Discuss Toloki's process of self-definition, as described in Ways of Dying by Zakes Mda.

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durbanville | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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In Ways of Dying by Zakes Mda, Toloki has been able to fashion a life for himself in the city, having moved away from "the village" as a young man and, other than a few efforts to "get together and talk about home," he has no real interest in his "homeboys" especially after an unfortunate occurence with Nefolovhodwe, the furniture seller. Toloki does not easily forget and definitely does not easily forgive others. He arrives at the funeral of Noria's son more by accident rather than arrangement - as would be normal for a Professional Mourner, such as he is. He had thought that this Christmas Day, which held no special significance for him anyway, would be spent "in utter boredom at his quayside resting place."

Toloki senses his own importance and sets himself apart from others. He is proud of himself for finding his niche, and the "ritual of his profession" is crucial in creating his persona. He, himself, has great respect for the person who is designated "the Nurse" at funerals and feels it a "sacrilege" when others do not show the same admiration. Funerals are his business. His clothes, his "black costume and top hat," make him feel important and are "a hallmark of his profession." He feels that others respect that and the references he makes to his "profession" are significant in understanding how seriously he takes his career. He does not realise that others are perhaps put off by his appearance ( and smell) and believes it is his demeanour that ensures that "He has this effect on people sometimes." His imagined status also, he thinks, ensures that "No one ever bothers him and his property." He even thinks he is perhaps somewhat exotic, his food choices reminding him of "monks of eastern religions." Toloki is a proud man "strong enough not to take a cent he has not worked for," and this should be admired.   

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