Fiela’s Child


Dalene Matthee

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Fiela’s Child: Chapter 20 Summary & Analysis

Elias feels that life is passing him by. After his elephant injury, he hasn’t been able to get on the scaffold to cut wood beams in six months. He feels that his only option is to buy a gun to hunt elephants. Still, he’s glad that “Lukas” (Benjamin) and Kristoffel have been so easy to deal with.
Elias’s attempts to increase his wealth backfire, making him a less productive worker (due to injuries), therefore making him even more eager to earn more money to make up for what he’s lost. This passage shows how greed can be a destructive cycle.
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Elias regrets that he killed an elephant calf, since it had no tusks and was therefore worthless to him. He’s jealous that so many people he knows own elephant guns. He heard a story of a nearby man who shot an elephant calf for the meat, then later the calf’s mother killed him, but he isn’t sure if the story is actually true.
This passage shows how greed and jealousy intertwine. Elias wants more money not just for his own pleasure, but specifically so that he can try to attain or surpass the status of his neighbors. Elias’s desires are so strong that even after knowing the possible consequences of messing with nature (death, in the case of the man who killed the calf for meat), he still persists.
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Elias resents that his injury and fear of the elephants prevent him from going through the Forest into the village to collect Nina’s wages. Eventually, Elias sends Willem to go fetch Nina, but Willem finds out that she has been fired. Willem gets the family that fired her to take her back, but three months later, Benjamin finds Nina by the creek and learns that she’s been fired from her job again and has been living in the forest for a week. Nina lives at home for another three months before Elias finds her another job, though it pays a much lower rate, due to her bad reputation in the village.
Elias’s plan to send Nina out to make money has partially backfired, since the farther away Nina is, the more difficult she’ll be to control. Elias tries to enlist his sons to do the work of controlling her, but he can’t change the simple fact that the older Nina gets, the more independent she is going to become. Eventually, it becomes less about money for Elias and more about control, as he keeps sending Nina away even after she proves she can’t make much money for him.
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