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The Collector of Treasures.

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by

Rozen Raymond

on 30 April 2013

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Transcript of The Collector of Treasures.

THE COLLECTOR OF TREASURES Motif Cultural
References The End Character List Dikeledi Mokopi
Protagonist who is abandoned and abused by her husband. Kills her husband and is sent to prison. Provides for her three children on her own and is a 'collector of treasures'. Her name means tears.
Garesego
Husband of Dikeledi, father of Dikeledi's three children. Worked as a clerk. A womanizer and a drunk.
Banabothe
Eldest son of Dikeledi . Gets an A grade on his primary school leaving exam.
Inalame
Dikeledi's son
Motsomi
Dikeledi's youngest son.
Paul Thebolo
Dikeledi's new neighbour (1966-year of independence). Has three children with his wife Kenalepe.
Kenalepe
Dikeledi's best friend. Summary Bessie Head’s vignette of a village woman abandoned and abused by her husband begins in medias res. In the first of the story’s four sections, Dikeledi is on her way to prison in Gaborone, the country’s new capital city, from her village, Puleng. She is accused of "manslaughter"(killed her husband) and is sentenced for life. Dikeledi is placed with four other women who have also murdered their husbands. We learn that Dikeledi has a number of skills-"she could knit, sew, and weave baskets" and has provided for her family by using these skills when her husband abandoned her.
In the second part of the story the narrator indicates that there are two different types of man, one being compared to dogs (Dikeledi's husband) and the other being a "poem of tenderness" (Paul Thebolo). Paul Thebolo and his wife are new neighbours of Dikeledi. Dikeledi offers help in building their huts and Kanelepi and Dikeledi soon become best friends who share everything with each other.
In the third section after eight years of African independence, Dikeledi has to ask Garesego for money to pay for the eldest child's education, as the money she has collected over the years isn't enough. Garesego believes that Dikeledi is Paul's concubine and refuses to provide money due to that. Later he requests Dikeledi to prepare him a meal and bath for him through a letter (Indicated that all he wanted was a sexual relation).
In the final section we see Dikeledi preparing for Garesego's arrival. She has planned to kill him with a meat cutting knife. She may have changed her mind if he had showed interest in their children but he didn't. After Garesego's has a bath and falls asleep, Dikeledi cuts of his genitals and after he is dead she tells her son to call the police. Paul and Kanelepi knowing ahead that something negative was brewing in Dikeledi's mind rushed to the scene. After observing what had happened he assured that he would take care of her children as if they were his own. Significance of Title Although Dikiledi has led a life of loneliness and sadness, she does not dwell on her misfortunes but rather on the positive things she has in life. Her friends, Paul and Kenalepe Thebolo bring light into her life and each moment she shares with them she keeps as a ‘treasure’ in her heart. Each happy memory or kind gesture Dikiledi has she savors and stores away. She truly appreciates the small things in life. “And yet she had always found gold amidst the ash, deep loves that had joined her heart to the hearts of others...She was the collector of such treasures.” (p. 91) At first the title seems ironic because Dikiledi has suffered many hardships, but after reflection she has come to realize that she has learned much more from her hardships in comparison to Kenalepe has learned little from her good fortune. Opening vs. Closing Author's
Purpose Setting The villages of Puleng and Gaborone, in Botswana In tracing the three periods of moral decay, she notes that although traditional laws (before colonial invasion) may have provided discipline for society as a whole, they failed to acknowledge the individual’s needs; further, traditional society doubly compounded the error for women, regarding them as inferior to the male. (91) In the second period, colonialism, migratory labor patterns to South African mines further eroded traditional family life. Men were forced to be absent from their families for long periods of time in order to earn enough to pay the British poll tax. With men demeaned by their racially inferior status under colonialism, the third period, independence, presented the challenge for a new order of family life, but both men and women, suffering from legacies of simplistic traditional custom and of colonial degradation, had little more than their own inner stamina to draw on in shaping that necessarily new order. The subject of Bessie Head’s stories is change itself, and specifically the threshold where change takes place. Change has become the issue of women’s writing since independence-change and not simply rights or equality. Though there has been continuous concern with abuse of women, it is in the stories of Bessie Head that the very boundaries between men and women, between past and present roles, those that are set in place in the constitution of women’s identities, are called into question. With Bessie Head, in fact, boundaries, the forces that maintain and perpetuate them, and those forces that dissolve them, could be said to be the focus of and key to her work. The struggle's of women Resistance Opening:
On her way to prison in the police van, Dikiledi discovers, like all those driven to the edge, the need to awaken. Her interior landscape is projected onto the land in this powerfully evocative scene:
“At first, faintly on the horizon, the orange glow of the city lights of the new independence town of Gaborone, appeared like an astonishing phantom in the overwhelming darkness of the bush, until the truck struck tarred roads, neon lights, shops and cinemas, and made the bush a phantom amidst a blare of light.”
Here, at the liminal stage where bush and city exchange a ghostly reality, the harsh journey moves to its conclusion;
A rude arrival and ruder awakening await Dikeledi, prior to her own final transformation:
“All this passed untimed, unwatched by the crumpled prisoner,; she did not stir as the truck finally droned to a halt outside the prison gates. The torchlight struck the side of her face like an agonizing blow. Thinking she was asleep, the policeman called out briskly: You must awaken now. We have arrived.” (87)
Though she is crumpled in despair, she is not asleep, and has indeed arrived at the destination, the ultimate outpost of male authority and power, the proper site for her ultimate refusal to comply with male authority. Dikeledi’s last stop is to be marked by the community of like-minded women who also found the courage to fight back, and who were excluded and confined under the hegemony of the male judge and warden. There Dikeldi, a “collector of treasures,” finds the place for love, caring, and giving denied her by a patriarchal society. Closing:
At the end, transformed by the telling, she is no longer a Dikeledi, but a Mma-Banabothe -both mother of her children and killer of their father. Her story ends with pointers that indicate where that terrible combination must lead her-exclusion and, simultaneously, self-fulfillment. Dikeldi and the other struggling women of Bessie Head’s fiction move between two worlds in which the line of change defines/defies the ultimate borders. At the beginning of the story, we are filled with questions. Not only is it of what awaits Dikiledi in prison but also of the reason she is in prison.We learn that her husband who has destoryed her family is murdered by Dikiledi. Leading us to conclude that she is in a melancholic state.
However at the end of the story, which is not in chronological order, we learn that Dikiledi finds light in the darkest moments and does not dwell upon the negative aspects of her life. She finds happiness even in prison. In the end of the story, we learn that a man (her husband) tried to destroy her family but also it was a man (Paul Thebolo) who was the savior of her family, who shall take care of her children once she is in prison. Role of Power
and Gender When Dikiledi Mokopi is taken to prison, she is informed that there are four other women in prison for the same crime of killing their husbands. The guard says, “It’s becoming the fashion these days.” (p. 88), dismissing the crime as if it’s a fad and the women had no valid reasons to kill their husbands. This comment, although seemingly innocuous, shows that women aren’t regarding as rational and that they are not taken seriously. “The day-duty wardess rattled the key in the lock and let them out into the small concrete courtyard...” (p. 88). This represents women oppressing women. Women who believe that men are superior and submit to their husbands not out of free will but because of tradition, are further perpetuating the idea that women are inferior beings. In doing so, they too contribute to the oppression of not only themselves but other women. This is shown by the majority of the prison guards being women--it is their job to keep the women locked in prison which is symbolic of keeping women oppressed. “The men handed each woman a plate of porridge and a mug of black tea...” (p. 89). Here we see that the men give the women sustenance, they feed them, but that sustenance is not nutritious or good. This portrays life in the traditional villages where the men are the bread-winners and they are supposed to provide for the women but that does not necessarily mean that they do it well, like the imprisoned women’s husbands. Their husbands were supposed to provide for them but they were abusive and uncaring. Bessie is commenting on how the women are taught to be dependent on the males even if they are not doing their jobs well. The prison is inherently sexist; the women are made to do stereotypical women’s work while the men do stereotypical men’s work, further increasing the divide between the social equality of genders. “...the women produced garments of cloth and wool; the men did carpentry, shoe-making, brick-making, and vegetable production.” (p. 90). This separation of tasks by gender portrays women as weak and in some ways unskilled, suggesting that they do not have the strength or the mental capacity to perform the tasks that the men do. Head writes that there are only two kinds of men in society. The first kind of men are men who behave like animals who accept no responsibility for their young and who make females abort. “That kind of man lived near the animal level and behaved just the same...Since that kind of man was in the majority in society, he needed a little analyzing as he was responsible for the complete breakdown of family life.” (p. 91). The other kind of men are men with the power to create themselves anew and who are poems of tenderness. Head goes on to explain that because men were so rigidly controlled, either by tradition or society, they feel the need to prove their masculinity by controlling someone else-women. She also says that men began to abuse their freedom and took advantage of the power they were awarded by their ancestors who insisted that women were inferior beings. This breakdown of men is important because Head explains why certain men act the way they do. Head portrays both kinds of men in this vignette--Dkiledi’s late husband is the type of man she likens to an animal, while Kenalepe’s husband is the good man, the man who “...turned all his resources, both emotional and material, towards his family life...” (p. 93). Head makes references to tradition and society. It gives great insight into the beliefs she was raised around and what life is/was like for people in Africa, especially post-Apartheid and post British Colonialism. Head definitely seems to be a reliable narrator because she was raised in Africa during some of these time periods. The plight of women in Africa is definitely an important cultural reference that Head makes, especially in this story. This is a story of empowerment for women and the drastic changes that must be made in society if women are to be thought of and treated as equals to men.
As we’ve seen in the other stories there are many cultural references to men and women’s roles in the home-the men are supposed to be the dominant ones and the women are supposed to handle domestic affairs including taking care of children and matters pertaining to the home. Head gives detailed insight into the family lives of traditional African families and how it affects all other aspects of people’s lives. With Bessie Head an ironic fatalism governs these women's lives, seen in the gap between the narrative point of view and those of the characters. Galathebege's Christian faith, in "Heaven in Not Closed," is described as sincere and heartfelt by a narrator whose sympathies are closer to Galethebege's non-Christian, skeptical husband. More often the irony stems from the internal gap inherent in the position of the women themselves: caught in a network of social custom and constraint, the women in Head's stories experience moments of transition, blasphemy, violence and death, either because of the strength of their desire, as with Galethebege, Life, or Rankwana in "The Deep River," or because of their insistence upon preserving integrity and independence, as with Life, Dikeledi, and Mma-Mabele. The conflicts often occur within the characters themselves, even when external constraint is brought to bear. What emerges in a pattern of stuggle between powerful, repressive forces and equally adamant drives grounded in desire and refusal. Bessie Head takes us to limits in which the boundary is a warning of the dangers of refusal, but also a refusal of that warning in the story of the excluded wife, Dikeledi, in "The Collector of Treasures." She refuses to accept her husband's insistence that she be a "good wife," that she prepare him his meals and bath, and serve him in bed, regardless of his own conduct and relationships with other women. Dikeledi pushes her refusal to the limits, and in the process attacks phallocracy at its root, sexual domination, again reminding us of that the sexual patterns of a society reflect the link between boundaries and power.
Although presented as the aggrieved party, Dikeledi fails to make the transition from wife as mother to wife as lover. Thus she fails to place Garesego's needs before hers or her children's; and when Garesego attempts to assert his prior claims, he is killed. Works Cited "Shades of Empire in Colonial and Post-Colonial Literatures." - Free Online Library. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Apr. 2013.
"Bessie Head:." Google Books. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Apr. 2013.
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