Maureen Grundy, English 119, Brown University

One day I woke in a mist, you know, the kind you enter with your shoulders. The morning seemed to rise from the ground, because the mist was so thick and spread slowly from the ground. Even the sun turns white at dawn, in that mist. My arms were heavy as I walked in that early morning to carry water from the river. I only had my arms, because my legs were buried in the mist, but I felt the mist moving upward, towards my face. It was strange to walk separated like that. Then I felt something pulling me down in the grass. This something pulled so hard at my legs, till I fell down. I saw nothing, because the mist was so heavy. I tumbled through the mist, screaming into the grass. (p.23)

New grass grows over the burnt grass. The rocks tumble down the mountain. It is not peaceful, but the sky makes the rocks seem harmless- mist grows over the hills and covers the rocks. Mazvita finds the path again. The mist fills her eyes and hides the sky. The mist is the sky. The mist is blue like the sky but she knows it is not the sky it is the mist. The mist is the sky and the rocks on the side of the hill. The sky tumbles and falls. The mist spreads and folds over the mountains, in layers, over the falling rocks. She walks in a blend of mist and rock, the sky falling over her shoulders, brimming from the mountains over her head. (p.102)

Throughout her novel, Without a Name, Yvonne Vera depicts the story of a woman seeking freedom and anonymity in the city, as war ravages her village in the country. While Vera traces the struggles of this woman as she travels to the city and back home, she also traces the confusion and helplessness of the entire country. Not only do the readers get a sense of Mazvita‚s losses, but they also gain an understanding of the country‚s sense of loss and powerlessness. One way in which Vera succeeds at this task is by using the mist as a powerful, ominous force in scenes where loss and injustice are apparent.

The first scene where Vera depicts the mist is in the scene where Mazvita is raped by the soldier. We see here, before she is pulled into the grass, that the mist is emerging with the morning. The mist is thick, spreading itself over the land, weighing on Mazvita, slowing her down, taking her body and enveloping her until she is lost and helpless in its haze. In fact, with this account of the mist and with Mazvita‚s later memories of the rape, it seems to be the mist that is a perpetrator just as the individual solider is.

Similarly in this second passage, one sees that mist surrounds another scene of loss and tragedy. Mazvita returns to the village, after having been in the city where mist never seems to emerge, to find the burnt remains of the houses and the land and again she finds herself and her surroundings engulfed in a haze. One sees more clearly here Mazvita‚s sense of confusion, as she tries to distinguish the sky from the mist and then finally the mist seems to overtake the entire sky.

What does Vera intend to say about mist and its relationship to Mazvita or to the whole country by associating with incidents of loss, destruction, and violation? In its very purest sense, one thinks of mist as an obstacle to seeing clearly and hence an obstacle in understanding what is truly happening right in front of someone. With her use of the mist, Vera succeeds at creating confusion and a sense of incomprehension of the depicted atrocities, whether they be toward an individual or toward an entire village. However, in another sense, perhaps Vera uses the mist to depict the disillusionment that Zimbabweans generally possessed about the war and their independence. Mazvita‚s entire experience in the book is characterized by her disillusionment about finding freedom and a new life in the city. We see that at the same mist surrounds her when she arrives back at the village in the end as when she left the village. One then wonders whether anything has really changed for her in her journey. Does the perpetual mist symbolize the failure of her attempted escape? In another sense the mist may represent the uncontrollable, looming force which weighs heavy upon the people during this struggle for freedom. It depicts a lurking danger, an indication of tragedy and loss. With the ever-present mist comes the sense that even in the pursuit for freedom, there is no escape from oppression. The mist then implies that people remain burdened, blinded, and confused in their search for freedom. Just as Mazvita cannot fight against the force of the mist, there seems to be some larger force which the people cannot resist either. The mist emerges and envelopes the sky, the land, and the people, perhaps as an indicator that the struggle for true liberation continues and freedom is still far away.

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