The Last Breath by Sam Kahiga

The Last Breath - Sam KahigaIn The Last Breath by Sam Kahiga we have the theme of conflict, control, selflessness, sacrifice, love, gratitude and change. Narrated in the first person by an unnamed narrator the reader realises from the beginning of the story that Kahiga might be exploring the theme of conflict and love. The narrator is very much in love with Eva however his father does not agree with the romance due to the fact that Eva is blind. If anything it is the father who is blind as he cannot see it in himself to look beyond Eva’s disability. He is stuck in his ways and adamant that the narrator will not marry Eva. It may also be important that in the first three sentences of the story Kahiga makes reference to eyes and sight. It is possible that Kahiga is using irony, particularly when it comes to the narrator’s father. There is also a sense that the narrator’s life is being controlled by his father. Not only when it comes to his relationship with Eva but his job choice was a decision made for him by his father. It is as though the narrator is not allowed to follow the path he wishes to follow due to the input of his father. The father is the one who is gauging for the narrator what is suitable and what will make the narrator happy. In reality the narrator’s father is controlling him and the narrator is acutely aware of this. Rather than being happy with the choices his father has made for him the narrator is sad and bitter about the circumstances he finds himself in.

The narrator’s mother also plays a significant role in the story and is more understanding of how the narrator feels about Eva. However it is interesting that she like her husband does not think that it is a good idea for the narrator to marry Eva. The mother’s role is more of a peacemaker between father and son. It may also be significant that Kahiga tells the reader that the sunshine has left the narrator’s mother. It is possible that she is symbolically as much in the dark as her husband is when it comes to the narrator wanting to marry Eva. There is also no doubting that the friction between father and son has taken an effect on the narrator now that he knows his father is dying of cancer. He does not wish his father to be dead rather he silently loves him and begins to possibly accept his father for who he is. The battles that they have fought over Eva do not appear to take on the same significance. The engagement ring also plays a significant role in the story. Though it has the outward appearance of being something cheap it’s deeper meaning and importance cannot be underestimated. It is a symbol again no matter how cheap it may look of the narrator’s love for Eva.

The fact that the narrator’s father also donates his cornea to Eva shows a redemptive quality within the father. His stance on Eva has changed dramatically as too has his view of the narrator’s relationship with Eva. With his pending death he appears to have an epiphany or moment of realisation and for the first time is sacrificing something of himself in order to help the narrator and Eva. Where previously the narrator’s father had scorned upon the idea of the narrator marrying Eva his act of generosity in giving Eva sight suggests that the narrator’s father for the first time in the story understands his son and acknowledges that he is in love with Eva. The narrator’s father is making sacrifices which will benefit not only the narrator but Eva too. In what can only be described as an act of altruism. If anything the narrator’s father is setting aside his own feelings and acting selflessly. Where many would focus on themselves at the time of their death the narrator’s father doesn’t. He thinks of his son and Eva.

The end of the story is also interesting as Kahiga appears to be exploring the theme of gratitude. The narrator while he is standing by his father’s grave thanks his father for his kindness. Even though he suspects that his father can’t hear him (mute grave). He is still none the less grateful for his father’s actions despite the fact that his father was ill and dying when he decided to donate his cornea to Eva. Again the narrator’s father was acting selflessly and for the benefit of another human being. The reader is also left to assume that Eva and the narrator have gotten married as Eva is waiting for the narrator at the end of the story in the narrator’s home. Not only is there a sense of gratitude from the narrator but he appears to be happy too. His father’s donation has given the woman he loves sight. Where at the start of the story there was conflict at the end there is resolution and happiness. The narrator being able for the first time to live his life as he wants to live it and not how others might want him to live which had previously been the case in the story when the narrator’s father attempted successfully to control the narrator’s life.

Cite Post
McManus, Dermot. "The Last Breath by Sam Kahiga." The Sitting Bee. The Sitting Bee, 29 Jun. 2017. Web.

94 comments

  • A touching story

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Thanks for the comment Delight. I would agree. It is a touching story.

    • To what extent does the narrator’s father have feelings?

      • Dermot (Post Author)

        Thanks for the comment Rabela. Though the narrator’s father hides his feelings throughout the story. He still nonetheless feels strongly about helping the narrator and Eva. Something that is noticeable by the fact that he donates his cornea’s to Eva. Even though at the beginning of the story he had dismissed the narrator’s relationship with Eva.

        • Thank you for this analysis. What does the narrator mean by saying …’give her eyes’..? From the visit the father drove very carelessly. What does that imply?

          • Dermot (Post Author)

            Thanks for the comment Aviwe. The narrator most likely meant for his father to see Eva as though she was not blind. To look upon Eva the way that the narrator does. The careless driving comes from the narrator’s father’s anger at the narrator standing up to him. It may be a matter that the father’s pride has been wounded as he is unaccustomed to the narrator standing up to him.

  • Why did Sam Kahiga refer to Eva as Inner Eva in the story?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Thanks for the comment Luvhengo. It is possible that Kahiga is suggesting that the narrator’s father does not see everything that the narrator sees in Eva. All he can see is what is on the outside and the fact that Eva is blind.

      • Thanx for your response. Eva said she is ready yo receive the cornea from someone who is about to…to cross over. I admit that she means someone who is about to die. The narrator only said ‘You mean that someone has-? Why the narrator did not finish this sentence?

        • Dermot (Post Author)

          It may be a case that the narrator is excited about the prospect of Eva being able to see. It is also possible that the narrator is afraid. He may like things as they are with Eva not being able to see him. He may fear that should Eva see him, she will change her mind about marrying him.

  • In the short story, The Doll’s House, what does the narrator mean by “Perhaps it is the way God opens houses at the dead of night when He is taking a quiet turn with an angel?”

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Thanks for the comment Luvhengo. I’m not really sure. Perhaps Mansfield is referring to Keiza and how she might be an angel due to her ability to connect with the two Kelvey girls. Breaking down any class barrier.

  • In the poem, I sit and look out, why does the poet choose the role of a bylooket?

  • Did the narrator realize who the donor of Eva’s corneas was?

  • What was meant by sunshine?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Thanks for the comment Papzen. When the narrator tells his mother that Eva has told him that he has ‘brought sunshine into her life.’ It means that Eva feels as though the narrator has brought light, joy and happiness into her life.

  • Why was the narrator’s father taken aback when the narrator suggested (in the beginning of the story) that he should “…give her eyes”?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Hi Shiné. It is possible that the narrator’s father realises after the narrator makes the statement that he has been viewing Eva in an unpleasant and unfair light. Judging Eva on the fact that she is blind rather than trying to see Eva as the narrator sees her.

  • What does the narrator mean when saying “for how long would dad keep on beating home the fact? As if it wasn’t home already.”

  • What does the writer mean when he says “whatever it was it made no difference”*the last breath*

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Thanks for the comment Rinolia. Kahiga is suggesting that no matter what the narrator’s father says to the narrator about Eva or thinks about Eva, the narrator is not going to change his opinion about Eva. The narrator still intends to marry Eva.

  • I request help I am grade a 12 learner.

  • Briefly, the conflict in the story?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Thanks for the comment Tshikondela. The conflict in the story is between the narrator and his father. The narrator’s father doesn’t believe that the narrator should marry Eva (because she is blind). This leads to conflict between both characters.

  • What really happened to Eva’s eyes that lead to her blindness. Discuss.

  • Do you think the title of the story is relevant? Substantiate.

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      The title may be important as the narrator’s father may have only decided to donate his cornea to Eva when he was dying or literally taking his last breath.

  • What made the father of narrator change his mind about his son’s relationship with Eva…and why did he decide to give her his cornea (sight)?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Thanks for the comment Vanessa. As far as I can figure out the narrator’s father eventually realised how much the narrator loved Eva and changed his mind about Eva. It might also have been a case that the narrator’s father knew he was dying and wanted to bring happiness to both Eva and the narrator. That may be the reason as to why the narrator’s father decided to donate his cornea to Eva.

  • Why does the narrator want to marry Eva when he comes ‘of age.’

  • While driving home the father and the narrator do not agree. Describe their disagreement (write two sentences.)

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Thanks for the comment Letty. The narrator and his father are arguing over the fact that the narrator loves Eva and wants to marry her. The narrator’s father does not think this is a good idea and lets the narrator know that he does not think it is a good idea for the narrator to marry Eva.

  • In the first three sentences there are a number of references to eyes and sight. Why do you think this is so?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      It is possible that Kahiga is using the imagery of sight at the beginning of the story to place an emphasis on an individual’s eyes. Perhaps for the reader to see things as the narrator does or also for the narrator’s father to see things as his son does. It is also possible that Kahiga is using irony, particularly when it comes to the narrator’s father. He can’t see what the narrator can see when it comes to Eva.

  • Thanks guyz for all ur contribution,think it will be helpful to us during the paper that we are going to write Wednesday.

  • What happened to the narrator when his father interfered with his dreams in the past

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Thanks for the comment Sthembilr. The narrator has lived his life as an unhappy person because he followed the rules his father set in place for him. Any dreams the narrator had did not reach fruition.

  • Why does Eva refuse the ring?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Thanks for the comment Nsindiso. Eva wants to wait till she can see the ring. She wants to wait till after her cornea operation.

  • Where is the irony in this short story?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      The narrator’s father can’t see how the narrator can love a blind woman (Eva). If anything it is the narrator’s father who is blind and not Eva.

  • What was the intention of the narrator’s father for not allowing his son to marry Eva?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Thanks for the comment Nhlakanipho. The narrator’s father didn’t think that the narrator would live a prosperous life if he married Eva. The narrator’s father considered Eva to be more of a hindrance than a help. Also the narrator’s father though he wished the best for his son it was on his terms. He wished to remain in control of the narrator’s life.

  • Why does Eva turn her face away from the narrator “She turned away her face.”

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Thanks for the comment Lungisani. As far as I can figure out Eva turns her head away as a reaction to hearing the news that the narrator’s father has lung cancer. She is most likely sad about hearing this news.

  • My questions are.

    Why Eva turned away her face from the narrator?

    Who is always caught between two characters?

    Why is the story called the last breath?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      I’ve answered your first question in the comment above Lungisani.

      The narrator is caught between Eva and his father. So too is the narrator’s mother caught between the narrator and the narrator’s father (her husband).

      It is most likely that the narrator’s father decided to donate his cornea when he was on his death bed. Making the decision with his last breath.

  • Why did the narrator buy a cheap ring to marry Eva? What does this ring symbolise?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Thanks for the comment Molefe. It is most likely that the narrator has very little money, hence the cheap ring. Though he could have saved up his money and bought a more expensive ring. He didn’t want to wait and wanted to ask Eva to marry him immediately so strong is his love for her. The ring itself symbolises the narrator’s love for Eva.

  • Why did narrator’s father not realize he had increased speed?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Thanks for the comment Zandile. The narrator’s father was probably unaware that he was driving faster because he was angry. The narrator stands up to his father (saying give Eva eyes). This is probably a shock to the father and as such he begins to drive faster.

  • A terrible cough shook his frame and the car swerved dangerously to the edge of the road .What’s the effect and the result of this line in the story?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Kahiga is most likely using this line as foreshadowing. The reader is told later on in the story that the narrator’s father has lung cancer which eventually kills him. The narrator’s father is driving dangerously and could have killed himself and the narrator. This would mirror the fact that the narrator’s father eventually dies of lung cancer. The terrible cough which shook the narrator’s father is in all probability a sign of the lung cancer.

  • The narrator’s father disapproved of the marriage between his son and Eva. Was that a good decision?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      The narrator’s father was probably looking out for or at least thought he was protecting the narrator. He may have thought that living with somebody who was blind was too difficult for the narrator. As to whether it is a good decision is left to each individual reader to decide. Some will see the father as being right. While others might suggest that the narrator’s love is strong enough to bear any difficulties he might face.

  • In the short story “A Chip of Glass Ruby” how does the title align with the the story itself?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Gordimer may be suggesting that Mrs Bamjee is a shining light (chip of glass ruby shining) in a dark place (apartheid).

  • Where did Eva stay before being married to the narrator?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Thanks for the comment Mahlori. Kahiga never names the place that Eva stayed in before she married the narrator but it may be a home for the blind

  • Where did Eva and the narrator first meet?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Kahiga never mentions where Eva and the narrator first met but it may have been at the home (for the blind) that Eva is living in.

  • Thanks for everything Dermot you’re a life saver.

  • Beside the father disagreeing with the speaker, what else have they disagreed on?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Thanks for the comment Mthax. The narrator also disliked the fact that when he wanted to study music his father made him work in a bank.

  • I think Eva was right that the narrator brought her light, since she (Eva) received a cornea from his (narrator’s) father

  • What does the coughing/cough mean on page 98 (transforming moments )….the meaning of the word doesn’t seem to be the normal coughing…

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Thanks for the comment Pretty. The narrator is trying to disguise her voice as it is night time and she does not want to get into trouble for talking in her dormitory. She is helping the other girls with their course work. So she will say a few words, then cough, say a few more words and cough again.

  • Thank you so much Dermot

  • Why the did writer only mention the name of Eva?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Thanks for the comment Thabang. Kahiga might have wished to keep the focus on Eva. Hence her being the only character named in the story.

  • Hi if I may ask who is the main character of the last breath?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Thanks for the comment Pezisa. The main character in the story is the narrator, who is unnamed throughout the story.

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