The Special One by Bessie Head
In The Special One by Bessie Head we have the theme of injustice, inequality, letting go, patriarchy, abandonment, gossip and happiness. Taken from her The Collector of Treasures collection the story is narrated in the first person by an unnamed male narrator and the reader realizes from the beginning of the story that Head may be exploring the theme of injustice. Mrs Maleboge has unjustly had her inheritance from her husband taken from her. The cattle and land that she was due to inherit from him has been taken away by her brothers-in-law. Even a judge has sided with the brothers-in-law when the case went to court. This may be significant as Head may be suggesting that Mrs Maleboge is living in a world of inequality where patriarchy is the staple of the day. A woman simply does not have the same rights as a man and as such is not treated as an equal. It appears as though Mrs Maleboge, due to the fact she is a woman, has no right to her husband’s possessions.
What is also interesting about the story is the plight of Gaenametse,. She has been abandoned by her husband who prefers to sleep around with other women. Women who may not necessarily look for the same commitment that Gaenametse is looking for from him. The fact that a woman from the neighbourhood believes that Gaenametse is a woman of ill repute because she has had sex with her husband while menstruating places a spotlight on the beliefs of those in the village. Considered to be dirty Gaenametse suffers at this woman’s hands as she is only an example of what others in the village think of her. If anything Head may be placing a spotlight on the village; suggesting that the belief system of those in the village, particularly those who gossip, is wrong and narrow minded.
There may be some symbolism in the story which might be important. Both Mrs Maleboge and Gaenametse wear scarfs that cover their faces. If anything these sacrifices could symbolize a woman who has been wronged or who may not necessarily fit into society as the village sees society to be. The cattle and land that both woman receive possession of could highlight prosperity for either women or what is intended to be prosperity. Mrs Maleboge was not supposed to be working in her sixties when she inherited the cattle and land but they became possessions for her brothers-in-law. The narrator is also important as he symbolizes an outside viewpoint. He is not from the village and is much traveled or at least more open minded than those in the village. He does not look at having sex during the menstrual cycle as being significant or abnormal. The young men that Gaenametse chases may highlight her need to feel wanted. She is not as old as Mrs Maleboge and appears to need men to relieve her of insecurity and make her feel happy.
The end of the story is interesting as Gaenametse appears to have fallen under the charms of a charlatan. Her husband to be has set up his own church and is keen to marry Gaenametse. However he was nowhere to be seen until Gaenametse inherited the cattle and land from her husband. She does not appear to have brothers-in-law, like Mrs Maleboge, to take the inheritance away from her but she does have a conman in her life. Somebody who sees that he will eventually gain the possessions that Gaenametse has inherited. If anything Head views men in the story in an unfavourable light. Apart from the narrator, who acts more as an eyewitness to events, Head puts men under a cloud of suspicion when it comes to their motives.