The Refugee by James Appe
In The Refugee by James Appe we have the theme of appearance, hope, control, vulnerability, conflict, pride and acceptance. Narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator the reader realises after reading the story that Appe may be exploring the theme of appearance. Margaret is not who she may seem to be or at least she is not what a person would expect a refugee to be. This may be significant as Appe could be suggesting that appearances are deceiving. Just because Margaret is stuck in the refugee camp does not necessarily mean that she ticks the boxes one would expect to be ticked for a refugee. Margaret has a good command of three languages. She is focused on what she wants but is realistic enough to know that she is stuck in a place in whereby she will have to wait till things get better. At no stage does the reader suspect Margaret has lost hope. She is fully confident that she will return to her homeland in time. Though Margaret is isolated from those that she loves this does not necessarily mean that Margaret is lonely. After all she refuses Duku as a suitor which may suggest that Margaret is independent of others regardless of her circumstances.
The fact that Margaret also has a fiancé in Nairobi might be important as where others might forget about their previous life due to the circumstances that they find themselves in (in the refugee camp). Margaret has every intention of living her life to the fullest with the man that she loves. She knows that she has no control over what will happen in the meantime but she still nonetheless accepts without objection the fact that she is in a refugee camp. Also Duku in many ways is an opportunist. He wants to marry Margaret because she is beautiful. He knows nothing about her and the reality is he cannot offer Margaret the life that she herself wants. The fact that Margaret doesn’t take what some critics may suggest is the easier option of marrying Duku. Shows how determined Margaret is. She is unbending in her desire to go back home when the conflict has stopped. Duku’s motives might also be open to questioning. He is looking for a wife yet he cannot handle a wife who is clearly more intelligent than him. If anything Duku’s pride is wounded when Margaret starts talking in English.
In reality Duku is taking advantage of the situation that Margaret finds herself in. However she is well able for Duku. Duku views Margaret as being vulnerable. Vulnerable because she is alone in the refugee camp and has no friends. It is for this reason that Duku has singled out Margaret as a potential wife. However as mentioned Duku is unable to intellectually challenge Margaret. He has viewed her as someone who is desperate yet Margaret herself does not look upon herself as a person who is desperate. Her circumstances might be desperate but Margaret herself is not desperate. In reality Margaret is as strong, independent woman who knows what she wants from the world. The only thing that she does not have control over is when the conflict will end so she can continue on with her life. She is at the mercy of others. Something she may not necessarily like but appears to accept. It is easier for Margaret to be patient rather than throw away her hopes and aspirations on a marriage to Duku. A marriage that will only leave Margaret unhappy.
The end of the story is also interesting as Margaret uses her intelligence to eventually rid herself of Duku. Who angrily leaves Margaret’s hut. It is as though Duku feels that he has been made a fool of when the reality is that Margaret spoke only as she knows how to speak. Which may leave some readers to suggest that a union between Duku and Margaret would have been disastrous. Duku under no circumstances would be able to deflate his own ego and allow Margaret to get the better of him. Something she easily manages to do in the hut. Though Duku has been beaten by Margaret that is not to say he will try the same course of action with another woman in the refugee camp. Duku and his friends are preying on the vulnerabilities of others. Hoping to find themselves a wife who unlike Margaret will take orders and who will be answerable to Duku and his friends. Which may be the point that Appe is attempting to make. He may be suggesting that at the time the story was written women were submissive to men. However Margaret is an independent spirit who has been educated to know better and as such will wait for the conflict to be over so that she can go back to Nairobi and marry the man she loves.