Hope, Freedom, and Death

John Yang, English 119, Brown University

This hole is so deep and so old and heavy on my back. Joel, this body is not me sinking into this hole so deep and dark. Where can I go and remain whole? Who will help me carry this pain? Where will I speak this tale, with which mouth for I have no mouth left, no fingers left, no tears to drink. Let me thirst and die. Let me lie down and die because I have died in this sleep. What is it that came to visit that left footmarks here and there and everywhere? It left its skin right there on my path for me to nest under. I will be buried in a skin unknown and strange. Joel, I hear a fly buzzing all around. It is buzzing around the head of my child. Is that the hole dug for me, so deep, and that fly buzzing over my head sent from that hole? Who will hear my song? Who will carry it for me this pain and this suffering heavy on my back? I have turned and turned in my sleep dreamt of mountains such mountains growing on my back? Let me walk onto that mountain growing on my back. (86)

Yvonne Vera's Without a Name tells the tale of Mazvita, a women who quests for the promise of freedom in a big city only to find that promise broken. The word freedom connotes lack of restrictions, independence, self-determination, and self-sufficiency. Mazvita's anonymity in Harari is the tool by which she can attain this freedom she longed for but which she could not find in her village of Mubaira. In the confines of a big city, Mazvita can find her release, find her voice and find her identity because she starts with the same anonymity all the other residents possess in the big city:

Mainly, she searched for who she was as she had realized that in the city, she was someone new and different, someone she had not met. Mazvita had to find her Harari. She had to find a voice with which to speak, without trying to hide from herself. She had to look up when someone spoke to her or else her newness betrayed her. She had to laugh with more abandon not with the restraint she had brought from Mubaira, and to walk too with firmer footsteps.(58)

Instead of finding this voice, this freedom in Harari, it seems as though Mazvita has inherited even more restrictions on her person and her identity so much so that she no longer has the capability of finding her "new self." As the first passage states, she bears an even bigger burden on her back after seven months in Harari with the baby without a name that nobody wants. Mazvita realizes then that death is the only freedom available to her. Her desire for freedom has resulted in a dependence upon Joel for food and shelter and an absent belief that she can leave him or she will be able to leave him anytime she wants. Instead, Joel kicks her out of the house, leaving her to ponder the reasons why she came, if she should go back to Mubaira, and if she really wants the baby herself. She has lost her freedom because she had never attained it, and therefore she has lost a voice, an importance in her surroundings to the point where she cannot in fact name her baby.

Why does Mazvita resolve that death is the only freedom? Has she truly lost her voice or has she simply given up on it? More importantly, why is that first passage of hopelessness and despair written with a first-person narration? Does this passage indicate a more general feeling of the author as well as Mazvita? What can be said about this passage with respect to Mazvita, the Zimbabwean struggle for freedom, and Vera's own attitude, when it is the only passage in the entire novel written in the first person?

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