The Characters

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Maru and Moleka are presented as kings of two opposing kingdoms, not earthly kingdoms, but inner, spiritual kingdoms. Maru believes that the gods have granted him a special insight into the ways of the world and its people, but he quietly fears Moleka, whose kingdom to him is unfathomable:

The king who had insight into everything feared the king whose door was still closed. There was no knowing what was behind the closed door of Moleka’s kingdom. Maru had no key to it, but he knew of its existence because if he touched Moleka’s heart with some word or gesture a cloud would lift and he would see a rainbow of dazzling light.

The friendship between the two men ends the second that Maru realizes that the balance of power has shifted in favor of Moleka, because of Moleka’s love for Margaret. Margaret completes Moleka’s previously incomplete kingdom and gives him more power than Maru has: “’He is greater than I in power,’ he thought, at first stunned, taken aback by the sight.” He thinks further, “Moleka had to wait until his door was opened by another hand. Moleka is only half a statement of his kingdom. Someone else makes up the whole. It is the person he now loves.” What makes Moleka a king is his over-abundance of energy. Maru’s gift, on the other hand, is creative imagination. When Margaret’s creative imagination is combined with Moleka’s energy, the two are more...

(The entire section is 465 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)


Maru (MAH-rew), an African tribal leader soon to be installed as hereditary Paramount chief in the village of Dilepe, Botswana. Adhering to the gods within him rather than to any external source of personal feeling, he is prompted to marry a woman of Bushman origin, an “untouchable” in the eyes of his fellow tribespeople. To do so, however, he must renounce his chieftainship, even though he is more just and wise a ruler than the brother who will take his place. With three trusted companions and his bride, the younger Margaret Cadmore, he travels a thousand miles away to start a new life as a subsistence farmer.


Moleka (moh-LAY-kah), the second most powerful man in Dilepe. He and Maru are close friends but then become bitter enemies and rivals for the love of the younger Margaret Cadmore. With the help of his spies, Maru maneuvers Moleka into a marriage with Dikeledi, even though Moleka loves Margaret.

Margaret Cadmore (younger)

Margaret Cadmore (younger), an orphan and a light-skinned woman of the Masarwa tribe, reared by and named for a missionary. She becomes a schoolteacher in the village of Dilepe. When she first arrives in Dilepe, she is subjected to the same racial humiliation and ridicule as she was in her childhood. Treated as an outcast, she once again becomes a victim of racial oppression. Margaret is...

(The entire section is 446 words.)