When Rain Clouds Gather

by Bessie Head, Bessie Amelia Emery

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How does Makhaya treat women in When Rain Clouds Gather?

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Initially, Makhaya treats women quite badly. Having escaped apartheid-era South Africa, he freely admits that he doesn't care about people, and this naturally extends to women. However, he realizes in due course that women are essential to realizing his bold ambitions for the Botswanan village in which he has found refuge.

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Makhaya, the protagonist of When Rain Clouds Gather, is quite a complex character, which only serves to make him more interesting. Inevitably, this means that there's a good side and a bad side to him, often in direct conflict with each other.

The bad side of Makhaya can be seen in his attitude toward women. Having escaped from apartheid-era South Africa to neighboring Botswana, he's understandably cynical when it comes to the human race. His misanthropy, his hatred of humanity, comes through strongly in his frank admission that he doesn't care about people.

Naturally, this would include women. And it isn't very long before we see Makhaya's misogyny in action when he selfishly seeks shelter for the night from an old woman who, like him, is a refugee. There's no sense of solidarity here; Makhaya is just using her.

Later on in the story, however, Makhaya realizes that his bold ambition to bring cash-crop tobacco farming to the village in which he has sought sanctuary is dependent on local women. Simply put, the agricultural miracle that Makhaya envisages will not happen without the women of the village.

Although Makhaya has become less cynical about human beings, including women, one can say that he's still looking at people as means to an end rather than ends in themselves. Yet this attitude eventually subsides when Makhaya finds love with the widow Paulina, one of the many women who have worked hard to make Makhaya's grand ambitions a reality.

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