Fiela’s Child


Dalene Matthee

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Themes and Colors
Race and Identity Theme Icon
Parenting Theme Icon
Justice Theme Icon
Humanity vs. Nature Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Fiela’s Child, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Race and Identity

Fiela’s Child centers around one young man’s struggle to figure out his identity. He wonders whether he’s truly Benjamin Komoetie, the adopted son of the “Coloured” (multiracial) farmer Fiela, or whether he is Lukas van Rooyen, the lost son of Elias and Barta who wandered off as a young child and was originally presumed dead. The novel takes place on the Western Cape of South Africa in the 1800s. Institutional racism and white supremacy…

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Fiela’s Child is about the relationship between parents and children. The two main families are the Komoeties (a mostly “Coloured” (multiracial) family of farmers who live in a hot, dry region called Long Kloof) and the van Rooyens (a white family descended from Dutch settlers who live in the Forest). Benjamin, whose parents are unknown, unites the two families: over the course of the story, the Komoeties and the van Rooyens both claim Benjamin…

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Fiela’s Child examines the meaning of justice by presenting a situation where the supposedly just official legal system delivers an unjust result. At the center of the novel is a magistrate’s decision to take the white foundling Benjamin away from his adopted “Coloured” (multiracial) mother, Fiela, “returning” him to the white van Rooyens to replace their lost son Lukas. While the magistrate and his colleagues use bureaucratic language to justify their decision…

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Humanity vs. Nature

Throughout Fiela’s Child, many of the characters struggle against their natural environment, with some characters trying to live in harmony with nature and others trying to dominate it. The most hostile character toward nature is Elias, for whom nature is little more than a way for him to get rich, and he shows no regard for the natural environment as he dreams up schemes to make himself wealthier. While his wood-beam making work hints…

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