Looking for a Rain God by Bessie Head

In Looking for a Rain God by Bessie Head we have the theme of struggle, hardship, innocence, desperation, sacrifice, acceptance and connection. Narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator the reader realises after reading the story that Head may be exploring the theme of struggle and hardship. Those who live in the village are without food. The land has refused to bear fruit for the last seven years. How desperate some people are is noticeable by the fact that some of the men in the village have killed themselves. Considering it better that they should die than to live their lives in complete starvation. Similarly Mokgobja’s daughters reach such a point that they believe that the only thing that will save them is if they sacrifice Neo and Boseyong to the Rain God. Though this sounds like a drastic stance to take and it is. What Head might be trying to highlight is just how desperate Mokgobja and his family are. Whereas most people would be aware that a human sacrifice for rain does not necessarily mean that the rain will fall. Culturally Mokgobja has grown up with tales of the Rain God so his actions do not necessarily disturb him as they would the reader.

In Mokgobja’s eyes he is simply using Neo and Boseyong for the greater good. In order that his family may survive the drought and that his crops might grow. Which may leave some readers to question the value of life in the village. It also doesn’t help Mokgobja that when he returns to the village the other villagers are suspicious of him because they do not see Neo and Boseyong. As to whether Mokogobja is driven by shame or guilt is not easy to say. However he is to face justice for his actions. This could be significant as Head may be highlighting how incompatible colonial law is with traditional ways. Though it is also interesting that Mokgobja does not plead his case. It is as though the reality of what he has done has set in and he knows that his actions have been inappropriate. Not only has Mokgobja been beaten by the land but he has also been beaten by his mind. Whereas the women who initiated the killing of Neo and Boseyong do not appear to have faced any form of punishment. However they were after all only singing a traditional chant. It was Mokgobja who took the chant to the next step.

This could be important as Head may be suggesting that at the time the story was written society in the village was driven by the male. A woman might have had an idea or a desire to act on something but it was the male in the village who ended up taking the course of action he deemed to be fit. It is also interesting that both Neo and Boseyong do nothing wrong throughout the story. There is in reality is no justification for their death. All they are doing is playing with their dolls. It is other people’s desperation that results in both Neo and Boseyong being killed to please the Rain God. Mokgobja fuelled by the beliefs of his childhood feels as though he is doing the honourable thing. To please the Rain God. It is as though Mokgobja believes that everything will be alright once the rain begins to fall. Yet is also interesting when the rain refuses to fall Mokgobja does not blame the Rain God. In fact he appears to accept that there will no rain with or without a sacrifice. It is as though the sacrifice of Neo and Boseyong has been pointless.

Though some readers will find it hard to sympathize with Mokgobja it might be important to remember that he acted as he thought was best under the circumstances he found himself in. True it is wrong to sacrifice a child (or anybody else) to a God that may or may not exist but so engrained in Mokgobja’s mind was the goodness of the Rain God that he believed that his actions were for the greater good. It is only when he returns to the village and people start to become suspicious that the truth comes out and Mokgobja faces the justice that many feel he rightly deserves to face. Two young girls have been killed based on traditional beliefs. A family has been torn apart and Mokgobja will lose his life for the crimes he has committed. The reader aware that Mokgobja was driven by the struggle and hardship he faced. Though he is responsible nonetheless for his actions. Due to his belief system Mokgobja thought he was doing the right thing. However this is not how society and those in the village viewed things.

Cite Post
McManus, Dermot. "Looking for a Rain God by Bessie Head." The Sitting Bee. The Sitting Bee, 4 Jul. 2018. Web.

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