Navigating Adversity: Themes of Racial Segregation, Gender Discrimination, and Perseverance in Bessie Head's 'Maru'

Published: 2024-01-23
Navigating Adversity: Themes of Racial Segregation, Gender Discrimination, and Perseverance in Bessie Head's 'Maru'
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Race Gender United States Literature
Pages: 5
Wordcount: 1340 words
12 min read

Bessie Head was born to a white mother who was placed in mental care during her pregnancy. She had a black father who later disappeared after her birth. The union between Head’s mother and father was illegal, which led to her suffering at a young age. She suffered alienation and rejection at a very tender age. Head got married at a young age after moving from an orphanage in South Africa. She proceeded to Botswana, where she wrote the novel Maru. She talks about racial segregation and ethnic problems that were subjected to by the San people and the Tswana people of Dileep. Since Maru’s novel is an image of the flaws found in the United States, an analysis of the major themes and ideas presented in the text is crucial.

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Racial segregation is a theme that has been tackled by the text “Maru.” In the text, Head suffers from black-black racial discrimination in South Africa and decides to move to a safer place to land in another country with traces of racism. Head decides to persevere but offers to write different novels explaining the pain associated with being an African. Head outlines that the liberty that many people thought to have achieved after gaining their independence was not real (Coates 82). Neo-colonialism was the order of the day in many countries. Head had a sober decision to try a different life. Therefore, it gives full proof of the rot that happened during the colonial period where the US was also part of colonization. Racial segregation of black lives is still happening in the United States; thus, the text reflects the present.

In her novel, Head outlines the necessity of resisting stereotypes (Visel 118). Stereotypes of gender discrimination and ethnicity have had an examination in detail within her text. According to Head, every society develops a way to eradicate these stereotypes, but they do not fulfill their words. Through judgments of color and background, ethnicity is a disease that has been mentioned severally in Head’s text. The theme of gender discrimination significantly becomes elaborate as Head suffers the same problems in her homeland and Botswana’s refugee land.

The san people suffered rejection in Botswana. Virtually, the country was divided into two distinct groups, “us” and “them.” It was still a typical example of colonialism that rooted the entire globe before. Head stood out in writing to defend the Tswana people (Visel 118). Head compared the miseries faced by the light-skinned San in Botswana with the one she witnessed in South Africa. Her analytic and conclusive mind drove her to believe that no place is safe in the African continent. The text gives detailed examples of the theme mentioned above. In the book, Margaret uses verbal brutality in her speech when she says that it is important for Maraswa to remain in Africa because “bushmen” belong to Africa (Visel 120). It is not an exception in the utterances of the US leaders. They utter vitriol and hate speeches to ridicule their counterparts and even innocent civilians. It is evident that Maru suffers psychological torture from his “own” people.

Moreover, a well-outlined theme in the text is the achievement of the human spirit. Against all the entanglements of life, Margaret manages to acquire an education (Dieke 2). Above finding the education, she gets the love that she has longing for an extended period. She finally received the care she needed despite the many obstacles that derailed her efforts to live a better life and help her family and friends. It gives an attractive feature that people can succeed amidst many problems. The overwhelming adversities experienced by the poor girl at her tender age never stop her from working hard and achieving what she dreamt of for a considerable time (Dieke 3). It is a spirit that has taken root in the United States and American continents. Many people suffer discrimination, but they still persevere and hold on to their duties, an indication of patriotism.

Leadership problems and inequality are the key elements featured in the novel. According to Coates, Maru serves as a chief and decides to be with Margaret. In his mind, he understands that Margaret is a mere bushman, and it is not prudent to marry any ordinary person as a chief (Coates 82). He forfeits the rules and goes ahead to marry her. Maru impressively decides to marry her and changes the mindset of many people regarding marriage to the less fortunate people of society. His bravery sparks different forms of admiration in the readers and helps them embrace the essentiality of treating everybody as equals. Equality is an attribute that has covered a large section of the Maru novel. It is an issue that affects many places in the United States (Coates 85). Equality is not a guarantee for all, yet it is ironically clear in the constitution on equality’s importance. Therefore, this text is a representation of the rot therein. The novel upholds the uniqueness of equality and generosity within the corrupt communities in Botswana and South Africa that ought to apply to many other countries.

The book explains the role of women in building the image of society (Visel 116). In his text, Visel Robin outlines that women are clearly seen to be the agents of change in society. The condition of the Masarwa gets improved after the appearance of Margaret. Margaret’s arrival changes the entire thinking scope of many people in her community. She offers solutions to many diverse problems that crippled equality and unity among the San community.

Similarly, women are agents of change in the United States, though in a dismal percentage (Visel 116). The text symbolically becomes the motivation for transformation in two pivotal ways: first, by emblematically bringing together Moleka with his emotion; second, by suppressing herself from him to unite with the well-organized, leader-bound, and fair Dikeledi. That Margaret is not potent in her approaches, even that she is uninformed of them, does not reduce the imagery of her existence as the catalytic agent for transformation. That she is comatose of her protagonism perhaps even expresses the predictability of the achieved change. Her hard work, “the breeze of liberty,” arrives in the Masarwa community’s interplanetary. It is a confirmation of the phrase “dim, stuffy chamber in which their personalities had been closed for a long time.”


In conclusion, Head’s “Maru” is a novel that sends a direct signal to present-day nations. Even though many adversities were of the past age, some of them escalated into the world’s present realm. By analyzing the book, the critical themes outlined help as advisory measures to the countries with such problems. Maru and Margaret are the characters that bring forth change in the communities full of hatred and selfishness. A female voice has strength in the text, symbolizing the influence that can evolve if the female gender gets a slight chance of handling sensitive issues. Perseverance and commitment are attributes that have climaxed the paper. Despite the many challenges facing young people in the community, it is important to stand and defend one’s rights through legitimate means. Thus, Head is a writer who influenced her generation the current people, and the future generation ahead.

Works Cited

Coates, Ta-Nehisi. “Letter to my son.” The Atlantic 316.2 (2015): 82-91.

Dieke, Ikenna. “Bessie Head’s Maru: Identity, Pathology, and the Construction of Difference.” Western Journal of Black Studies 31.2 (2007). Accessed 8 Dec. 2020.

Head, Bessie. “A woman alone: Autobiographical writings.” (1990).

Visel, Robin. “We Bear the World, and We Make It”: Bessie Head and Olive Schreiner.” Research in African Literatures 21.3 (1990): 115-124.

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Navigating Adversity: Themes of Racial Segregation, Gender Discrimination, and Perseverance in Bessie Head's 'Maru'. (2024, Jan 23). Retrieved from

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