Smile of Fortune by Gaele Sobott-Mogwe
In Smile of Fortune by Gaele Sobott-Mogwe we have the theme of appearance, infidelity, suffering, selfishness, corruption, honesty, trust and justice. Narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator the reader realises from the beginning of the story that Sobott-Mogwe may be exploring the theme of appearance. Khumo likes to stay on the right side of people. He doesn’t express an opinion to his elders or superiors rather he says what is expected to be said. It is as though Khumo is playing a game and the game is called appearance. How Khumo is perceived by others is important to him. It is also noticeable that Khumo’s wedding was a lavish affair. The reader suspecting that Khumo had such an extravagant wedding in order to maintain appearances and to impress people. It is also interesting that Khumo admits that he doesn’t love his wife. Again she appears to be part of the game that Khumo plays. The fact that Khumo has children from several different woman may also be important as Sobott-Mogwe could be using this fact to introduce the theme of infidelity into the story. Not only does Khumo not love his wife but he has been unfaithful to her on several occasions. Which may suggest that behind the successful appearance that Khumo likes to portray he is in reality a selfish man.
The fact that the Smith deal doesn’t go to the board because of the input of Khumo’s political friend may also have some significance as Sobott-Mogwe could be introducing the theme of corruption into the story. A corruption that Khumo is all too willing to participate in. Something that becomes clear to the reader with Khumo is having dinner with Smith. All Khumo can think about is taking his secretary to London with his percentage from the Smith deal. Whether Khumo is making money on corrupt deals or having relationships with women who are not his wife there is no doubting that Khumo is not an honest man. It is also interesting that the corruption that Khumo partakes in is widespread. From the police to the army, to those involved in politics and even churchmen. It is possible that Sobott-Mogwe is highlighting the high levels of institutional corruption that exist in Africa (Botswana). With individuals only thinking of themselves rather than of the greater good. If anything Khumo’s friends or associates are as selfish as he is. Thinking only of themselves. It is at this point that the reader also realises just how Khumo was able to afford such a lavish wedding. He was spending money that he had inappropriately obtained.
Sobott-Mogwe may also be exploring the theme of trust. Khumo’s friends who are also involved in the corruption that is taking place do not trust Khumo. It is for that reason he is killed. Though his death is reported as an accident the reader is fully aware that Khumo’s death is too coincidental to be an accident. There may also have been a gun involved when Khumo was killed which would again suggest that Khumo’s death rather than being an accident was a deliberate killing. In reality Khumo has been murdered because he cannot be trusted by those who are also involved in the corruption that is occurring. It may also be significant that Khumo had no intentions of changing his ways. Though frightened because he was to be a scape goat Khumo continued to live his life to the fullest with other people’s money. While playing squash or when he was at the wedding there was no change in Khumo’s pattern. The most important person in Khumo’s life was himself and he wished to live his life to the fullest regardless of the appropriate moral compass. It may also be significant that none of the women in the story are mentioned by their name. It is possible that Sobott-Mogwe is suggesting that women in Africa (Botswana) were considered to not merit naming. That they were treated more as objects, particularity when it comes to Khumo. A woman is seen as a trophy rather than as an individual.
The end of the story is also interesting as for the first time the reader really gets an insight into Khumo’s wife. She honours tradition and grieves for a year however as soon as the year is over the reader realises that Khumo’s wife has been fully aware of everything that Khumo has done. The reason she never got pregnant is because she used contraception. Her actions were deliberate. She did not want Khumo’s child due to the fact that she was aware that Khumo had numerous children by other women. There is also a sense of justice at the end of the story. Khumo’s wife is travelling overseas with several documents. These documents are important as they most likely are the deeds to all the houses that Khumo put in his wife’s name. Though she has suffered Khumo’s wife will not be at a loss. Even though Khumo is being blamed for the Intercity Consultants fraud. The police are unable to touch Khumo’s wife. Nor can they touch the property that is in her name. Khumo’s wife may have lost a delinquent husband but even in death Khumo has unwittingly provided for his wife.