Triumph in the Face of Adversity by Kedibone Seku
In Triumph in the Face of Adversity by Kedibone Seku we have the theme of hardship, struggle, fear, ambition and opportunity. Narrated in the first person by a young teenage girl called Thulisile the reader realises from the beginning of the story that Seku may be exploring the theme of struggle. Both Thulisile’s parents are dead and what is striking about this is the fact that Thulisile feels no guilt or remorse over her father’s death. He was an abusive man who beat Thulisile’s mother. The reader also suspects that the tears that Thulisile cries over her mother’s death are because her mother never really reached her potential. Despite being beaten by her husband she was a dutiful wife. Something that some critics might find strange considering the conditions that Thulisile’s mother lived under. She did not deserve the treatment she received and her mother in law was less than helpful. Scorning the fact that her son married her. If anything Thulisile’s mother lived in fear of her husband and was somewhat paralysed by the fear.
The theme of ambition is self-evident in the story. When Thulisile does badly in school she decides to set up her own business. Eventually settling on selling sweets and then working in the local fish and chip shop. This may be significant as Thulisile not only shows ambition but drive too. She wants to be independent of her family. Who can ill afford to feed themselves and are reliant on Thulisile for food. The role of the father cannot be underestimated. He is supposed to be the breadwinner but is not working and spends all his time drinking. Not exactly an ideal situation for Thulisile and her siblings. Not to mention Thulisile’s mother who as mentioned is regularly beaten by her husband. It is also possible that Thulisile’s mother is ashamed of what is happening to her and for this reason isolates herself and her family from her own parents. It cannot have been easy for her. Trying to keep the family together and at the same time hiding the fact that she is being beaten by her husband. In fact Seku does not give Thulisile’s father any redeeming factors. Which may explain as to why Thulisile is so cold towards her father.
There may also be some symbolism in the story which might be important. The shanty town that Thulisile lives in may symbolise how dire Thulisile’s position is. The shanty town is full of ill-willed people and is not safe for a young girl. Seku possibly suggesting that the shanty towns need to be bulldozed down and real homes built. The generosity of the old woman is also important as she may symbolise Thulisile’s faith in humankind. If anything the old woman gives Thulisile hope again and a direction in life very much like how her grandmother does. When she lends Thulisile the money. Thulisile realises that there are good natured people in the world who have her best interests at heart. Even if her parents don’t or can’t due to her father’s addiction to alcohol.
The end of the story is also interesting as Thulisile returns to her mother’s grave as though she can’t let go of her mother or accept that her mother never reached her potential. Though there is a sense that Thulisile is happy that she has reached her potential and is living her life for her mother. She knows not to make the same mistakes as her mother as by doing so she will only lose herself and her business. Thulisile has some money in the bank and knows what she wants in life unlike her mother who gave up on her hopes and aspirations as soon as she got married. Which may be the point that Seku is attempting to make. She may be suggesting that not every woman who gets married has to let go of their hopes. Once they live a balanced life they can reach their full potential in their private and public life. Leaving the reader to suspect that despite all the difficulties she incurred in life. Thulisile will prosper and love her life as she sees fit. Answerable to no man but becoming a strong independent woman. Marrying if she wants to.