”The Prisoner Who Wore Glasses” by Bessie Head is a short narrative with a powerful message. At first I was uninterested in and untouched by the story, but after understanding the moral context, I became engaged with the piece and it’s characters.
The main purpose of the piece is to present a conflict where mental strength is tested against physical, showing that mental strength is superior and also to show that the world is a better place when we work together. Brille, the protagonist, not only shows courage and leadership, but also wisdom that makes him inevitably unique from the static characters in the story. The other prisoners in Camp One look to Brille for guidance and follow in his footsteps, even though his physical appearance is frail; he is even referred to as a “thin little fellow” with a “hollowed out chest” and “comic knobbly knees”. What Brille lacks in stature, he makes up for with his strong will; when Hannetjie, the new warder in Span One asks the prisoners who dropped a cabbage while working, I did not expect Brille to be the prisoner to claim the misdeed. After Hannetjie punishes the whole Span, Brille states “But I told you I did it”, making it evident that he wanted to have independent punishment, instead of letting his mates suffer with him. After Warder Hannetjie confronts Brille, telling him that he doesn’t take orders from a “kaffir” and tells Brille to call him “Baas”; Brille tells Hannetjie that he’s twenty years old then him and proceeds to take blows to the head by the warder. Even after Brille is hit, he does not back down and still wants to help the other prisoners, his dedication, compassion and bravery makes him suitable as their leader and they continue to put their faith in him.
Brille, experiencing the first act of violence ever perpetrated against him, thought very philosophically about his wounds. He thought back to his poor life at home, where his 12 children brutality fought and were only controlled when he was...
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