The Olive Tree by Tololwa Marti Mollel
In The Olive Tree by Tololwa Marti Mollel we have the theme of fear, control, responsibility and patriarchy. Narrated in the first person by a young boy the reader realises that the narrator is a being controlled by his grandfather and chosen to get him an olive tree leaf. This may seem to be normal however later on the grandfather makes another request to the narrator. Even though there may be other children who could complete the task. With the element of control comes fear with the narrator. He knows it is dark out and his grandfather wants him to scour the fields for the olive tree. This might be okay if the narrator had not got such a vivid memory and was so young. With it being clear to the reader that the narrator’s mind goes wandering to the dark side. Something that would be considered normal for a child.
The living arrangements are not ideal in the story. The grandfather has three rooms to himself while the grandmother and the children have to sleep on the floor by the fire in the grandmother‘s home. It is possible that Mollel is suggesting that society is patriarchal with women only seen when they are needed. What else could explain the cramped conditions in the grandmother’s home? The other children in the home also remain silent with the narrator being the only child who is given a voice. With this voice the reader suspects that the narrator is given a lot of responsibility. Like fetching the olive tree leaf. Though why some of the other children are not allowed to go with the narrator to pick the olive leaf is uncertain. Perhaps it is a case that the narrator is that little bit older than his other cousins.
There may also be some symbolism in the story which might be important. Mollel uses the setting (moonless and darkest) to instil fear into the narrator when his uncle asks him to pick a olive leaf. The olive leaf itself could also act for symbolism for meanness. Why does the grandfather want just one leaf? Particularly if he is going to eat the leaf. The narrator’s display of bribery is also commendable while it lasts but sadly it does not last long. The narrator’s silence when he returns home could suggest that the narrator is attempting to ensure he does not have to go into the fields again to look for a olive tree leaf. It is also interesting that Mollel never explains the significance of the olive leaf. Is it used for healing? If so it is never said. In fact at no point in the story is the significance of the olive tree leaf given a meaning.
Overall the narrator lives in an environment that he does not like, particularly because he has no say in matters. How effected the narrator is may be noticeable by his desire to not get well for a long time. He knows that his grandfather will rely on him again and this is not something that the narrator likes. He much prefers to lie by the fire in his grandmother‘s home. Where all things considered, life is easier. However there is one saving grace in the story and that occurs when the narrator’s grandfather looks after him after he returns from the fields. The reader also doesn’t suspect that the grandfather is only doing so in order to send the narrator back out to the field. He appears to be genuinely concerned about his grandson’s well-being. Something that is a first in the story. Though on an important note the grandfather does tell the narrator that he ‘still owes me the olive leaf.’ This too could be important as despite the injuries received by the narrator the grandfather still has his priorities. To look after his grandson and to make sure he gets an olive leaf.