The river in the story symbolizes the community that lives around the river and the change that comes with the migration. Bessie Head compares the community to the deep and steady river but also talks about the change that comes when the head of the tribe dies—because rivers move and have currents as well.
Head writes that "the people lived together like a deep river. In this deep river which was unruffled by conflict or a movement forward, the people lived without faces" because they aren't worried by things like personal pride or accomplishment. Instead, they work together to make a good life for everyone. This is embodied in the chief of the tribe and is one reason why things are in such upheaval once the chief dies. He makes all the decisions, and then one day he is gone, and the community is left to function without him.
When this happens, it's revealed that the chief's oldest son and heir was in love with the chief's last and youngest wife; he also fathered her child. People urge...
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