Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Blending polemic, history, and anthropology without compromising aesthetic merit tests the skill of any writer. Head’s achievement is that she can address African readers while informing her audience abroad. Although origins of eroding family life in this story are specific to Botswana, the threat of materialistic moral decay to modern families is universal. By beginning her story with Dikeledi’s affirmation of love and intimacy, she involves her readers in a complex character, yet the detached narrative voice withholds judgment of the character for her crime. As one questions Dikeledi’s motives, the narrative flashback unfolds not only her background but also the complexity of Kenalepe, Garesego, and Paul, who all sustain the developing characterization and provide parallels and contrasts. Simple, direct imagery plays an important part in the story, from the title motif of fellow feeling as a kind of “treasure” to the animal images used to describe Garesego. Although Head employs dialogue sparingly, she does so effectively. Her characters speak openly and directly to one another, embodying the intimacy achieved first among the prisoners and later in the friendship between Dikeledi and Kenalepe; the authenticity of human compassion and its power to create new stability in the family and community are thus affirmed. Ironically, Dikeledi creates a new order of stability that excludes the very society that sentenced her; symbolically, she finds her deepest freedom in prison.