Fiela’s Child by Dalene Matthee

April 5, 2019 Education

Fiela’s Child by Dalene Matthee is a novel which presents the thoughts of identity to its readers. She uses the story of Benjamin, a white boy who is raised by a woman of color, to communicate her thoughts about the nature of identity not only in the context of Benjamin, but also in everyday life. By describing how Benjamin struggles between the Komoeties and the van Rooyens, Matthee effectively says that identity can be acquired after birth, but cannot be replaced once it has been instilled in a person. Before one can truly analyze the story and Matthee’s thoughts about identity, he must define the word ‘identity’. Identity, as defined by common belief, is an amalgam of personality, feelings, and beliefs. Essentially, identity defines who a person is. Identity is used to characterize and recognize the individuality of people. It is what makes people unique. Some may believe that identity and personality are one and the same, but personality is merely a superficial concept and does not involve a person’s subconscious feelings and beliefs. The author uses symbolism along with characterization to build the theme of self-identity.
Throughout this thought-provoking novel, Matthee shows us how the environment where people are brought up, plays a strong part in who they become. She compares and contrasts the bright, open expanse of the Long Kloof with the darkness of the Forest, as well as the inhabitants of these areas.
The novel tells us the story of a boy who struggles to understand who he is and where he belongs. This boy is Benjamin Komoetie.
Despite spending his younger years in the care of Fiela Komoetie, a black woman, interference by white people upturns his life and sends Benjamin into the Forest to live with woodcutters. This transfer is confusing for a twelve-year-old, and even the insistence of his new white family that he has returned home, cannot quell his longing for the Kloof and his family there.
Matthee frequently uses nature to describe events in the story and also connects shades of dark and light to the places. The people of the Forest are almost backwards in their ways; they have little or no education and their homes are ramshackle huts. However, some of the Forest dwellers are aware of their insignificance to the village people and other outsiders.
The animals within the story also have a significance of the story. The ostriches and the elephants are a representation of the Komoetie and Van Rooyen family.


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