Language and Story in Chenjerai Hove's Bones

Phoebe Koch (English 27, Postcolonial Studies, Brown University, 1997)

Let your words be like the mountains which I found the same age when I was born and still they are full of power, standing there all the time doing the same things. Words must be like that, erect like the thing of a little boy on waking up... That is what strong words are about, Marita. (33)

Your words must remain as permanent as the rocks and the hills, as the smell of cowdung or even the growling of the bull's stomach. It must be like that. Words must remain licking the souls of the feet of my memory so that I will do what I want to do . . .(34)

Dogs eating shit is nothing new, but children eating their fathers is something that needs to be looked into by a strong medicine man. (40)

Tongues are bad things in the mouth of all who use them. Marita said words are little flames that are thrown around carelessly by all those who own them. But here I have no words which can burn because my words are words from a mouth whose owner's head is full of bad things. (108)

Throughout Bones, Chenjerai Hove's characters stress the importance of words. Marita's strength is her ability to tell stories, to pass on knowledge. Marita's husband and Manyepo use words to hurt others. Language is used either to fool or to inform. Does Hove's skillful use of words, in the form of Shona idioms and proverbs, serve, in any way, to help him overcome the conflicts faced by an African writer writing in English?

Postcolonial Web Zimbabwe OV Chenjerai Hove Overview Themes [Leading Questions]