Developing Plot and Developing Character in Hove's Bones

Antwan Jefferson, English 119, Brown University (1999)

"Marita, these are the things you must think of. Flies will be nibbling at my intestines very soon, Marita. It is not good for me, this thing you have started. Too many shadows in our life. It started long back, long, long back, Marita. I knew it from the way I ran away from school. Ask the baas boy. We were together in school, and I used to beat him up even in the forest fights we had when we herded cattle. But now he kicks me around like a small boy because he was able to stay at school much longer than me. He can write and speak the language of the white man. Did you not hear him the other day, even speaking though the nose like Manyepo? He is another one that one. The way he keeps on saying beg pardon, beg pardon, to Manyepo as if the white man were his own elder brother. Ask him, Marita, I left school just like that." (p. 21)

"Look, Manyepo, she is going without even telling you because she says you are not her father, but only you, my husband, must know about it so that people may not send bad wishes with me. She is going in a few days, Manyepo. But she does not fail to come to your fields to work harder than before, Manyepo. Do you know what it is to be a husband without a wife...all the cooking, washing for myself, carrying the water from the well over there? It's going to be very hard for me, let me tell you with my own mouth. Your own wife is all right because you have all the water and food you need prepared by Chisaga, that fat cook who sometimes puts all sorts of things in your food when you make him angry. Be careful, Manyepo. You must not make Chisaga angry. He will put dreadful things in your food and then watch you eat. It is bad, Manyepo, but I do not think I would not do it myself if you did the things you do to him to me. I eat fire sometimes, but I have to control myself because my father taught me that even a chief's son is a commoner in other lands. In my own village you would not shake my beard the way you do here, Manyepo. I would have cut your throat a long time ago. But this humility is not empty-handed. A chief's son is a stranger, a commoner, in other lands. That is all." (p. 19)

As Hove begins to develop the novel through nonlinear, nonspecific interactions, the reader is challenged to not only keep up with the text, but to make certain judgments as well– "Is he really talking about...?" or, "Does this really mean...?" Much of what the novel refers to is communicated in a way that permits reading on multiple levels (i.e. the city).

It is a possibility that the characters are developed as the novel is developed, rather than the opposite being the case. Hove appears to be making a statement with the novel's structure that shapes the characters moreso than the dialogue. In the above texts Marume, tangentially defends his dependency upon his wife Maritma. In a traditionally structured novel, such dialogue is indicated by marks of quotation, and continues in consistent, linked paragraphs. However, Hove brings multiple speakers and subjects into a paragraph without directly indicating subject or speaker.

Is this literary mechanism meant to be a symbol of rejection of colonialist technique, or is it to be considered characteristic of certain continental Afrikan literature, or does it indicate something in particular about a social custom or belief, or...?


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