness when she tells her that she is a Masarwa woman. Having nowhere to stay, Dikeledi arranges for Moleka, a tribal superior, and the man that she in fact loves, to provide Margaret with accommodation. At first...
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