The Collector of Treasures

by Bessie Amelia Emery

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What is the significance of the castration episode in Bessie Head's "The Collector of Treasures"?

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The castration scene in Bessie Head's "The Collector of Treasures" is important because it shows that Dikeledi's murder of Garesego was premeditated rather than an unthinking reaction. It further reveals that Garesego was asleep and could not defend himself. The graphic scene complicates the reader's attitude toward the abused wife.

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During much of the story, the author creates a sympathetic ensemble portrait of the five women who are in jail for killing their husbands. The story focuses on Dikeledi, offering a complex treatment of the social circumstances in which she grew up. This contextual information helps the reader understand the misogyny that permeates the patriarchal society. Ironically, the established patterns of male dominance became even more entrenched with independence, as the new government provided more opportunities for men.

While the story does not condone homicide, the author portrays Garesego as an irresponsible, cruel, abusive man. In contrast, Dikeledi exerts all possible efforts to provide for her children after her husband abandons them.

The scene in which Dikeledi kills Garesego by castration adds a twist to this flat characterization of good versus evil. Dikeledi is shown as a careful, even crafty planner who has thought out all the details. Garesego is still shown as manipulative, selfish, and irresponsible, but he is not actually engaged in physical violence toward his wife. She waits till he was in a passive, helpless state. The premeditation is further shown by her having sharpened and hidden the knife. Although Dikeledi commits the murder to benefit her children, the reader sees her in a new light.

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