The Significance of Children in Bones

Zandra Kambysellis (English 27, Postcolonial Studies, Brown University, 1997)

I would like to examine the significance of the role of children in Hove's novel Bones. In the chapter 8, entitled "My Bones Rise and Fall," we see "the Unknown Woman" speaking to a government official (her husband?) about the soldiers leading the resistence against the colonial rulers.

"Maddness is eating into your thinking. How can you call armed gangsters, thieves, robbers, you call them children? whose children may I ask?"

The woman's simple and persistent response to this accusation is: "The children of the soil." [51].

The image of "children" is also used to characterize the white men. "The things white people do are very strange. They are like children in many ways." [70]

And as a symbol for a third party, children are again used to describe the simple people of Zimbabwe, under colonial rule. "The white man thinks we are children, that is why his tongue is so loose. The day he learns that we are also grown-ups, he will learn to tighten his tongue." [63]

Again, throughout the remainder of the novel, there is a great emphasis on children -- are mothers who bear "bad children" neccessarily bad people?, does Marita's son still feel the same way about Janifa as he did when they were "children"?, and of course the emphasis on childhood in more specifically gendered situations ["You are not a child anymore." Chisaga to Janita on p. 92].

Does the portrayal of freedom fighters as "children of the soil" make their deaths more powerful and significant? Doest the constant "My child..." dialogue enhance the feeling of the oral culture? ("He pleads with them, My children, do not kill me. I will not do it again." [71]) And what of the inherent problems of contradiction in using the same symbol (children, naturally) to portray all three -- the colonizer, the colonized, and the ones resisting the colonization?

Postcolonial Web Zimbabwe OV Chenjerai Hove Overview [Leading Questions]