Protista by Dambudzo Marechera
In Protista by Dambudzo Marechera we have the theme of struggle, isolation, acceptance, love and helplessness. Narrated in the first person by an unnamed narrator the reader realises from the beginning of the story that Marechera may be exploring the theme of struggle. The narrator’s environment is one of hardship. There is no water and no food available to him. What makes things more difficult for the narrator is the fact that he is alone. Having been isolated from others due to the possibility that he may have committed political crimes. As to whether the narrator is guilty or not may not be too important as he appears to accept that the price to pay for what has happened is alienation or isolation from the world that he knows and that he is comfortable with. The fact that Maria is also gone could be important as it is difficult to say as to whether Maria has been killed or whether she may have abandoned the narrator due to the hostile environment in which both of them were living. It might also be significant that the narrator beings to hallucinate during the story as Marechera may be attempting to highlight just how difficult the narrator’s environment is. Through his isolation from others and the environment he encounters it becomes clear to the reader that the narrator does not have the necessary tools to survive.
What is also interesting about the story is that while the narrator slips in and out of consciousness he remembers stories that his father told him. This could be important as the narrator may long for the security he received from his father. When he may have felt protected from the world around him. The fact that the narrator also believes that he has seen Barbara’s father might also suggest to readers that the narrator is slipping in and out of reality. Such are the extreme circumstances he finds himself under. There is also no doubting that the narrator loves Maria. The story in itself acts as a letter to her. One in whereby the narrator tries to explain what is happening to him and at the same time tell Maria that he loves her. If anything the fact that the narrator is struggling and is so isolated from the world may leave the reader to suspect that the narrator will not survive his circumstances. It is also possible that Marechera is suggesting that a man no matter where he finds himself needs companionship. Man may not necessarily be made to isolate themselves from others.
It is also noticeable that the narrator feels totally helpless when it comes to not only his environment but to his frame of mind. He can neither trust the land to give him food nor can he trust his mind. If anything there are two points of security for the narrator. His father and Maria and both are gone. The narrator may feel as though he has nothing left to live for and as such may not necessarily be prepared to admit to himself that he is hallucinating. There may in fact be some relief for the narrator when he thinks he sees Maria even if the experience itself might not have been pleasant. It is as though the narrator is prepared to cling onto whatever he can that brings him security. It might also be important that the narrator does not get angry as this could suggest that he again accepts the position he finds himself in. Even if he is of unsound mind. He still nonetheless appears to accept his circumstances.
The end of the story is also interesting as the narrator appears to come out of his fever and realise that things are not right. However as mentioned there will be very little if any joy for him. Maria in all likelihood won’t be coming back nor will the narrator possibly see his father again. He is to remain in his hut suffering from a fever and hallucinating. Memories from the narrator’s past coming to the forefront of his mind as though they were real. When the reality is that the narrator longs for food and rain to help normalize his environment again. So punishing is the narrator’s landscape that he has been beaten by his environment. Any security he may feel with regards to the future are left in a letter for Maria. If anything the narrator has been forgotten about. As to whether Marechera is suggesting that all outcasts in life should they not have human company. Will end up the same as the narrator is difficult to say. Though one thing is certain. The narrator’s nine years of isolation have resulted in him losing his mind and losing the ability to distinguish between what is real and what is fantasy.