Term paper on “When Rain Clouds Gather”

When Rain Clouds Gather by Bessie Head is one of the most successful books written by the author. The novel tells the story of the conflict between the traditionalist and modern part of African society. In this regard, the novel is particularly noteworthy in relation to women who come through hardships to become an individual and who want to cease to be oppressed, secondary-class citizens. At the same time, the book conveys clearly the clash between traditional cultural norms and modernity, namely the clash between women inferiority and women strife for equality and realization of their individual inclinations, skills and abilities. The book shows how women undergo consistent transformations in the course of the book to become individuals. In fact, the author emphasizes contrast between women characters in order to show how women become individuals as they exercise their powers.

The book depicts two different types of women: women living according to old traditions and women attempting to change their life and society to become individuals equal to men. In this respect, it is important to lay emphasis on the fact that the overwhelming majority of women depicted by Bessie Head are very conservative and they live according to traditions and norms established in the male-dominated society. In such a way, the author clearly shows that the majority of women are inclined to lead a traditional lifestyle, being deprived of any ambitions to become individuals equal to men. At the same time, the author shows that women live under the permanent pressure from the part of the society. To put it more precisely, cultural norms, religious beliefs and traditions position women as second-class citizens, who are inferior to men. Therefore, from the early childhood women learn that they cannot be equal to men. Thus, they grow up accustomed to their inferior position, being unable to challenge social, cultural and religious norms they have been taken for granted since their childhood.

In such a context, representatives of a new generation of women are ready to oppose traditions and biases which oppress their freedom and deprive them of equal position in the society. In fact, a typical African woman depicted in the novel lives in the conservative society and there is no room for her in the society, where she cannot realize her inclinations and her desire to get equal rights and opportunities. The new generation of women attempt to become individuals but, on their way to equality and independence of men, they have to overcome numerous challenges and biases. To put it more precisely, women, who attempt to become individuals, have to overcome the resistance of the social biases and stereotypes, as well as the public pressure because people got used to view women as inferior to men. Moreover, they have to overcome religious norms and biases. At the same time, the individual success of women, who have managed to challenge social stereotypes and biases, contrasts to the inferiority of other women. As a result, successful women, being exceptional, may be viewed as models for other women to follow. In such a way, the author apparently implies that traditionalist women have to follow the lead of successful women to become individuals, who are equal to men.

Progressive women, who want to be individuals, cannot limit their life to their household solely as other women do. Instead, they need to implement their ideas and desire to change the life of the local community. In stark contrast, traditionalist women in Golema Mmidi pay little attention to agricultural methods used in the local farming as well as to other socially important issues. Instead, they are entirely focused on their family and household. They raise up their children, they attempt to be good wives and obey to their husbands. However, this is not the life progressive women want to live. In actuality, they are representatives of a new type of women, who are concerned not only on their families, but who want to be a part of the community.

Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is possible to conclude that Bessie Head, in her When Rain Clouds Gather, contrasts two different types of women. On the one hand, there are the majority of women, who get used to live according to traditional cultural traditions. On the other hand, there are progressive women, who challenge cultural traditions and get ready to struggle to become successful individuals, free of biases and oppression. The striking difference between conservative women and progressive ones reveals the extent to which traditionalist African society is underdeveloped and patriarchal, while the success of women who proved to be able to be individuals, is the example for other women to follow.

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