Maru is definitely not likeable but then again most real life leaders are not. Leaders portrayed in literature, movies tend to be likeable because the writer wants to champion some idea using that character. In this case, I don’t think Bessie head necessarily wanted us to like Maru or feel warm fuzzies about Margaret finally ending up with Maru( and not Moleka).
She was driving the point home that the reality of overcoming prejudice takes more than inviting one’s servants to the dinner table and eating from the same fork. Maru has to literally create a new society and he hand-picks those that he deems to be worthy of being citizens of such a society and also those who have characters that would make a good foundation for such a society.
Those that thrive in the existing society – such as Moleka, Dikeledi – are left in the old society. He even connives to get Moleka and Dikeledi together because they are some of the best at what they do in that society.
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All the unsavoury characters such as all the women who were after Maru’s position, all the bigots who looked down upon Margaret, the nurses who refused to wash the body of the dead “Masarwa” women – all of them are left behind in the old society. the missionary Margaret Cadmore eventually leaves; the goat and her kid leave the village of abuse and go and live with Margaret; the bus driver that transports Margaret into the prejudiced society places Margaret in the “good hands” of mistress Dikeledi and then he leaves with the bus; Maru is the next in line to be king but he can’t rule such a society – his dreams are bigger than their prejudices so he also leaves and he takes with him the few candidates that would be good seed for cultivating a new just society.
That is also why he is constantly plagued by the fact that he can never know if his decision to take Margaret away from Moleka was the right decision. He can only let time tell which seeds will grow and which ones will not. He loves Margaret but he is never sure if his love was the greater one – the better one – the one that does not lead to the destruction of the one character that is untainted by the warped society. as sure as he is of himself and his vision, he still cannot see the picture from the point of view of universe….. i. e. why are there men like Moleka, why are there men like Maru, why do even the purest of women still get attracted to men like Moleka. Remember Margaret’s first encounter with Moleka is not exactly a rosy walk in the park…why is there women who scheme for social position, why is it that men such as Maru have to trick women into marrying them. why are people like Dikeledi quite happy to accept the way things are even though they see the prejudices as clearly as Maru, et cetera – hence his recurring nightmare.
When we are introduced to moleka, it is clear that he thrives in that society. When we are introduced to Dikeledi, it is also clear that she embraces her positions in that society – and the only men that is good enough for her is Moleka. when we are introduced to Maru, he is not liked by his servants. Margaret has troubled introduction to the world. Moleka and Dikeledi belong and thrive in the current system. Maru and Margaret do not thrive in that system. So do Maru and Margaret stick around and accept the death plots and prejudice?
So, I like Maru as a character because in the end, he actually makes a stand against the whole village, he challenges Moleka to come after him if his love is really superior – alas, Moleka chooses the here and now. So, Maru is not by any means perfect but then again Moleka is not exactly a saint either. Maru chooses the future without prejudice in a new society. Moleka chooses the current society with all its flaws. i think it is a misconception to think that Bessie head meant this to be a fairy tale.
This story is very close to reality. There are no happy solutions to fighting injustice, prejudice and other such vices. The overcoming of such only is attained by those who are strong enough to make tough decisions even when those decisions are unpopular. Would Moleka really have left his womanizing ways and settled for a woman who didn’t care about social status? ……if Bessie head had ended the story with Moleka and Margaret together then it would have been a fairy tale