Village People by Bessie Head

In Village People by Bessie Head we have the theme of poverty, conflict, kindness, struggle, acceptance, desperation and connection. Taken from her Tales of Tenderness and Power collection the story is narrated by several different narrators and from the beginning of the story the reader realises that Head may be exploring the theme of poverty and acceptance. It is obvious that the village is ravaged with poverty an example of which is the fact that many of the village’s babies die of malnutrition which would suggest that there is very little or no money to feed those who are most in need of nutrition. However it is interesting that there also appears to be an acceptance among those in the village of the circumstances that they find themselves in. It is as though they have accepted life on life’s terms without the possibility of change due to the limitations that are beset on those in the village. It is also interesting that the village is isolated with most communication being done by ox cart or sledge. This may be important as it is possible that Head is suggesting that throughout Africa (at the time the story was written) there were other villages that may have also lived in isolation. Africa may not necessarily have been fully developed or united unlike other counties in the western world. The situation that exists in Africa may have been unique with the continent being under developed.

Head’s description of the old woman may also be important particularly the words that she uses when describing the woman. By describing the woman and her situation as being ‘retched’ Head may be explicitly trying to highlight to the reader the desperation that exists for some in Africa. It may also be symbolically significant that the woman is wearing each of her shoes on the wrong foot as this may suggest at least symbolically that the woman is going in the wrong direction or at least her circumstances are heading in the wrong direction. The difficulties that she is incurring (hunger) may not necessarily need to exist. Though she looks amusing to others there is a far more serious matter at hand. The old woman is desperate for food with her only goal being the will to want to survive by getting food. The young woman’s kindness is also important as it highlights the fact that there is still a level of humanity in Africa. Despite the difficulties that the old woman has incurred the young woman (old woman’s daughter) is able to display gratitude through the act of kindness and bringing the pail of water to the village. In many ways the pail of water connects the old woman, young woman and those in the village.

The theme of acceptance is further explored in the Summer Sun section of the story when the young girl is waiting for the rain to fall. Though she doesn’t understand why her family must wait all day under the sun for the rain she still nonetheless accepts that this is the way of the village. It may also be important that the young girl wishes to learn, to further her education as this might suggest that the girl like the land around her has a fertile mind. Symbolically without her knowing it the girl is connected to the land. Just as the rest of her family are. It is also interesting that the girl describes the possible arrival of a child as being illegitimate as this would suggest that the girl may be aware that there is a tradition which is broken and she is not following it (getting married before having children). Though it is probably deliberate that Head mentions that the girl’s sister has also had an illegitimate child as this would further connect the girl to her sister. Whether she wants to or not the girl is following the path her sister has traveled.

There is also a sense of struggle throughout the story particularly when Head is describing the green tree. By telling that reader that everything is ‘jealously guarded’ Head many be suggesting that very little is given away by nature which in turn may suggest that life is a struggle for those who live in the village. Though they are reliant on the rain in order for their crops to grow nothing is given. There is no rain which in turn leads to the increased poverty that exists in the village. It may also be significant that the Head mentions that those who have traveled from the South due to political oppression do not stay in the village for long as this would further highlight just how difficult things are for those in the village. The land is barren. However there still remains a generosity towards those who are passing through the village which suggests that despite the circumstances the people in the village find themselves in. They are still able to not only show kindness towards others but also have an ability to connect with them. Despite being disadvantaged by nature those who live in the village still remain able to adapt to their circumstances and live their lives to the best of their ability. It is as though Head is suggesting that those in the village will not be beaten by their circumstances.

Head also appears to be exploring the theme of conflict. Particularly the conflict that an individual can feel within themselves. A conflict that may be caused by others (British imperialism). Unlike the other countries in Africa that have fought for independence the narrator (Lorato) in the Tao section of the story openly admits that his country rather than fighting the thorn that was imperialism or colonialism not only accepts imperialism but defends it too. He also appears to be in conflict with wanting to live in a larger more settled village or town where the difficulties of his own village are not found. If anything there is a conflict within Lorato similar to the conflict that existed in Africa while under British or colonial rule. The end of the story is also interesting as Head does not allow Lorato the satisfaction of any type of resolution. When asked by Kate who he will vote for Lorato tells Kate that he will not be voting at all as he is unsure of who to vote for. This may be important as it further suggests that Lorato like the other characters in the story are living in conflict within themselves.

Cite Post
McManus, Dermot. "Village People by Bessie Head." The Sitting Bee. The Sitting Bee, 4 Mar. 2017. Web.

271 comments

  • Thank you I learn more and I also now know the short story.

  • The summary is of utmost help. Cleared some confusion I experienced when I first read the story

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Thanks for the comment Boitumelo. It’s great to know that you found the post of some benefit.

  • Great summary.

  • Can you explain “like a quiet second skin” for me please…

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Thanks for the comment Hlalanathi. The term second skin would refer to a state of comfortability. Just as someone might feel comfortable in their own skin, likewise a person’s second skin would similarly be as comfortable.

    • Poverty is in them, like live inside of them.

  • I love the summary. Please explain what the narrator meant when she said “should give us credit”.

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Thanks for the comment Luvhengo. Usually when that phrase is used it means that an individual should be recognized for their achievements.

  • What is it that the narrator is trying to improve in her life?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Thanks for the comment Munyai. There are several narrators and sections in the story. If you are referring to the young girl in the Summer Sun section of the story. She is trying to use education to advance her life so that she doesn’t have to work the land with her family.

  • Explain the major problems in the second story, ‘Summer sun’.

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Thanks for the comment Thando. There are several major problems in the Summer Sun section. Firstly the land is difficult to farm which causes problems for the narrator and her family. Also the narrator wants to abandon the land and further her education but may not get the opportunity to do so. So strong is the pull of the land her family may force her to continue to work it. The narrator is also pregnant or at least may be pregnant which will cause problems for the narrator. She is breaking the tradition of getting married first.

      • Why does the old woman collapse?

        • Dermot (Post Author)

          Thanks for the comment Tshikondela. The old woman collapses because she is hungry.

          • What is the relationship between the old woman and the visitor? Thanks for an answer.

            • Dermot (Post Author)

              As far as I know they are mother and daughter. The visitor brought a pail of water to the village as a thank you for those in the village who helped the old woman.

  • Who does ‘she’ in the line ‘she returned the greeting…and carefully averted…’ What does this refer to?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      What section are you quoting from and what is the full quote?

      • Dermot (Post Author)

        Found it. The visitor (or daughter) is returning the greeting to the person who helped her mother. She also appears to be somewhat embarrassed and that might be why she averted her face (looked away).

  • OK thank u

  • What does the narrator learn from the geography book?

  • Explain the major problems in the second story?

  • Explain how the theme of suffering is explored in two stories?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      In the Old Woman section the old woman is suffering because she is hungry. Also in the Summer Sun section the young narrator is forced to work the land when she wants to educate herself instead. Her life is one of hardship.

  • Can you please summarize what happens in the summer sun plz.

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Thanks for the comment Njabulo. Basically the narrator informs the reader of the struggles that she faces on a daily basis. From the difficulties she encounters while working the land with her family to her concerns that she may be pregnant. She also longs to further her education. Something that is noticeable by her interest in the Geography book her cousin gives her. She sees education as a way out or an escape from having to work the land with her family and as an opportunity to improve her life.

      • I am a little concerned regarding the second story. Isn’t the narrator’s sister the one with the baby? And where does it mention that the narrator is or is possibly pregnant?

        • Dermot (Post Author)

          Yes the narrator’s sister has a child. When it comes to the narrator being pregnant. It is implied that she is. It is not directly stated.

  • Thanks for responding

  • What are the figurative used in story please help

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      I’m assuming you mean figurative language. Some examples include ‘like a thin stalk of corn in the wind,’ in The Old woman section. In the green tree section when the narrator is talking about his craving for something he fears to possess you have ‘like the depths of night when the moon brings the pale light of heaven to earth….’

  • A great analysis indeed.Who is the narrator in Old woman’s story? Where in the story is the sentence that specifically tells / show us that the girl is the daughter of the old woman?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Thanks for the comment Ntsindi. The narrator in the Old woman’s section is unnamed. We do not know who they are. It is also an assumption that the old woman’s daughter brings the pail of water to the village. We can’t say for certain that it is her daughter. However it is most likely someone who is close to the old woman and who is expressing gratitude for the kindness shown to the old woman.

  • Thank you so much.

  • Thank you very much for this valuable information.

  • Who are the characters in the story ,can you list them please .

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Thanks for the comment Ntsindi. In the Old woman section we have the old woman, the young woman and the narrator. In Summer sun we have the narrator and her family (father, mother sister, cousin). In the green tree section we have just the narrator and in the final section of the story the narrator takes the lead followed by Tao with Kate being a minor character.

      • What is the setting, moral conflict situation,

        • Dermot (Post Author)

          Thanks for the comment Jane. The setting is a small rural village in Africa (perhaps Botswana). The moral conflict is the struggles that each character faces while living in the village.

  • The narrator said, ” it may be the only place on earth where it is worn with unconscious dignity”. What does she mean?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Thanks for the comment Godly. It is possible that the narrator is suggesting that Africa is the only place where poverty might be seen as being acceptable and that the people without knowing it are able to understand what poverty is and face the hardships that come with poverty. Without making changes to their lives.

  • Can u pls summarise the opening essay ?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      The old woman visits the village because she is ill from hunger. Some of the people in the village laugh at the old woman because she is embarrassing herself and they don’t understand how serious her condition is. One of the residents in the village gives the old woman some food and is thanked the next day by the old woman’s daughter or who we assume to be the old woman’s daughter. The narrator ends the old woman section by highlighting to the reader that despite the hardships that some in Africa may face people can still show one another kindness.

      • How can I describe the characteristics of the crowd of people in the old woman section of the story

        • Dermot (Post Author)

          Head describes the crowd as laughing in embarrassment. Which may suggest that rather than connecting with the old woman and understanding her plight the crowd alienate her. Even though the crowd has known hunger. Also the fact that the crowd turns away from the old woman suggests that the crowd do not have empathy for the old woman. Which is unusual considering again that the crowd have experienced hunger.

  • Describe how the writer is able to paint a clear picture of poverty in the first story?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      The fact that the old woman is begging for food from those in the village suggests that she is living her life in poverty. With poverty comes desperation and the old woman is definitely desperate. Also the young woman brings the most that she can, a pail of water. She has no other gift to bring. Water is her only asset which suggests that the young woman, like the old woman, is living in poverty.

  • In which of the two stories would you say a solution and the message of hope is revealed by the writer? How does she manage this?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      In the Old woman section there is a sense that things can be fixed when the old woman is helped. There is a sense of humanity. Also in Summer sun section the young girl through education may stand a better chance in life.

  • “poverty here has majority backing”. What figure of speech is used here?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Head may be using irony. By suggesting that poverty has major backing or support is the opposite to how an individual would feel about poverty. It is also possible that Head is using assonance (a vowel rhyme). Using the vowels e and a.

  • The writer tells us that the African people though possesses two qualities to their benefit. Give two qualities she mentions that Africans have to their benefit?

  • Can you please outline the climax and rising action of the story

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Thanks for the comment Lawrence. The story is divided into four different sections. Which section are you looking for?

      • Summer Sun and the old woman.

        • Dermot (Post Author)

          In the Summer sun section the rising action occurs when the narrator is explaining how difficult life is when it comes to farming the land. Also the narrator is possibly pregnant which would also be part of the rising action. The climax comes when the narrator tells the reader about the sun also rising the next day and how without the help of rain it is cruel (killing and killing).

          In the old woman section the rising action occurs when we learn of the old woman first struggling to find water and food. While the climax occurs when the crowd turn away from her.

          • Thanks you very much for your response, it’s really helpful.

            • Dermot (Post Author)

              No problem Lawrence. Thanks for visiting the blog.

              • So what about the denouement of the story ?

                • Dermot (Post Author)

                  In the Summer sun section the denouement occurs when the narrator tells the reader that she doesn’t know what she would do if everybody didn’t love one another. In the old woman section the denouement occurs when the narrator gives the old woman some food.

                • What is denouement please?

                • Dermot (Post Author)

                  Usually denouement is the climax of a chain of events, usually when something is decided or made clear.

  • What is the significance of the opening essay? Why does the writer mention that “in our favour is a great credit balance…”

    On the second story the summer sun, what informs the reader that the narrator could be pregnant?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Thanks for the comment Bono. The opening essay sets the tone for each of the stories. It highlights positive and negative things that can be found in each of the stories. The humanity, kindness and poverty that exists in the village.

      It is possible that Head uses the term credit balance to suggest that those in the village have paid there dues. That they owe the world nothing and if anything it is the world that owes them.

      We know that the narrator of the Summer sun is pregnant because she tells the reader that she is afraid that she will have an illegitimate baby, like her elder sister.

      • The author mentions about the politician who can pray and speak politics at the same time under summer sun. What is the essence of this?

        • Dermot (Post Author)

          It is possible that Head is suggesting that the politician is in contradiction of himself. He prays to God but his only real interest is in himself.

  • The narrator indicates that she would like to better herself as she is scared that she may have an illegitimate child just like her sister. Dermot do you think that the speaker might mean that she would like to better herself (get educated) instead of following her sister’s footsteps (having an illegitimate child), which might have been caused by lack of education.

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Thanks for the comment Ntshenge. It is possible that the narrator does not wish to live the life that her sister is living (illegitimate child and working the land) and her only avenue of escape is through learning.

  • Thanks for the summary. Its really helpful. Can you please help me with the vitality of having Ubuntu in this short story. The Background, Hypothesis, Methodology, Results only please . Thank you again.

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Thanks for the comment Minenhle. I’m lost. I’ve went through the story again and found no reference to Ubuntu. Can you clarify things for me?

  • What is the plot and the visual literacy of the story

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Thanks for the comment Marcia. The plot of the story is relatively simple. Each section of the story is narrated by a different narrator and outlines the struggles that each face in the same fictional village. As for visual literacy. As far as I know visual literacy deals with images (or pictures). There are no images or pictures in the story. Is it possible that you mean the visual literacy of the symbolic imagery in the story?

  • Thanx a lot , the summary has answered many questions I had , though I differ slightly with the idea that the girl from Summer Sun may be expecting an illegitimate child because she explicitly said she does not want to be like her sister.

  • Nokukhanya Ndlazi

    What is the whole theme about the village people short story

  • How do they do use sledge for communication?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Thanks for the comment Tlangelani. The message would be carried on a sledge by someone from the village. I’m assuming the sledge is on wheels making it faster than if an individual walked to the next village to deliver a message. I’m also assuming the sledge is pulled by dogs.

  • I wrote about Maru in 2004 and now am doing short stories hoping to do well. Thanks for the insight.

  • I like these words “poverty has a home in Africa” and “people don’t look down at your shoes which are caked with years of mud and split so that the toes stick out” what does Head mean?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Thanks for the comment Jwest. The first quote suggests that poverty is acceptable and everywhere in Africa. That it is part of the daily life of those who struggle to live. In the second quote it is possible that people are so used to poverty in Africa that they do not take notice of a person’s appearance. Everybody is in the same position. Everybody is struggling.

  • Can you please describe the difference in the way the villagers and the politician deals with the drought in the story?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Thanks for the comment Nsina. The politicians rather than bringing water to the village by mechanic means (water pumps) or having wells dug pray for rain. When the reality is praying will not bring the rain or water that is needed. The villagers appear to accept what is happening to them. They are used to the drought. They might not like it but they still nonetheless accept what is happening.

  • In the opening essay Head describes some of the problems faced by the people who live in the rural “desert and semi desert place” of Botswana. List at least three of the problems she mentions.

  • What does she say these people have, on the more positive side?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Head states that the people have an immense humanity and are extremely gentle. Also if one person in the village is in pain (a baby). Others will sit with the mother in an attempt to absorb the pain. It is also interesting that the people in the village also survive by making very few demands. When their conditions would suggest they have every right to demand things (like food). If anything the villagers accept the position they find themselves in.

  • Can you please summarize the story village people in a simple way so that I can understand and explain it to other people.

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      In the Old Woman section. An old woman comes to the village to look for food. Though a lot of people laugh at her, one person helps her. This person is rewarded with a pail of water by a younger woman who the reader assumes is the old woman’s daughter.

      In Summer Sun. A young girl longs to return to education so that she no longer has to work the land with her family. She wants to improve her life but knows it may be difficult as she is pregnant.

      In the Green Tree. We learn how difficult it is for others who do not come from the village to stay in the village. The narrator also goes into some detail of his relationship with a woman and how it can drain his strength. Head possibly looking at masculine identity and how the male identifies with who he is.

  • Can I ask u about Doll’s house short story?

  • In the first story what smilie is used in the first line to describe the old woman

  • How did the speaker assist the old woman?

  • Major problem in Summer sun?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      The narrator wants to return to education but she has to work the land with her family. Also she may be pregnant which will mean difficulties for a girl so young. It is as though her life will have to take on a different meaning should she be pregnant.

  • Please give me a summary.

  • Can you summarise this please

  • Thanks a lot for the summary of all the sections.

  • What is the setting of this story?

  • Thanks for the summary….it really helped

  • Which of these two stories do you prefer? Explain your answer

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      I like the old woman. I like that there is someone to help her when most people refuse to help. I also like the summer sun as the young girl despite all the hardships she is going through. Has hopes and aspirations. She is not defeated.

  • Thank you so much. I’ve never read the book but your summary aroused so much interest.

  • What is the plot of this short story as well as the theme and tone?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Thanks for the comment Lz. There are several sections in the story. Are you referring to one section in particular?

  • In part three of the village people “Summer sun’ is the narrator pregnant or is just that she is afraid of being pregnant before marriage just like her sister?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Hi Luvhengo. The narrator fears that she is pregnant. She doesn’t know for sure and doesn’t want to end up like her sister.

  • 1. What is the meaning of the first line ‘poverty has a home in Africa – like a quiet second skin’ in the first part of the Village People?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Head is most likely suggesting that poverty is part and parcel of life in Africa. Hence her using the term second skin.

  • 2. Why the people do not look down at shoes which are caked with years of mud and split so that the toes stick out?
    3. Why eye-looking mentioned in the Village people first page is described as of the earth all about?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      2. It may be a case that the people have accepted the conditions that they find themselves in. They know things will not change.

      3. Head may be suggesting that people due to the conditions they find themselves in are used to receiving no help. Help is as barren as the earth around them. Nobody has come to help the people.

  • 4.Why the narrator is saying that there is no end to African sky and to African land in the Village People?
    5.Why is the narrator saying that poverty has majority backing in the Village People?
    6. Why is the narrator in the Village People says that ‘Those few who have, are insane in a strange quiet, harmless way?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      4. Possibly because the narrator can see no end in sight with the hardships they must endure.

      5. Majority backing would suggest that most people feel a certain way. That being most people are living in poverty.

      6. I’m not sure of the answer to this one but it may be a case that those who have are viewed upon as being different to others. That they live their life differently to those who have not got anything. Those who have nothing might view those who have as being insane because they act differently.

  • 1. Why is the narrator in the village people says that is is not right, as it is negative to strive for existence?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      1. I don’t know what section that is Luvhengo but I’m guessing that the narrator is suggesting that they accept defeat.

  • 1. Why is the narrator saying that we are in the middle of nowhere in the Villager People?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Most likely because the village is not near any other village or town or city. Which would explain as to why the village might not get the help it needs.

  • Why is the narrator saying that poverty creates strong currents of fear and anxiety?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Poverty is a negative thing. It can lead to death. People do not know where their next meal is coming from. Hence them being fearful and anxious.

  • Why is the narrator saying that we tend to push aside all new intrusion in the Village People?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Change might not be something that those who live in the village accept. They accept their circumstances even if their circumstances are dire. How they live (in poverty) is part of their life.

  • 1. in the summer sun, what does this mean, the quiet talk of grandfather and cousin Lebenah seem to make earth and heaven come together?
    2. in the summer sun, why does the narrator say ‘because tomorrow the sun will rise again’?
    3. In the the summer sun, what does this mean? “All day we look on it, like on death”.

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      1. The possibility of unity between the grandfather and the cousin mirrors the earth and heaven coming together.
      2. The sun is too hot for the narrator it makes living difficult. The fact it will rise again tomorrow suggests that the narrator will struggle again.
      3. I need the context but perhaps because the land is so barren Head is also suggesting that the land is like death.

  • Why is the narrator in the Village People part one says that is is not right, as it is negative to strive for existence? There must be other ingredient boiling in the pot.

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      The narrator might be suggesting that there has to be something else to strive for apart from an escape from poverty. There has to be something else apart from poverty. Something to make life worth living.

  • 3. In the the summer sun, what does this mean? “Alone without the help of rain it is cruel, killing and killing. All day we look on it, like on death”.

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Rain is needed for the crops to grow. With no rain there will be no crops. With no crops people will be unable to feed themselves.

  • Thanks a lot concerning the summary what are the differences of the essays in the story and how many essays are in the story

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Most of the stories are similar in nature and deal with the cruelty of the land in Africa and the struggles and hardships that those who live there face. There are four sections. However in the Changes version of the story there are only three sections (the Tao section is removed).

  • 1. Name two characteristics of African people.

    2. List three problems that are mentioned in the story

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      1, Two characteristics that Head might be suggesting that African people have is resilience. Their ability to persevere and determination. Not to give up.

      2. Three problems mentioned in the story (which is split into four sections) are. The old woman is starving. The narrator of the Summer Sun section fears she is pregnant and may miss out on an education and also in the Summer Sun section. The land is difficult to farm due to the lack of water.

  • Old woman
    1 “she was so frail ” what does frail means
    2 why was the crowd embarrassed when she said She was hungry.
    3 write the Two similes in first paragraph and explain

    Summer sun
    1 Describe the contrast between village people and farm people
    2 what does it mean ” The one who has shaken loose “

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Old Woman
      1. weak and delicate.
      2. The crowd laughed with embarrassment because they could not believe the old woman could show her need so nakedly.
      3. The first simile is ‘like a thin stalk of corn.’ Which explains how thin the old woman is from the hunger. The second simile is ‘Her arms were as flat as boards.’ Meaning the old woman’s arms were very thin.

      Summer sun
      1. Village people obviously live in the village and are not reliant on the land like farm people.
      2. Shaken loose means to free yourself. So Head is suggesting that the politician has freed himself from God. And as such considers himself to be more important than he is.

  • The Politician who prays for rain makes an impression on the village people. Why do you think they are so impressed by him?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      They believe everything that he says and think that maybe he might be the answer to resolving their hardships.

  • Poverty is described as being ‘like a quiet second skin’. Explain the simile.

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Head is most likely suggesting that poverty is part and parcel of life in Africa. Hence her using the term second skin. Poverty is something that is accepted as being normal. Just as a second skin would be.

  • Please I want to know the settings of the story?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      The Old woman section is set in a village in Africa. While the Summer sun section is set around some farm land also in Africa.

  • The sun is often worshiped as the provider of light, warmth, growth and happiness. Does the narrator of the Summer sun feel the same?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      I don’t think she does. For her the sun provides hardship. Nothing will grow on the land yet she still has to farm the land daily when the reality is she wants to return to education.

  • Can you please explain the characteristics of the characters in this story?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      I’ll characterize two. The old woman and the young narrator in the Summer sun. The old woman is desperate. She has no food but is determined to try and get some food. This determination would be the old woman’s strength. She won’t give up and she will keep persevering. She has been forced to react to her conditions. Even though others might consider her situation to be embarrassing. It is as though the old woman has no option but to beg such is the hardships she faces.

      The young girl in the Summer sun is also determined. She wants to go back to education but knows that circumstances are against her. Her family want her to work the land and she may be pregnant. She has hopes and aspirations but they may never be reached due to her circumstances. It is as though the young girl is in conflict with herself. Just like the old woman the young girl is also struggling to overcome the hardships she faces.

  • I’m referring to the Summer sun?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      1. A young teenage girl works the land with her family. It’s hard work because of the sun (there is no rain for the crops). The girl would like to return to education to progress her life but she fears she may be pregnant. She fears that she might have a child out of wedlock and have to stay working the land.

      2. First person narrator (young teenage girl)

      3. The benefit of the first person narrator is that the reader gets a direct insight into the problems that the young girl is facing and how she feels.

  • 1. What do we learn about the main characters? In the whole story.

    2. Are the characters flat or round?

    3. Who is the antagonist?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      1. Taking both stories we learn that people from Africa no matter how hard things might be will survive. They are resilient and will persevere.

      2. The old woman is a round character because she changes (finds food). The young teenage girl in the Summer sun is also a round character. She wants to change. She has hopes and aspirations.

      3. The only antagonist I can think of is the crowd of people who laugh at the old woman. They are hostile towards her.

  • What is the author saying about life, people or situations in both the stories?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Head is saying that life in Africa is tough for people. The conditions that people live under are difficult. However despite this people will survive. Just as the old woman gets food and the young girl has dreams. People despite all the hardships will survive.

  • Thank you so much. I’m gonna master my upcoming test about the story.

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      You’re welcome Elizabeth. Good luck with your test. Just to let you know that an antagonist does not always have to be a person or persons. Head may also be suggesting that hunger or starvation (Old woman section) and the sun (Summer sun) section could also be considered to be antagonists. An antagonist usually makes life hard for a character. Something that is true when it comes to hunger (starvation) for the old woman and the sun for the young girl.

  • What is the significance of the title Village People?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      By using the title Village People Head may have been placing a spot light on those who live in rural Africa. How they struggle more than those who live in the towns or cities. How they have to be more self-reliant than people who live in the cities. In general Head might be suggesting that life in a village in Africa is harder on people. They may not necessarily have the same comforts, food as an example, as those in the city. There may be two distinct sets of people in Africa. Rural or village people and town or city people.

      • I concur with you Dermot. Also to add on that, The title “Village people” describes the poverty stricken village and its effect on the Africa in which she lives, that is rural Botswana. She argues that the hard life of people face strips them down to their simplest form, which gives them immense humanity and extreme gentleness.

  • 1. What effect does change have on such poverty-stricken communities?
    2. The sun is of ten worshiped as provider of light ,warmth and happiness. Does the narrator of the Summer Sun feel the same way? Motivate.

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      1. I’m not sure I understand the question. There would be very little or any change in the story. In the Summer sun the narrator has the possibility to change and as such improve her life. Though I don’t see any change in the Old woman section.
      2. The narrator would not look upon the sun as being a good thing. It dries the land meaning no food can be grown. If anything the sun causes drought and hardship for the narrator.

      • 3. The villagers cannot grow new crops and they survive on millet and goat meat, however there is something that is important to them.Explain.
        4. The young woman with the pail of water’s face is kept “empty” and “carefully averted”. What does this tell the reader how she’s feeling?

        • Dermot (Post Author)

          3. I think the answer is rain. Rain is important to the villagers. Without rain the crops won’t grow.
          4. The young woman who is assumed to be the old woman’s daughter isn’t giving anything away. She may be embarrassed by the circumstances she finds herself under.

  • Hey Dermot pls assist me I hv questions based on the Village ppl

  • 1. Identify and Explain the Figure of speech in the Following Sentences from the Text “Poverty has a home in Africa like a quiet second skin”
    2. How does the Community deals with the death of a baby?
    3. Explain what happens with a person that tries to deal with painful events on his/her own?
    4. According to the Author, Village People “Tend to push aside all new intrusion. Why can it be seen as a negative action?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      1. Like a second skin. Suggests that an individual is comfortable or can adapt with what is happening around them. It causes them no discomfort. They are used to it.
      2. People sit with the mother in silence till the pain leaves or the mother is able to accept the baby’s death.
      3. People who deal with painful events on their own walk through the village muttering to themselves. Which may suggest the pain is unbearable and they are looking for answers. They are also distinguishable by their half-clothed bodies.
      4. Life is difficult as it is without any new intrusions or interference’s.

  • 5. why did the old Women (Story 1) Collapse?
    6. Explain the Crowd’s reaction to the old women’s weakness.
    7. how did the old women’s family repay the Narrator’s kindness?
    8. What does the Narrator mean when she says “that God’s walk about her bare foot with no ermine and gold studded cloaks?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      5. She collapsed due to hunger (starvation).
      6. They laughed at her with embarrassment.
      7. With a pail of water.
      8. The old woman is closer to God than those who pretend to be near God. Those who dress in finery are no closer to God.

  • 9. Describe the Difference in the Villagers and deals with the drought in Story 2.
    10. why is the goat Central to the Survival of the Villagers?
    11. Give a reason why the narrator in story 2 wants to improve herself
    12. Explain the reason for the contrast in the way the birds and the narrator Welcome Sunrise Each day.

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      9. I don’t understand the question? What is the full sentence?
      10. The goat provides milk and meat.
      11. So she no longer has to suffer as she does.
      12. The reason for the contrast is because the narrator will have to struggle every day.

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      9. I’m assuming you mean the difference between the villagers and the narrator? The villagers rely on politicians and prayer while the narrator appears to accept the position she finds herself in. Though she does want to further her education which might suggest she wants change just like the villagers.

  • I will come back to you…am also not sure if the question is correct and yes. Thanks a lot ☺

  • Can u please discuss the title of the story

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Head may have chosen the title Village People to highlight the differences between those who live in villages or on farm land in Africa over those who live in towns and cities. She may have wanted to highlight the hardship and struggle village people endured when it came to living their lives. Similarly she might have also wanted to highlight village people’s resilience and strength.

  • What does the narrator mean she says,”….that gods walk about her barefoot with no ermine and gold studded cloaks

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      It most likely means that the old woman is closer to God compared to the people in the village who laughed at her.

  • Hey Dermot please I need your help and a favour from you.

  • Refer to lines 16-18 (“I merely ask … should count up”)
    identify and discuss the theme evident in these lines

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      The lines previous refer to change. I think the two lines mentioned refer to decency. How people are decent (love and warmth) and do not deserve the hardship they face.

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      It is also possible that the lines refer to kindness.

  • line 17-20 “No,tell her … all we have”

    before these lines the young woman has difficulty speaking. Why does she speak now?

    identify and discuss the theme of the short story which is evident in these lines

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      It is possible that the young woman feels not only embarrassed but ashamed. She knows what poverty is. She decides to speak because she knows that she must thank the woman who helped her mother (the old woman). As for the theme it is possible that Head through these lines is exploring the theme of kindness. Hence the young woman giving the pail of water.

  • How many sections do we have in this story?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      If you’re reading the story from the Changes (ed. B. Walter) collection of stories then there are two sections. The old woman and Summer sun. If you’re reading from Head’s collection Tales of Tenderness and Power then there are four sections. The old woman, Summer sun, The green tree and Tao.

  • In Bessie Head’s short story ‘The Old Woman’ critically examine how the old woman, her young relative, and the narrator each deal with social attitudes towards age, gender, race, class, language and social responsibility?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      This might help:

      Age – Despite being frail the narrator considers that the old woman is still strong. Something which may be a contradiction. While the young relative (or daughter) knows that her mother is old and is need of help.

      Gender – As readers we are left to assume that the narrator is a woman. It is something that is not clearly stated. However it would seem that women serve a purpose to a certain age and then are no longer of use. Something that is noticeable with the old woman.

      Race – I don’t think that race is an issue in the story. Though perhaps Head is suggesting that should all three characters be white. Things may be different. Particularly for the old woman.

      Class – Like race I’m not sure class is an issue. The old woman has reached a stage in whereby class becomes irrelevant. She is desperate for food. Something which takes precedence over everything else.

      Language – the old woman uses direct and short sentences highlighting her desperation. The narrator is comfortable so speaks more broadly and in longer sentences. While the daughter speech at first is limited as she may feel embarrassed about what has happened her mother. Though when she regains her confidence she also speaks in longer sentences just as the narrator does.

      Social responsibility – The old woman wants help. She doesn’t mind who it is from. The narrator knows she has a social responsibility to help the old woman. While the daughter feels she has an obligation to thank the narrator for helping her mother.

  • Would you be able to help me with some questions on Cry the beloved country by Alan Paton?

  • What does she say that those people have on the more positive side?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Head highlights in the Old woman section that despite difficulties people can still be kind to each other. While in the Summer sun section the narrator shows that though things are difficult she still has aspirations.

  • Dermot. There is this part that I don’t understand and I just need some clarification on it. The description of the politician who wore a smart suit and had a big car, compared to the old lady who wore old and torn petticoat and shoes. what can we deduce from these two pieces and what point does Head brings out there.

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      I think the point that Head is attempting to make is to highlight how easily fooled some people can be by the appearance of others. The politician is afforded more respect than others based simply on his appearance.

  • How did the speaker assist the old woman?

  • I am a bit confused here,our story is entitled The Old Woman,so this Summary relates to the story yet it’s entitled Village people, so please with all due respect please help Me by stating the difference,or is it the same story?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      The story is called Village People and it is divided into four sections. One of which is called The old woman. The three other sections in the story are called Summer sun, The green tree and Tao.

  • ‘It is impossible to say: what do you want? Whom are you looking for?’
    Explain the reason for the narrator not to ask the strange woman these questions

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      I’m not sure. Perhaps because the narrator may realise that the woman has a difficult story to tell.

  • Hi Dermot can u help me with these questions

    1 In the first story, what simile Is used to describe the old woman

    2. How did the speaker assist the old woman

    3. How did the woman’s family thank her?

    4. The last paragraph of the story gives ideas of how people cope with the sun, Explain this statement

    5 .Which of these two stories do you prefer? Explain why.

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      1. Like a thin stalk of corn in the wind (second line of Old woman section).

      2. She gave her some food.

      3. They gave the speaker a pail of water.

      4. The narrator (young girl) waits for rain during the day. In the evening the family bond together. Sister feeds her baby. Lebebah talks about little things. The quiet talk of grandfather and Lebenah seem to make earth and heaven come together. The narrator does not know what she and her family would do if they did not love one another.

      5. Both stories are good. Though I like the Summer sun that bit better as there is an element of hope in the story. The narrator has aspirations and dreams which as readers we hope she achieves.

  • Would you say that the old woman and young woman in the Old Woman have dignity?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      I would say both have dignity though due to their circumstances it is not shining through. The old woman is desperate for food while the young woman may feel somewhat embarrassed (hence her silence at first) over what has happened.

  • Hi Dermot can you please help me on these Questions

    1. The expression “……..she bend down” suggest an exageratted expression of emotion by the woman , identify the causs of the womens reaction ?

    2. according to one of the line” …. Old ladies …… Are like children” distinguish any 2 of their similarities as suggested in the story.

    3 how did the speaker display a kind gesture towards the old woman.

    4 Comment on why the women who brought the pail of water could not automatically and easily tell the speaker the reason for her visit.

    5 in your opinion do you think it is an accurate description of human kindness to refer to it as “natural” sensible and normal as the speaker puts in the closing stages of the extract , support your position

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      1. The old woman is starving.

      2. Both give way to weakness and cry openly when they are hungry.

      3. She gave the old woman some food.

      4. Perhaps she felt embarrassed.

      5. I’m not sure human kindness is natural, sensible or normal as a lot of people are selfish. Out of all the people in the story only the speaker helped the old woman.

      • Thank you and my last Question to the story would be

        Distinguish the setting of this extract by writing 3 suggestive clues

        • Dermot (Post Author)

          I don’t have access to the extract you are working off so it is difficult to answer the question.

  • Can you describe the difficulties infants face in Africa please

  • What does mean when he says “Merely ask this because, anonymous as we are, in our favour is a great credit balance of Love and warmth….”

  • In the opening essay of the story,what does the narrator mean when he/she says..”One might say that in its vastness is a certain kind of watchfulness that strips man down to his simplest form”?

  • You are a life saver thanks. God bless you.

  • Can you please explain the meaning of this words in an easier English on any short stories..literal, figurative, irony, metaphor and simile.

  • When crowd laughs at the woman that she should display her need so nakedly is this meant as literally or figuratively?

  • Give a reason

  • Good day. How are you? I said. What tone is used by the speaker?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      I would think that the theme is one of acceptance. Acceptance for how difficult life can be in the village.

  • village people

    1 why do people in the village look a person straight and deeply into his or her eyes?

    2 babies die most easily of which common causes?

    3 who is she referring to as THEM ?

    4which place is she refering to as HERE?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      1. Probably because they may be suspicious of people.

      2. I think the answer is malnutrition.

      3. I’d need to read the story again.

      4. I’m assuming the narrator means the village.

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