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Character Analysis

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Elizabeth M

on 14 May 2015

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Transcript of Character Analysis

Mother to Mother
Character Development

Mother to Mother stresses the theme that Mxolisi is a product of his environment, while others may argue that the book is meant to be an apology instead
By analyzing the people in his society and psychological theories that affect Mxolisi's decision, it can be determined whether or not this is true
These factors include his mother Mandisa, and the police force.
Is Mandisa right in saying that Mxolisi is a product of his own environment or is he responsible for his actions?
Creating Sympathy

Real Life Connection
estimated that around 222 million women in third world countries are affected by limited access to contraception due to factors like sexism, religion, culture, and quality of health care available
Egypt, 94% of married women have undergone female genital mutilation
Mandisa’s struggles represents the struggles of millions of women who also also face sexism and discrimination in their societies
mother of three
narrator of the story
Mandisa's childhood is necessary in understanding Mxolisi's life and circumstances
representation of the theme of guilt
provides insight into the role of motherhood during the time in Africa

The Police Force
-The police force acts as a symbol of corruption in the novel
-Police are usually seen as figures of safety and security, but in the novel they are figures of authority that are feared by the citizens
-The police force shows the reader the mistreatment of the black citizens in novel which helps in developing the plot

Conflict Types
Modern Day Connection
Products of Our Environment
Mob Mentality
Creating Sympathy

-brutality of the corrupted police force that instils fear in the innocent
-police raid in Mandisa’s house during the search for her son Mxolisi
-police as impatient, ruthless, unforgiving and corrupt

Real Life Connection
Works Cited
-Mxolisi shows the reader how one can become a product of their environment
-His childhood is seen to play a role in his current character
-As a child, he asked where his father was and was constantly repeating tata as he played, which showed his sense of wanting a father figure. Without expressing these emotions, he seeks guidance in wrong influences that lead to his violent outburst

Creating Sympathy

Real Life Connection
Person Vs Self

Different Point of View

Alice, Liz, Anca, Sierra, Onita
Police Brutality -- riots and conflicts seen in Baltimore and Ferguson
occurred because institutions that were supposed to be protecting the people had failed and the public felt that they had no other option left for their voices to be heard
Relates to the book because Amy Biehl was killed in a riot started on similar grounds; the black population felt angered and frustrated with the discriminatory laws imposed by the government and felt the need to stand up for themselves
idea in psychology that humans are a product of their environment and who they grow up to be is influenced by their social experiences
Harry Harlow -- monkey Love Experiment
Proved that the relationship between a mother and child could have profound effects on the mental stability of the child
the conditions of the apartheid it is also easy to see why mxolisi might be a product of his environment
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs -- each person must achieve one basic need before moving on to the next in order to achieve happiness
if a person has not had their basic needs of food, water and shelter met, then they will worry less about other parts of the pyramid
as a result Mxolisi is primarily concerned with the unfair living conditions that he was born into and would explain why he would take interest in participating with riots
-Mandisa is victimized by her son’s actions and labeled the mother of a murderer, as if she is to be held partially responsible for Amy’s death.
-“people look at me as though I did it. As though I made him do it.”
-“But I am a mother, with a mother’s heart. The cup You have given me is too bitter to swallow. The shame. The hurt of the other mother. The young women whose tender life was cut so cruelly short."
- A sympathetic tone can also be drawn by the sense of helplessness Mandisa must face as a mother
"Activity Highlights at a Glance ." The Amy Biehl Foundation. The Amy Biehl Foundation, Nov. 2001. Web. 12 May 2015. <http://www.amybiehl.org/newsletter_6-4.php>.
"Family Planning." WHO. World Health Organization, n.d. Web. 12 May 2015. <http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs351/en/>.
"Female Genital Mutilation and Other Harmful Practices." WHO. World Health Organization, n.d. Web. 12 May 2015. <http://www.who.int/reproductivehealth/topics/fgm/fgm_prevalence_egypt/en/>.
James, Wendy. "The Psychology of Mob Mentality and Violence." Dr Wendy James PhD. Life Consultants, Inc, n.d. Web. 12 May 2015. <http://www.drwendyjames.com/the-psychology-of-mob-mentality-and-violence/>.
Kozlow, Boris. "Harry Harlow, Monkey Love Experiments." The Adoption History Project. University of Oregon, n.d. Web. 12 May 2015. <http://pages.uoregon.edu/adoption/studies/HarlowMLE.htm>.
Noble, Andrea. "Race-based Hate Crimes Spike in D.C.; Whites Most Common Victims, but Underreporting Feared." Washington Times. The Washington Times, 19 Sept. 2015. Web. 12 May 2015. <http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/aug/19/race-based-hate-crimes-spike-in-dc/?page=all>.
McLeod, Saul. "Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs." Simply Psychology. Simplypsychology.org, 17 Sept. 2007. Web. 12 May 2015. <http://www.simplypsychology.org/maslow.html>.
Moody, Brain. "Jean Paul Samputu (Rwanda)." Forgiveness Project. N.p., 27 Jan. 2014. Web. 12 May 2015. <http://theforgivenessproject.com/stories/jean-paul-samputu-rwanda/>.
Moody, Brain. "Linda Biehl & Easy Nofemela (South Africa)." The Forgiveness Project. N.p., 29 Mar. 2010. Web. 12 May 2015. <http://theforgivenessproject.com/stories/linda-biehl-easy-nofemela-south-africa/>.
Resnikoff, Ned. "Why Riots Happen in Places like Baltimore." Al Jazeera America. Al Jazeera America, LLC, 28 Apr. 2015. Web. 12 May 2015. <http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2015/4/28/why-riots-happen-in-places-like-baltimore.html>.
- We are shown through the suffering, helpless eyes of a mother; the ruthless, society her son grew up in.
- Mandisa describes the hatred that the youth of South Africa learned to harbor and develop from a young age.
-“For that is what he had become at the time when he killed your daughter. My son was only an agent, executing the long-simmering dark desires of his race. Burned hatred for the oppressor possessed his being. It saw through his eyes; walked with his feet and wielded the knife that tore mercilessly into her flesh. The resentment of three hundred years plugged his ears; deaf to her pitiful entreaties”
- Did any of you find yourselves sympathizing with Mxolisi, and if so, why?

Mxolisi's murder of Amy Biehl would be commonly referred to reverse racism
In 2013 in Washington, D.C., there was surge in race-based crimes due to increasing feelings of discrimination against blacks
18 hate crimes, 13 of them were done by black suspects.
Therefore it shown that Mxolisi’s behaviour is not unique to his story but a common response that occurs when a group of people feel they are being unfairly disadvantaged
-Human society is based on group dynamics, as humans
we have instinctual responses that are aggravated by group influences
-While part of a group, a person may do things that they would not do as individuals, this is due to the fact that this person adopts the mentality of the group, losing control of their normal inhibitions in the process
-The larger the group, the more amplified their behaviour is
-The phenomenon of mob mentality can be seen throughout history, regular people are pushed into behavior they don’t usually display because their mentality switches to that of the group
-There are three main theories pertaining to mob mentality; Contagion Theory, Convergence Theory and Emergent-Norm Theory
-In a mob mentality situation there is the feeling of anonymity, a diffusion of responsibility, the members of the group view the violence as the group’s and they believe they cannot be held responsible.
Quotes That Prove Mob Mentality
- The book narrates that Mxolisi “is lost. You couldn’t tell him from the others.”,(page 11)
- The crowd is described as a “ gigantic, many limbed millipede” (page 11) and continues stating: “swaggering strides say much about the common purpose that binds the group together, cements the members into one cohesive whole.”(page 11)
“Back they run, the magnet too powerful for their stomachs, hungry for excitement.” (page 19)
“The car is small. The crowd totally eclipsing it is wild and thunderous, chanting and screaming, fists stabbing air.” (Page 19)
- Mxolisis says “Mama, believe me, I was just one of a hundred people who threw stones at her car….many people stabbed her.” (Page 195) and "I was no the only one there."

Through the heartbreak of the mother, we truly get a sense of the extreme corruption of the youth
Mandisa provides novel with a sympathetic tone that could only be evoked from the perspective of a heartbroken mother
without the perspective of Mandisa, it would be impossible for readers to develop sympathy towards Mxolisi as he would be dehumanized
Through Mandisa’s perspective, we are able to go further into depth about the apartheid
-The following shows how racial discrimination and lack of political justice could lead someone to commit a horrible act of violence
- Person vs. Person: Can be seen in the betrayal between Jean Paul and Vincent, who killed Jean Paul’s father
- Person vs Self: In this case this conflict can be seen in both Jean Paul and Vincent
Person vs Society: The article states “genocide can create a monster from any of us”, this relates back to the fact that children and young adultsi are molded by the hateful and discriminatory environment they live in, which then breeds hate and violence, turning innocent children into potential killers

Internal battles that characters wage within themselves.
These are internal issues that dictate their actions, motivations and interactions with other characters.
This conflict can either be recurring throughout the story or evident in a particular point in time.
Mxolisi’s mentality is one of the most significant factors of this novel.
Psychologically, Mxolisi’s upbringing has dictated his present and future. Throughout the novel, the decisions that Mxolisi makes are directly related to his personal convictions.
This perspective is presented by Mandisa as she stresses upon the notion of Mxolisi being molded by his environment.
Since this is the case, Mxolisi’s ideologies are directly linked to his downfall. His internal struggle, even though he cannot see it himself, is what condemns him to his fate.
The toll the apartheid has over Mandisa also creates a conflict within her.
She is surrounded by the mentality of white lives being superior to black lives and this mentality forms a distinct separation between the murder of black people and the murder of white people.

Person Vs Person
Person Vs Society
The most common conflict.
A character will be opposed by or will oppose the actions and motivations of another character or characters.
The conflict between white people and black people is the largest conflict evident throughout the novel.
Specifically, the conflict between Mxolisi and Amy Biehl holds an important role in the plot of the story. The lack of awareness and understanding exhibited in Mxolisi sparks this conflict, and the actions he takes are what format the rest of the novel.
In general, the segregation of black people and white people is one big conflict within itself. The discrimination evident becomes dehumanizing to people of colour. Murders within these homelands are deemed irrelevant until a white woman is murdered. The murder sparks various person vs. person conflicts within this category as well.
This dehumanization brings us to another conflict, a conflict evident within the “homelands.” Numerous times Mandisa speaks about continuous cases of murder, rape and other crimes that are consistent within these communities of black people and the lack of intervention.
The conflicts between these people put under the same circumstance helps develop a greater understanding of how mind-altering the apartheid truly was.

The characters’ firm beliefs are against norms that the entire society holds.
This could be anything practiced by a society that is opposed by a minority.
Throughout this novel, society holds many different forms.
When society is perceived as the government, all people of colour are deemed as insignificant and inferior. Their importance lacks when placed next to a white person.
In the case of the citizens within the homelands, a person vs. society conflict is evident between Mxolisi and these citizens. Amy Biehl’s murder outcasts him from all of these citizens.
This is because his actions are unthinkable to members of this society. A white person being murdered by a black person becomes such an unimaginable concept; hence Mxolisi is removed for violating these norms.
Mandisa’s situation is similar, the sin her son has committed is said to also be pinned onto her role as his mother.
Amy Biehl and her unfortunate death hints to a conflict between her and the people who reside within the homelands. Her visit is foreign to the point that it provokes Mxolisi’s decision.
Ignorance is the word that Mandisa uses to justify Amy’s decision. Her good-intentions did not save her from her fate, and for this very reason she would be defined as ignorant. She acted against expectations and put herself in a vulnerable position. She becomes a victim of circumstance.
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