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Marguerite Poland


Chapter 1:
Some questions to challenge you!

Keith Tankard
Updated: 4 March 2014
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Walter Brownley arrives at St Matthias mission station. The major characters are thereupon introduced to the reader.

This is a critical chapter because it makes major statements about each and every person.


It is generally true that the majority of the English at the Cape Colony in about 1900 were colonialist by nature.

In fact, they were mostly people who had been born in England although some, like Victor Drake, were first generation immigrants, i.e. they were born in South Africa of parents who had immigrated earlier.

The most important characteristic of the colonialists was that they thought like Englishmen. England was "home".

They believed in the essential nature of being English, and that this should be forced upon the indigenous population as a way of enlightening them.

Religion was a critical aspect of being English. Indeed, they believed it imperative to inculcate their version of Christianity upon the Black people.

At the same time, their own children were to be prevented from coming into contact with traditional customs like circumcision rituals and ancestor worship.

Language was another important value. The typical colonialists insisted that all people around them should learn to speak English, and generally frowned upon their children learning an African language.

They treated Afrikaans in the same light -- Afrikaners must learn to speak English.

The English also believed that their own social customs -- i.e. their manner of dress, speech, social mores, etc. -- were superior to all others.

Black South Africans were therefore to wear English clothing, adopt English manners and conventions, use the British economic system and preferably live in English-style houses rather than in traditional huts.

Indeed, a Black family which lived in a Xhosa-style house was taxed more heavily than those living in English-style houses!

Yet it went further than this. The English tended to see "the other" as inferior. Although they did attempt to turn the Xhosa people into Black Englishmen, they never believed this to be entirely possible.

Their philosophy was that all people could be equal, but some would always remain more equal than others.

A perfect example is found in Benedict Matiwane. He was Christian, worshipped in a Church of England community, spoke English and wore English clothing -- and was even considered to be "part of the Farborough family".

Yet he was never allowed further into the Farborough house than the kitchen. Indeed, Benedict was never really "family" at all but was rather a glorified servant.

One notices that Emily Farborough strictly forbade Frances and Crispin speaking Xhosa. They were meant to speak only English -- and the servants were then to be forced to learn English and so become "civilized".

It was very clear that Emily disapproved when Walter Brownley told Benedict that he must teach him to speak Xhosa.

Have you looked at the questions
in the right column?
Read the left column and then answer
the following questions:


Victor is introduced as an arrogant young man who takes a delight in being in control of everyone and everything about him.
  • How is this shown? (4)

[Need help?]

  • What do you think Victor was doing when he sneaked out of his room so late at night? (4)

[Need help?]

  • What does this tell us of his character? (4)

[Need help?]


Mrs Farborough is presented as being a typical late 19th century colonialist.
  • What do we mean by this? In what way are her attitudes typically colonial? (6)

[Need help?]


Emily Farborough says of Benedict that he is "one of the family", yet clearly this is not so.
  • What is Benedict's relationship to the Farborough family? How do we know this? (4)

[Need help?]


What is Helmina's function in the Farborough family? (4)

[Need help?]


What was Walter's background before he came to South Africa? (4)

[Need help?]

Walter did not want to go to a mission station. In a sense, he was tricked into this by the Bishop of Grahamstown.
  • How did the Bishop trick him? (4)

[Need help?]


Frances is presented as a person both critical of Victor and open to be influenced by the newcomer (Walter).
  • Explain how each is so. (4)

[Need help?]


In what way does the "unforgiving verse" explain Frances's sense of guilt at what happens later between her and Victor? (6)

[Need help?]

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