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Marguerite Poland


Chapter 5 & 6:
Questions to challenge you!

Keith Tankard
Updated: 4 March 2014
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The narrative centres on Victor's increasing efforts to trap Frances into a relationship with him.

He participates in an "umngeni" where he challenges Benedict to a fight, passing his shirt to Frances which makes him appear as her suitor.

Helmina later confines Frances to her room in punishment but she escapes and wonders down to the river. There she finds Victor by accident -- and he forces himself upon her in a sensual kiss.

Walter returns from Mbokothwe to find that there has been a twist in the triangular relationship between himself, Frances and Victor. Helmina Smythe fuels this twist by cunning half-truths and white lies to both Walter and Frances.


Victor is related to Frances only through marriage but they have been together since early childhood. Indeed, Frances looks upon him as an older brother.

The isolation of the mission, however, sometimes draws disparate people towards each other.

Victor is about 21 while Frances is 18 years of age. Each are reaching the stage where sexual urges are beginning to emerge. Frances is still innocent but the same cannot be said of Victor.

It quickly becomes evident that Victor has already had a sexual relationship with the former wheelwright's daughter. Indeed, he was probably saved from an embarrassing marriage only by her father's assault on Sonwabo and the family's dismissal from the mission.

The event, however, initiated Victor into the sexual world and he wants more. With the wheelwright's daughter gone, there is no-one else on the mission except Frances.

Initially Walter was not perceived as a threat. When Victor catches Walter teaching Frances to play the piano, however, he realises by the expression on both their faces that the missionary is indeed an adversary.

The young man's manipulative skills are therefore stretched to the maximum. He must make an urgent plan which will not only rid him of his adversary but will secure Frances to him for all time.

It is the moment for his greatest game which he dares not lose. His goal is Frances but in this game she must lose her reputation forever.

She must become his -- and he will achieve this by forcing her to have sexual intercourse with him. Thereafter her only salvation in a hostile Victorian world will be through marriage to him.

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


"The irritation Frances had felt with Victor six months before was tempered with something else: her own restlessness."
  • Explain the meaning of this "restlessness" in Frances. (4)

[Need help?]

How would the following events at the "umngeni" have been viewed in a Victorian context, i.e. by someone like Emily Farborough or Helmina Smythe?
  • Victor shedding his shirt to fight Benedict. (2)

[Need help?]

  • Frances holding Victor's shirt and watching the fight. (2)

[Need help?]

  • Victor's outburst of temper upon losing the stick-fight with Benedict. (2)

[Need help?]

"And Mr Brownley," said Helmina suddenly . . . "I believe he finds you very tiresome at times."
  • Why did Helmina tell this blatant lie to Frances? (4)

[Need help?]

  • What effect does this lie have on Frances? (4)

[Need help?]

When narrating the scene where Frances meets Victor at the river, the author only hints at what really happens. She leaves the rest to the imagination and ingenuity of the reader.
  • What does happen? How does Frances feel about what has happened? How does Victor feel about what has happened? (6)

[Need help?]


"Did a spot of fishing . . . " God Almighty! What was there to fish for in that drought-raddled river?"
  • What does Walter think happened between Victor and Frances at the river? What affect does this knowledge have on Walter? (10)

[Need help?]

The author enlightens us with an explanation of many of the emotional difficulties which Benedict faces at St Matthias Mission.
  • Explain these difficulties. (5)

[Need help?]

Why does Father Charles forbid the "umngeni"? (6)

[Need help?]

Try another worksheet?

See also:
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