Dalene Matthee in Fiela's Child

875 Words 4 Pages
HOW DOES DALENE MATTHEE PORTRAY RACE AND IDENTITY IN FIELA’S CHILD THROUGH CHARACTERISATION?
On one side of a mountain in the Long Kloof, there is Fiela Komoetie who is devoted to her child – a three-year old boy she finds one night, crying on her doorstep like a castaway lamb. On the other side of the mountain, in the Forest, are the Van Rooyens. Many years ago, the three-year-old son of Elias Van Rooyen, a woodcutter, and his wife Barta disappeared. In Fiela’s Child, Dalene Matthee passionately portrays ideas about identity to the reader. She uses the story of Benjamin, a white boy who is brought up by a coloured woman, to communicate her thoughts about the nature of identity, not only in the situation of Benjamin, but also everyday
…show more content…
Immediately Fiela discovers the wandering three year old white boy, Benjamin, on her doorstep, she accepts him as one of her own children and takes him to live with her family. Benjamin continues to live with the Komoetie’s for nine years. His identity at the time of discovery is unknown to the reader, but is insignificant in comparison to the identity that he develops while living with the Komoetie’s. By the time he is twelve years old, he thinks and acts like a natural member of the family, perhaps he thinks like a colored which the census takers actually confirm later. In the novel, Benjamin confirms his conformity to the colored identity. For instance, he tells Fiela about a conversation he had with a businessman where he defended his mother from abuse by replying the man that “… Ma’s not stupid.”
This simple statement shows how Benjamin has come to accept Fiela as his mother and has developed deep respect for her. In addition, he has unconsciously come to believe that he is also a person of colour. In the South African society depicted in Fiela’s Child, people of color are required to address white people with words like “master.” “Good afternoon, master...” is a phrase that Benjamin often uses. Even though Benjamin is a white boy in appearance, his learned identity is that of a person of color.
We are introduced to the theme of racism in the novel when the census officials come to take away Benjamin to his

More about Dalene Matthee in Fiela's Child