The Village Saint by Bessie Head

In The Village Saint by Bessie Head we have the theme of control, image, secrecy, power, selfishness and materialism. Taken from her The Collector of Treasures collection the story is narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator and after reading the story the reader realises that Head may be exploring the theme of control.  Mma-Mompati is in control of others throughout the story. Rather than been a follower she leads. Something that is noticeable by the fact that she is the one who visits others in the hospital (on her terms) and organises all the funerals in the village. Also when she divorces Rra-Mompati, Mma-Mompati gives a speech which is favourable to herself. She controls the narrative and the reader is never told of how Rra-Mompati might feel about the divorce. If anything there is a sense that Mma-Mompati is only showing part of herself in the story. The part that she would like others to see. It may also be important that at no stage in the story is there a sense that Mma-Mompati is helping others out of selflessness rather she appears to be driven by her own ego. Which may lead some readers to suspect that Mma-Mompati is acting selfishly. If anything there is a sense that Mma-Mompati considers herself to be better than others. Though she acts with great piety (till the end of the story) Mma-Mompati’s motives are not pure. How she appears to others is more important to Mma-Mompati than whether or not she is helping an individual. Image at all times is of the utmost importance to Mma-Mompati.

Head also appears to be exploring the theme of secrecy. The meetings in Rra-Mompati’s home are shrouded in secrecy with those in the village never been told about what has occurred. It is possible that by introducing the element of secrecy into the story Head is suggesting that when it comes to an individual (either Mma-Mompati or Rra-Mompati) not everything is known. How an individual lives their life when they are at home may not necessarily be the same image that is seen when the individual is in public. On a surface level Mma-Mompati and Rra-Mompati appear to have a very loving relationship however in reality this is not the case. Both Mma-Mompati and Rra-Mompati are living their lives on a pedestal with only them knowing the truth about their relationship and how unhappy they might be. If Rra-Mompati had been happily married to Mma-Mompati he would still be married to her. If anything their marriage may have been superficial with both attempting to portray an image of contentment and happiness when the reality may have been very different.

It may also be a case that Mma-Mompati lives her life believing that she is more powerful than others. With the power being derived from the assets of Rra-Mompati and Mompati. At no stage in the story does Head mention any income that Mma-Mompati might have which is hers alone. She lives her life on the money earned by either Rra-Mompati or Mompati. If anything Mma-Mompati makes no contribution to society that is non-beneficial to either herself or the image of herself that she would like others to see. Though on the surface it might appear that Mma-Mompati is a caring and kind individual anything she does is for herself. Mma-Mompati’s main priority is again how she will appear to others. At all stages in the story she wants her actions to be seen in a positive light. Image rather than character is more important to Mma-Mompati. There is also a sense that Head is using irony when it comes to the title of the story. A Saint would generally be considered to be someone who has given their life for others. This is not the case when it comes to Mma-Mompati. She has made no sacrifices at all.

The end of the story is also interesting as the reader gets a deeper insight into what motivates Mma-Mompati. She appears to be driven not only by ego but by materialism too. Where once it had been Rra-Mompati who could provide for her now the reader finds that Mma-Mompati is taking money from Mompati’s wages in order to live a life which will (on the surface) make her stand out from others. She appears to consider it her right to take money from Mompati which may suggest that Mma-Mompati is again putting herself ahead of others. She wants clothes in order to look good though the reality may be she does not necessarily need the clothes. Throughout the story Mma-Mompati’s main focus has been on herself and how she might appear to others. Though some critics might suggest that she has helped those who were ill it is important to remember that Mma-Mompati has helped others in order to boost her own ego. The most important person in Mma-Mompati’s life is herself and the only person that Mma-Mompati has really helped throughout the story is herself. She has acted with piety though lives her life driven by the desire to inflate her own ego.

Cite Post
McManus, Dermot. "The Village Saint by Bessie Head." The Sitting Bee. The Sitting Bee, 23 Dec. 2016. Web.


  • This was perhaps very useful and helped me fully understand the real story detail wise from beginning till end.

  • I want summary of this story can you give it plzz?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Thanks for the comment Shabbir. A very brief summary of the story would be a selfish woman (Mma-Mompati) wishes to be seen in a good light by others but the reality is she lives her life for herself. Though some people might feel that Mma-Mompati is a good doer she is only thinking about herself and how she will appear to others.

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Thanks for the comment Shabbir. A very brief summary of the story would be a selfish woman (Mma-Mompati) wishes to be seen in a good light by others but the reality is she lives her life for herself. Though some people might feel that Mma-Mompati is a good doer she is only thinking about herself and how she will appear to others.

  • I am satisfied with the information provided…….Thank you

  • Thank you so much. Mma-Mompati is a true microcosm of the many women whose modus operandi is incognito. Her true colours are hidden and the person she portrays in herself is absolutely contrary to her true self. If the story wasn’t short, the reader would be intrigued in how she would more likely end up revealing who she really is by herself or by a deus ex-machina.

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Thanks for the comment Arnold. Mma-Mompati does appear to be a contradiction and I would agree with you. It would be interesting if the story was longer to see how much she revealed herself to the reader.

  • Very powerful analysis. Short but very detailed…thank you.

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Thanks for the comment Isabella. It’s nice to know that you got something out of the post.

  • Please analyse each character in the story in detail, including everything they did.

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Thanks for the comment Lehlogonolo. A brief analysis of each character would be. Mma-Mompati is selfish as can be noticed through all her actions. She thinks only of herself though has a façade that fools people into believing that she cares for others. Rra-Mompati may have divorced Mma-Mompati due to the fact that he understood what Mma-Mompati was like. No longer was he able to tolerate her or her actions (all of which were selfish). Mompati sides with his mother though at the end of the story he like his father is no longer able to tolerate his mother (Mma-Mompati) because of her selfishness.

  • Thank you so much. This not only gave me clarity on the themes of the story but also propelled my own interpretations.

  • Really helpful. Thank you so much

  • Good analysis, what is the relevance of the last line of the story? about the son now having to ask his wife for permission or that he has to consult her. What has occurred to result to this etc?
    Thank you

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Thanks for the comment Fff. It is possible that Mompati trusts his wife’s opinion more than he does his own. Having been fooled by his mother he may feel that he needs his wife’s input in matters to ensure that he does the right thing.

  • Great analysis ! I was hoping for a brief talk about Bessie Head’s style in the story.

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Thanks for the comment Michael. It’s been a while since I read the story but one thing I remember about it is the way that Head used simple language to get her point across. At no stage was the reader confused about the direction that Head was taking the story.

  • Thank you! This’ll help me in my exam :’D

  • Hi! Thanks for the info, I was wondering what significance had the refrerence to ‘poor blood’ when Mompati got sick.

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      I’m not sure. Perhaps Mompati is suggesting that he inherited his illness from his father. If anything Mompati is being critical of his father.

  • I think this was powerful but it mainly focused on mma-mompati neglecting other characters

  • Hey, I was just wondering what the genre of this story was? Because I searched online and one website stated post colonial story but was just wondering if you agree or have any different thoughts. Thank you for your time and effort!

  • Which other story relates to the village saint in terms of the theme of facade?

  • This is very helpful thank you, especially the themes. May you please give a breakdown of the character Mary, Mompati’s wife. Heads says she has her own façade and “her own plan” is there something I am missing?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      No I don’t think there is anything suspicious about Mary. She may very well be a decent, hard-working woman who Mompati respects and trusts (over his mother).

  • Hi, very great analysis! Can you please tell me where the setting of the story takes place? Thank you!!!

  • I’m not sure if I get the concept .Pls help

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      All the story is really about is one person (Mma-Mompati) trying or pretending to be something she is not.

  • Thank you so much i got 10 out of 12

  • can you guys help me to discuss the significance of conflict in the story village saint

  • please can anyone help in analyzing the “the old women” by Bessie Head.

  • What happens at the end with Mma mompati, mompati and his wife??? Does the daughter in law follows her mother in law (pretending as the village saint in the society?)

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Mma Mompati lives her life as an outcast. Ignored by Mompati and his wife. Mompati’s wife does not become as self-centered as Mma Mompati.

  • Thanks for the accurate analysis and interpretation, finally I got clarity. My head is up and I’m ready for my exams by the help from you

  • Anyone help about analysing the old woman by Bessie head

  • 1.what does the narrator say”it is impossible to say…. silence?
    2.what is actually the problem?
    3.who has a problem?
    4.whose idea was it to give narrator water?(the old woman)

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      1. The young relative gives the narrator water. The narrator may be surprised by the relative’s actions.

      2. I’m not sure.

      3. The narrator may be the one with the problem depending on how you look at the line. Similarly the relative’s actions may not be needed.

      4. The young relative.

  • Thank you so much bro, I really appreciate this and thanks also for verifying the theme that I wrote based on what I understood from the story: To never judge someone by their appearance or by their actions until you fully get to know them: which I came up with before coming to this site. The analysis was so much help and it gave me a perspective which I didn’t know about till now. You saved my ass and thanks again.

  • What is the culture of these people?

  • I really enjoyed hope I’ll make it

  • do you think Mary is doing anything intentionally to drive a wedge between mother and son?

  • in The summer sun story Bassie says the Politicians take the people up to the hill to pray for the rain there after there’s a figure of speech

    The called him who has shaken god loose, what does the written mean?

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