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Lessons to be learned "The Village Saint"

Added: Monday, November 1st 2010 at 11:59pm by dgoldman

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"The Village Saint" by Bessie Head is a short story about an African Village leader, Rra-Mompati and his wife, Mma-Mompati.  The story encompasses the larger theme of facade , or false appearances.  Rra-Mompati has a high ranking position in "tribal affairs" and lives in a large, white colonial-style house; basically he has the good life.  He was married to Mma-Mompati, who put on a "fool-proof facade." (The Collector of Treasures, 13) She would be seen everywhere, whether she be presiding over lunch and tea at her house or burying the dead.  The narrator describes her motivations: "Mma-Mompati assiduously cultivated her 'other image' of the holy woman.  No villager could die without being buried by Mma-Mompati...No one could fall ill without receiving the prayers of Mma-Mompati." (The Collector of Treasures,14)

One day Rra-Mompati left Mma-Mompati for another woman.  When Mma-Mompati filed for divorce, the whole village was behind her, memorizing her entire speech, word for word.  The villagers alienated Rra-Mompati for what they saw as such a bad choice he made.  He even alienated himself from his only son, Mompati, because he thought Mompati was siding with Mma-Mompati.


Mompati, in turn, fell in love with Mary Pule, a "thin, wilting, willowy dreamy girl".  (The Collector of Treasures, 17) Mary led Mompati around for months, having him court her and buy her gifts.  In her own time, she accepted his proposal.  But once they were married, Mma-Mompati got jealous of Mary's control and the two sparred for control.  Finally one day, Mma-Mompati became so flustered and crazed she demanded her son, Mompati, and his wife, draw water at the village tap instead of Mma-Mompati's local water tap.  When the villagers saw Mary walking such a long distance to get water, they asked why she didn't use the local tap, and she told them about Mma-Mompati.  The vilagers were in disbelief that the woman they supported for so long would do such a thing, but at the end of the day, the villagers never believed inher again.


And so, power shifted from Mma-Mompati to Mary.  One can speculate and see it as a cycle-- and the cycle begins again.

“Heaven is not Closed” by Bessie Head tells about devotion. The main character, Galethebege, is a devout Christian but she is confronted with a problem when her husband, Ralaoke, wants to marry under Setswana custom rather than in Church. Faced with this decision, Galethebege goes forward with marrying Ralaoke, but all her life she faces a spiritual disconnect. Only for the last several years after he passes away does she feel truly connected to god.

This theme of devotion extends past the story. Just as she held on to her own identity without active support from anyone, we need to have devotion to something in life, whether it be career, friends or otherwise.

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