Fiela’s Child, by Dalene Matthee, is written in layered narrative. This form of writing gives the reader a better understanding of events through each character’s trials and tribulations. From one chapter to the next, Matthee switches from the thoughts of Fiela and her family to those of Barta and her family. Matthee also creates such layers through the use of memories that build rounder characters.
The firsthand thoughts of Benjamin allow the reader to see his feelings as he tries to adjust to a new family, new surroundings, and the idea that he may never see the woman he knows as his mother ever again. The reader also sees the things that Benjamin worries about, such as the ostriches and his memories of them. He is so deeply connected to his family, and that is shown through passages such as, “I’m Fiela Komoetie’s child, your worshipful lord. I swear to it, master. The forest woman’s lying if she says I’m her child” (Matthee 94).
Throughout the novel, Fiela is seen as almost aggressive, as she takes charge of her family. Matthee’s descriptions of Fiela’s memories, as on pages 113-117 (her journey through the mountains to see Selling), create imagery while stabilizing her rugged, independent, and almost masculine character.
Not only does Matthee exhibit an exemplary prose in Fiela’s Child, she uses a layered narrative technique to give her audience views from all perspectives. This technique is very effective in building characters and assisting the reader’s overall understanding of the novel.
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