EXISTENTIALISM IN THE NOVELS OF BESSIE HEAD

EXISTENTIALISM IN THE NOVELS OF BESSIE HEAD

ABSTRACT

The study examines the influence of the existentialist themes in the novels of Bessie Head. Various studies have been done on the works of Bessie Head, especially with particular focus on the concept of identity, the exilic consciousness and on literary commitment, but none has analyzed, let alone subjected Maru, When Rain Clouds Gather and A Question of Power to the existentialist interpretation. The objective of this study is to explore the tremendous accuracy with which Bessie Head show- cases the conflict between the individual and society. The apartheid system has attacked the identity of Head’s characters and this informs the existential sensibility so discernible in her oeuvre. The study adopts the analytical research design. The data collected through content analysis is coded according to thematic concerns, the mode of characterization and the vision of the author. The findings reveal that being and becoming influence her commitment as reflected in her choice of characters that like her are cast in the in-between space. These characters shuttle between points of inclusion and exclusion. The quest for a universal identity that defies definition of race or tribe is shrouded in shackles of prejudice enshrined in the traditional outlook which must be dismantled in order to attain total liberty. However, this dream is encumbered with a lot of challenges thus reflecting the difficulty of erasing cultural differences. In conclusion, the novels are discussed from a largely existentialist perspective of hope in a utopian society.