Snapshots of a Wedding by Bessie Head
In Snapshots of a Wedding by Bessie Head we have the theme of marriage, arrogance, responsibility, tradition, status, ego and love. Taken from her The Collector of Treasures collection the story is narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator and after reading the story the reader realises that Head may be exploring the theme of marriage and the reasons as to why an individual might marry someone. Though Neo is pregnant with Kegoletile’s child this is not the reason that they are getting married. Both Neo and Kegoletile are driven by status and believe that it will be advantageous to one another should they get married. There is also no hint of love between Neo and Kegoletile with the sole ingredient for their marriage being financial prosperity. Kegoletile believes that because Neo has O levels she will earn more money than Mathata will and as such he decides to marry Neo rather than Mathata. It may also be important that Kegoletile spends so much time with Mathata as by doing so it is possible that Head is suggesting that Kegoletile is in reality in love with Mathata. However due to the fact that she is uneducated and as such lacks earning power Kegoletile has chosen to wed Neo. At no stage in the story does the reader suspect that either Neo or Kegoletile are marrying out of love for one another. If anything their marriage is being treated by Kegoletile as a business transaction which suggests again that money (and status) are more important to Kegoletile than love.
Neo also appears to be driven by a belief in her own self-importance. Not only does she believe she is better than the other women in the village because of her education but she also believes that Mathata because of her lowly rank in society is not a threat to her. She knows that Kegoletile will choose her over Mathata because she is educated and as such is more attractive to Kegoletile. Though the reader is aware that it is Mathata that Kegoletile is spending his time with and who he is buying gifts for. So strong is Kegoletile’s desire for financial gain he is prepared to forgo love. Kegoletile’s image is more important to him than following his heart and marrying Mathata. If anything both Kegoletile and Neo have one thing in common they both consider their image to be more important than how they might feel (about somebody). It is how they perceive others and how they themselves wish to be perceived that is bringing both Kegoletile and Neo together.
The fact that the marriage ritual is viewed by some as being non-traditional and more modern may also be important as it suggests that there is a shift or change in how things have been done previously. If the reader takes Neo and Kegoletile’s marriage as a microcosm of society it is possible that Head is suggesting that people are no longer marrying for love but rather for status. To improve their own outwardly appearances yet forgetting that love may be a perquisite for a successful marriage. It may also be a case that Head is suggesting that society is forgetting its past (marriage rituals) and that by doing so the end result will be failure or an unhappy marriage. Something that may be true for Neo and Kegoletile as both are again driven by a desire to obtain money and status rather than showing each other any type of love. For Kegoletile and Neo love is money and status. Marriage is not about what they can give but more about what they can get. Which suggests that Kegoletile and Neo’s marriage may not be successful and may be no more than an agreed convenience between two parties.
How Neo is treated by the other women in the story may also be important as it can suggest that the women not only dislike Neo due to her arrogance and inflated opinion of herself but they may also be more acutely aware of the responsibilities that come with marriage. Neo, though the reader never knows her age, appears to have no understanding as to the responsibilities that come with marriage or at least the responsibilities that the other women in the village believe come with marriage. This is noticeable at the end of the story when Neo is told that she must carry water for Kegoletile. Though this may be interpreted as symbolism rather than literally due to the fact that Neo is a secretary she still has some responsibility to help her husband. Though Neo does not appear to realise this. The fact that Neo is also told by a maternal aunt at the end of the story to ‘be a good wife’ may also be important as it suggests again that Neo has a role to play though the reader suspects she herself may be unaware of what her role actually is. Where previously Neo has considered herself better than others due to her education the reality may be that now that she is getting married Neo may be answerable to her husband and may have to play a different role as a married woman.