One of the most present themes in Maru is how unjust social norms and practices can and must be challenged by individuals in order to create lasting change. The process of social isolation and untouchability is something that is challenged by both Margaret and the men who love her. This idea is present in the end, when Maru takes Margaret as his bride, leaving his social setting and fighting through a new path that is unworn. In the end, this becomes one of the most powerful themes in the novel. If individuals wish to change the world into what it should be as opposed to what it is, this process has to begin with individuals who are willing to make sacrifices for such a cause. These sacrifices are painful and filled with challenge as both Margaret and Maru both prove, but they are needed in order for the negative practices of the past to stop and to cease. A new social order is always difficult to envision, unless a level of commitment to its goals are present in the actions of its individuals and this is something seen in the text.
I believe that there are three main themes in this story. They are love, prejudice, and the value and power of education.
Margaret is the daughter of a "Bushman," and Bushmen are looked down on by just about everybody. They are the lowest of the low, and Margaret suffers prejudice and discrimination frequently during the story.
And if the white man thought Africans were a low, filthy nation, Africans in Southern Africa could still smile—at least they were not Bushmen.
The aversion to Bushmen is clearly evident when Margaret's birth mother is left dead on the side of the road. Nobody was even willing to bury the body.
A second theme is love. While this story is about Margaret's struggle to overcome the discrimination around her, it is also a clear love story. In fact, this story has a love triangle. Two men, Maru and Moleka, are both in love with Margaret. Additionally, both men are willing to overlook and ignore the fact that Margaret is a Bushman. Maru even gives up his right to being chief by marrying Margaret. That gives this story a sort of "love conquers all" motif.
Finally, this story emphasizes the importance and power of education. Margaret is bullied and antagonized by her peers in school because she is a Bushman. As a result, she devotes large amounts of time and energy into her books. Reading is a form of escapism for her; however, it has the result of turning Margaret into an excellent student. Her academic prowess then earns her a teaching position at Dilepe. Her intelligence, self-confidence, and education are what earns her the respect and love of Dikeledi, Maru, and Moleka.