Traumatic Divisions: the Collective and Interpersonal in Bessie Head’s When Rain Clouds Gather

Alan Ramón Ward


It has perhaps now become accepted practice to read Bessie Head’s novel When Rain Clouds Gather (1969) as a triumph of “good” over “evil” characters. Yet such readings fail to account for certain strange resonances that appear throughout the narrative. This essay suggests that evil is not given a face in the novel but is an ominous presence that can only truly show itself from within its opposite. In particular, I ask whether Makhaya’s understanding of evil has not insidiously formed his possibilities as a leader. Head’s novel warns that the difference in the perception of universal principles between a leadership and its people can lead the two groups to develop differently, out of sync, and perhaps even open the door to the dangerous spectre of dictatorial African regimes.


Bessie Head; When Rain Clouds Gather; Jacqueline Rose; Good and Evil; Africa

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