Postcolonial Identity in Mungoshi's "Coming of the Dry Season"

Heather Sofield, English 119, Brown University, 1999

Part 4 of "Who Am I? : Negotiation of Identity in A Post -Colonial State"

Charles Mungoshi paints another haunting portrait of a young man in his short story, "Coming of the Dry Season". Moab Gwati stumbles through his life, having heard via letter that his mother has fallen seriously ill. Clearly the letter was intended as more than a FYI brief, and yet Moab does not make any move to travel home. Instead he seems to be trying to escape his mother and the traditional responsibilities towards family that she represents - and yet, he is paralyzed with some sort of guilt. Perhaps he feels that he is the source of her misery. He wants nothing but to forget his past but it seems to catch up with him at each turn.

While walking one day, Moab encounters an old woman, begging. She is "thin as a starved cow, with a weak, saliva flecked mouth and trembling limbs." This woman calls out to him with a

small mousy voice that was full of tears and self-pity, the voice that was a protest: "Zindoga mwana'ngu, remember where you come from." A warning, a remonstrance, a curse and an epitaph. With it he could never have a good time in peace. Guilt, frustration and fury ate at his nerves. (45).

Moab is overcome with the same struggle to find peace between the demands of the past and the calls of the future. He wants to leave his history behind, just have a good time. But it is impossible for he cannot ignore the legacies of his ancestry and his cultural inheritance. It is a part of who he is, a part of his identity. Mungoshi's tale resonates with the futility and desperation of Moab's crisis. While Moab does not have the same education as Tambu, and therefore faces different issues, his battle belongs to the same war. He is lost in the city and no longer has a sense of who he is and where he belongs in the context of his surroundings. He desires to succumb to western ideals that leave no room for the traditions of his culture. His family calls him home but he longs only for the lack of responsibility idolized by foreign culture.

There are many more illustrations of the identity crisis facing a citizen of a post-colonial nation in Zimbabwean literature. In some cases, it may not be the main thrust or message of the novel or story. But evidence of the same conflict shows itself over and over again nonetheless.

Who Am I? : Negotiation of Identity in A Post-Colonial State

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