Provide a detailed study guide of the story "The Village Saint" by Bessie Head including the themes, analysis of characters, and important passages.

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The themes of "The Village Saint" are feminine power and emotional (psychological) masks. In fact, the phrase "reality is not what it seems" perfectly sums up the main theme of the story.

Mma-Mompati hides an intractable and selfish nature behind a facade of grace, nobility, and warmth. She presides over...

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The themes of "The Village Saint" are feminine power and emotional (psychological) masks. In fact, the phrase "reality is not what it seems" perfectly sums up the main theme of the story.

Mma-Mompati hides an intractable and selfish nature behind a facade of grace, nobility, and warmth. She presides over her village as the resident "holy woman," her "polished etiquette" and "professional smile" the hallmarks of her benign solicitude. While her husband, Rra-Mompati, presides over tribal affairs, Mma-Mompati reigns as the chief comforter and wise woman of her village. We are told that she manages to keep up her "saintly" facade for twenty-six years, which begs the question: can we ever really claim perfect knowledge of anyone?

Today, psychologists would say that Mma-Mompati shows signs of narcissistic personality disorder. People who suffer from this disorder are invariably self-centered, manipulative, and demanding individuals. They have a great need for praise and the constant attention of others. A main trait shared by those with narcissistic personality disorder is apathy or a lack of empathy. In the story, Bessie Head hints at Mma-Mompati's hidden apathy

She had a professional smile and a professional frown of concern for everything, just like the priests.

Mma-Mompati has so perfected a persona of benignity that her natural egocentric self stays hidden from others. The only evidence for her duplicity is her ubiquitous "professional" smile and frown, which she never fails to lavish on others at opportune moments. In reality, Mma-Mompati lacks a true appreciation for others' concerns; her "holy woman" persona is actually just a means of gaining the attention, praise, and adulation she craves.

Because no one is the wiser regarding Mma-Mompati's true nature, the whole village is thrown into a state of universal indignation when Rra-Mompati leaves her for another woman. No one can understand how Rra-Mompati could leave such an angelic woman. Mma-Mompati's assiduous charm makes it difficult for Rra-Mompati to convince his fellow villagers of the truth. Often, the narcissist's greatest weapon is her carefully-crafted persona which may be impervious to all but the most persistent observer. So, a retiring husband who is accustomed to being overshadowed by his wife may find it almost impossible to break the spell she has cast over others.

It is only when Mompati (their son) marries that Mma-Mompati's true nature is exposed. Mma-Mompati's enemy is Mary Pule, a "thin, wilting willowy dreamy girl with a plaintive, tremulous voice." Mary Pule, however, shows herself to be Mma-Mompati's equal in every way. Like Mma-Mompati, Mary has perfected the art of the emotional mask. Her disarming exterior hides an iron will, every bit as tenacious as that of her mother-in-law's. It is Mary who effectively stops Mma-Mompati from taking huge cuts from Mompati's paychecks.

The text tells us that Mompati finds peace after handing over his paychecks to Mary (instead of to Mma-Mompati). The older lady is furious when she discovers that her control over her son has been broken by the "plaintive little wretch" she despises. Notice that Mary does not react to Mma-Mompati's explosive rage. Instead, she portrays herself as a persecuted daughter-in-law, telling the villagers weepy stories about "misery and torture" at the hands of a cruel mother-in-law.

In the Mompatis' patriarchal culture, women like Mma-Mompati and Mary Pule have found ways to wield power without appearing to undermine the positions of men. Through manipulation and emotional power-plays, women target the vulnerabilities of men to gain an advantage. Even during courtship, a woman like Mary Pule retains control by first identifying male vulnerabilities and then engaging in behavior that creates the illusion of male agency. Bessie Head's story effectively redefines the meaning of power.

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