Welcome to Our Hillbrow

by

Phaswane Mpe

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on Welcome to Our Hillbrow can help.

Lerato Character Analysis

Lerato is a student at the University of Witwatersrand studying literature, and she is the love of Refentše’s life. The two start dating after they’re both victims of a holdup in Johannesburg, and this brush with death causes Refentše to admit his true feelings for Lerato. Lerato lives with Refentše and loves him very much, but she eventually starts to feel as though he is slipping into a depression. She tries to get advice from his best friend, Sammy, and the two end up have sex—Refentše walks in on them in bed, which leads to his suicide. Lerato’s father is Piet, a South African from the village Alexandra. However, after Refentše commits suicide, Refilwe spreads rumors that Lerato is actually a “Lekwerekwere” (a slur for people who immigrant to South African from other African countries) because her father is Nigerian. The backlash she faces from these rumors, coupled with the grief and guilt she feels over Refentše’s death, cause Lerato to commit suicide. When Lerato arrives in heaven, she and Refentše begin their relationship again, and they forgive each other for the mistakes they made in life.

Lerato Quotes in Welcome to Our Hillbrow

The Welcome to Our Hillbrow quotes below are all either spoken by Lerato or refer to Lerato . For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Regret and Redemption Theme Icon
).
Chapter 2  Quotes

You gave her a hug, an embrace. The spiritual support had to be backed up by a physical one. You knew well enough that physical touch could work wonders. You yourself always felt better when a friend gave you a hug, a pat on the shoulder—something like that—when you were sad, hurt or even when you had achieved. So you did what you liked friend and close, caring relatives to do for you.

Bohlale returned your sympathy with a hug, an embrace of her own.

The boy in your trousers decided to express his sympathies too. You felt your heart begin to beat quite fast.

Related Characters: Refentše , Bohlale, Sammy, Lerato
Page Number: 37
Explanation and Analysis:

Your mother had never been to Hillbrow, nor any part of Johannesburg. But your mother was not interested in such details. She hated the Hillbrow women with unmatchable venom—a human venom so fatal it would have put the black mamba’s to shame.

Related Characters: Refentše , Refentše’s Mother, Lerato
Page Number: 39
Explanation and Analysis:

Refilwe rewrote large chunks of the story that Tiragalong had constructed about you, which was that you committed suicide because your mother had bewitched you. In an attempt to drive your heart from the Johannesburg woman, Tiragalong had said, your mother had used medicines that were too strong. They destroyed your brain.

[…]

Refilwe […] rewrote the version of your suicide. In this version of things, you had been bewitched indeed—but not by your mother; by a loose-thighed Hillbrowan called Lerato.

Page Number: 43
Explanation and Analysis:

That day, when Lerato brought you food—she was an outstanding cook—you told her you were not hungry. She knew immediately that things were not right. She was used to you swallowing once or twice more, even when you were already full, just to satisfy her […]. When you again refused her food and—the second indication—showed no sign of enjoying the games you often played together, she began to drift into depression. More so because when she asked what was wrong, you said:

Nothing.

Nothing could not be a satisfactory answer when love was crumbling before her eyes.

Related Characters: Refentše , Lerato , Sammy, Bohlale
Page Number: 49
Explanation and Analysis:

For every new personal experience adds to our knowledge of life and living, death and dying. Every act of listening, seeing, smelling, feeling, tasting is a reconfiguring of the story of our lives.

Yet, when Lerato and Sammy provided you with the chance to add to your storehouse of experience, you could not rise to it. It was at that point that you began to brood, a tinge too gloomily, about love and friendship and the whole purpose of living.

Related Characters: Refentše , Lerato , Sammy
Page Number: 61
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 3 Quotes

You wished, Refentše, that you could return to Johannesburg to let Lerato know that she was never alone in these acts of well-intentioned generosity that we call betrayal, that you too had tasted their bitter-sweet fruits. But you were powerless. You could not return to Alexandra, where Lerato was staying at her mother’s house, when she swallowed the tablets. You could not, because you were not in control of life in this Heaven. Just as you were not in control of life on Earth.

Related Characters: Refentše , Lerato , Sammy
Page Number: 67
Explanation and Analysis:

She told you what it meant to exist with the fear that one’s misdemeanor, one’s open-thighedness—as people would construe her behavior—would be uncovered; the anxiety at the prospect of facing an incredulous mother, whose heart would sink into the abyss of dismay on discovering, suddenly, that her much trusted daughter was, in effect, a murderess; of existing with her life clouded by constant brooding over what fellow University students would have to say about her sexual looseness, that had driven their beloved lecturer into the Dark Chamber of suicide.

Page Number: 69
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 6 Quotes

She wanted to be laid to rest in our Tiragalong, even if it meant exiting this world amidst the ignorant talk of people who turned diseases into crimes. She knew, as Lerato had known, that it was difficult for a woman to face her friends, colleagues and the whole community, and say her name, when they all judged her to be just a loose pair of thighs with voracious appetite […]. Now it was her turn to be accused.

Related Characters: Refilwe, Lerato
Page Number: 116
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Welcome to Our Hillbrow LitChart as a printable PDF.
Welcome to Our Hillbrow PDF

Lerato Character Timeline in Welcome to Our Hillbrow

The timeline below shows where the character Lerato appears in Welcome to Our Hillbrow. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Regret and Redemption Theme Icon
...campus. This is because Refentše would have received a phone call from a woman named Lerato, who would have been calling Refentše to keep him updated on the game, knowing as... (full context)
Regret and Redemption Theme Icon
...still alive. After arguing with Cousin at the bar, his mind would have drifted to Lerato, and Refentše would have thought that the food she made him was probably almost cold.... (full context)
Regret and Redemption Theme Icon
Lerato was one of the friends who was with Refentše during the robbery near the university.... (full context)
Regret and Redemption Theme Icon
Prejudice and Ignorance  Theme Icon
Storytelling Theme Icon
...he would have been rushing home with a full heart. He would not think that Lerato could ever do anything to hurt him. Yet, before he died, Refentše rushed home in... (full context)
Chapter 2 
Regret and Redemption Theme Icon
...Sweeny’s. They did, and they enjoyed an afternoon together, and afterwards Refentše went home with Lerato. Everything was very pleasant, but then Refilwe called a few weeks later and invited Refentše... (full context)
Regret and Redemption Theme Icon
Storytelling Theme Icon
...her, since he knew “how weak he could be.” He had no desire to betray Lerato. In fact, the more he thought about Refilwe, the more he focused his attention on... (full context)
Regret and Redemption Theme Icon
Prejudice and Ignorance  Theme Icon
...that this was also a factor in Refentše’s suicide. Refentše and his mother argued about Lerato because Refentše’s mother thought Lerato had drugged Refentše into loving her. Refentše’s mother was also... (full context)
Regret and Redemption Theme Icon
Prejudice and Ignorance  Theme Icon
...about Hillbrowans, Refentše couldn’t turn to his mother for comfort when he found out about Lerato and Sammy’s betrayal. He also couldn’t go to his closest friend, since Sammy was one... (full context)
Regret and Redemption Theme Icon
Storytelling Theme Icon
...death—they blamed his mother. They said she gave him medicines to break the love potion Lerato had given him, but that these medicines were too strong and ruined his mind. When... (full context)
Regret and Redemption Theme Icon
Prejudice and Ignorance  Theme Icon
Storytelling Theme Icon
...“rewritten” version, Refentše was tricked not by his mother but by a “loose-thighed Hillbrowan” named Lerato. The people of Tiragalong were only too happy to believe such a scandal. Everyone, Refilwe... (full context)
Regret and Redemption Theme Icon
Prejudice and Ignorance  Theme Icon
Storytelling Theme Icon
Refilwe even suggested that Lerato’s father was Nigerian, meaning that Lerato was the daughter of a Lekwerekwere. Refilwe said all... (full context)
Regret and Redemption Theme Icon
Prejudice and Ignorance  Theme Icon
Storytelling Theme Icon
Many months later, it would be revealed that Lerato’s father, Piet, was also the father of a beloved boy from Tiragalong, Tshepo. Tshepo was... (full context)
Prejudice and Ignorance  Theme Icon
Storytelling Theme Icon
...There was one person, though, who knew just how false all of these stories were: Lerato herself. She was heartbroken after Refentše’s death. Lerato, too, found suicide “seductive” in the aftermath... (full context)
Regret and Redemption Theme Icon
...and sees that his choices resulted in the death of two people: his mother, and Lerato. The narrator calls Refentše a “killer.” Heaven also lets Refentše see Sammy’s mind deteriorate from... (full context)
Regret and Redemption Theme Icon
If Refentše had tried to talk to Lerato after she had sex with Sammy, he would have realized that her reasons for cheating... (full context)
Regret and Redemption Theme Icon
The day that Sammy and Lerato had their affair, Refentše was depressed. He hadn’t eaten the food that Lerato prepared him,... (full context)
Regret and Redemption Theme Icon
The difference between Refentše and Bohlale’s affair and Sammy and Lerato’s was that Sammy never found out Bohlale cheated on him. Sammy kept going out and... (full context)
Prejudice and Ignorance  Theme Icon
Storytelling Theme Icon
...not have decided to die by suicide. This would have prevented his mother’s death and Lerato’s suicide. He might have told Sammy the truth about him and Bohlale. Sammy, meanwhile, deranged... (full context)
Regret and Redemption Theme Icon
Storytelling Theme Icon
...it made him intrigued. But his devastation about the affair he imagined between Sammy and Lerato was too great to think clearly. And so Refentše left the world through the window. (full context)
Chapter 3
Regret and Redemption Theme Icon
As Refentše watches from his “heavenly vantage point,” he sees Lerato swallow the tablets that kill her. “See the World through the Eyes of a Child”... (full context)
Regret and Redemption Theme Icon
Storytelling Theme Icon
Refentše also regrets that he was not alive to protect Lerato from a phone call from Terror. Terror, a cruel villager from Tiragalong, called Lerato and... (full context)
Regret and Redemption Theme Icon
Refentše, from heaven, wishes he could have told Lerato that he’d also been unfaithful to their relationship, since this probably would have made her... (full context)
Regret and Redemption Theme Icon
When Lerato does arrive in heaven, she and Refentše spend a long time talking about their days... (full context)
Regret and Redemption Theme Icon
Lerato then tells Refentše about living with the weight of a “vote of no confidence” from... (full context)
Regret and Redemption Theme Icon
Prejudice and Ignorance  Theme Icon
Refentše then takes Lerato to go meet his mother. Refentše’s mother slowly eyes Lerato from head to toe. Then,... (full context)
Storytelling Theme Icon
After the introduction, Refentše and Lerato go to watch a “movie” together, just as they used to do on Earth. That... (full context)
Chapter 4
Prejudice and Ignorance  Theme Icon
Storytelling Theme Icon
Refilwe did not know anything about Piet, Liz, and Lerato’s story. All Refilwe knew was that Lerato lived in Hillbrow, which made her a Johannesburger,... (full context)
Regret and Redemption Theme Icon
Prejudice and Ignorance  Theme Icon
...his foolish “adventurousness” and come back to her, a good woman from Tiragalong. Refilwe, unlike Lerato, could grieve without guilt when Refentše died. She thinks often about what she sees as... (full context)
Regret and Redemption Theme Icon
...him), but she had no way of knowing that this song just reminded him of Lerato. (full context)
Regret and Redemption Theme Icon
...more Refentše thought about his past while having dinner Refilwe’s, the more he thought about Lerato. He realized that he could not betray her. As much as he loved Refilwe—and he... (full context)
Chapter 5
Regret and Redemption Theme Icon
...of her life has been “miraculously transported” back to her. And this time, there’s no Lerato to compete with. That night, Refilwe dreams that she and Refentše are kissing, embracing, and... (full context)
Prejudice and Ignorance  Theme Icon
...themselves and find happiness in each other’s arms, their story will not end well. When Lerato, in Heaven, asks her love, Refentše, why he looks so worried, he says that he... (full context)
Chapter 6
Regret and Redemption Theme Icon
Prejudice and Ignorance  Theme Icon
Refilwe thinks about Lerato, and how Lerato knew a thing or two about being judged by her community. Refilwe... (full context)
Regret and Redemption Theme Icon
...She understands that life will go on without her. She knows she will meet Refentše, Lerato, and all the others in the afterlife. The narrator explains what heaven is: it is... (full context)