The Special One by Bessie Head
In The Special One by Bessie Head we have the theme of sadness, dependency, monogamy, Christianity and love. Taken from her The Collector of Treasures collection the story is narrated in the first person by an unnamed woman and from the beginning of the story the reader realises that Head may be exploring the theme of sadness. Gaenametse’s husband has left her for a younger woman and she is distraught. She has taken to drinking during the day and speaking to anyone who will listen to her troubles. On this occasion it is the narrator who listens to her and feels trouble for Gaenmametse. Though not married herself the narrator can still feel for Gaenametse. Something that is clearer when both attended the baptismal in Mrs Maleboge’s home. All three women pray for the return of Gaenametse’s husband. This may be significant as it highlights the religious beliefs in the village. Gaenametse’s husband will only return if he wants to and it would appear he has found a younger more attractive wife.
There is also no doubting that the narrator is not from the village as she does not really understand the customs of the villagers. Especially when it comes to sex. It is also a case that Gaenametse depends on her husband as do the other women in the village depend on their men. It is after all a patriarchal society. Where the women stay at home. It might also be a case that Mrs Maleboge does not invite Gaenametse to the baptismal as she might consider it to be bad luck that could reflect on her. A separated woman in Mrs Maleboge’s eyes might not be part of the faith. Nonetheless she prays for Gaenametse.
The prayers appear to work in one way in which Gaenametse finds another man to look after her. One who is wealthy? This leaves the reader to suspect that this is more down to luck than to religion. Something that does not bother Gaenametse who is just happy to have become married again. There is also a hint of madness in the story when Gaenametse follows young couples through the village and wonders why she can’t be like them, If anything Gaenametse shifts from the religion of the village to the newer religion the colonizers have brought. She is looking for the best of both worlds. It is also possible that Gaenametse doesn’t necessarily believe in Mrs Maleboge’s prays till she actually catches a husband. There is no doubt that Gaenametse doesn’t love her husband but loves the property that he has and she knows she will inherit it. Leaving her comfortable in her old age.
The end of the story is also interesting as Head suggests polyamory is gone but the women still want their husbands to be monogamists. Something that may or may not happen considering how life is in the village. Christianity may have come to the village but not all details of Christianity are being adhered to. Men will still leave their wives for younger women without any consequences and women will still miss there husbands not so much out of love but out of necessity to take care of them. Something that the narrator whose upbringing has been through Christianity, still finds hard to believe. Which may be the point that Head is attempting to make. She may be suggesting that bringing Christianity to a village does not necessarily mean all concerned will heed to it. They might take the good points of their own religion and match them with the values of Christianity. Which is very much the case when it comes to Gaenametse. She wants the best of both worlds with as little effort as possible. She is not fully prepared to devote herself to Christianity.