One of my favourite books by Paulo Coelho, The Witch of Portobello. These are one of my favourite parts from the book.

The question of what is a teacher has played a role in my life since reading this is my high school period.

‘What is a teacher? I’ll tell you: it isn’t someone who teaches something, but someone who inspires the student to give of her best in order to discover what she already knows’.

In most cases it is women who are bothered by the idea of dieting or losing weight. Although, eating disorders are experienced by both male and females. Reading this next part left a mark in my life as I turned away from the media’s perception of being “thin”.

‘We have survived for all these millennia because we have been able eat. And now that seems to have become a curse. Why? What is it that makes women at forty years old, want to have the same body that they had when they were young? Is it possible to stop time? Of course not. And why should we be thin? We don’t need to be thin… Eat in moderation, but take pleasure in eating: it isn’t what enters a person mouth that’s evil, but what leaves it. Remember that for millennia we have struggled in order to keep from starving. Whose idea was it that we had to be thin all of our lives? Use the energy and effort you put into dieting to nourish yourself with spiritual bread. Respect that and you will get no fatter than passing time demands. Instead of artificially burning those calories, try to transform them into the energy required to fight for your DREAMS’.

*Paulo Coelho



In a view of an ordinary person that looks upon the developments of Pearson Institute of Higher Education( formerly known as MGI),  one may come across a number of students on their way to class.  On a Thursday afternoon, it is just like any other productive day of the week but a sense of excitement knowing that the next day is the beginning of the weekend.
Some students may be taking a break on the second floor of campus (Hummanities) at the cafeteria while others are skipping class. There is nothing new about students making conversation and socialising with others across the cafeteria. In the meantime, a path of learning from others with different backgrounds.
It is not only students and lecturers that are involved in the PI’s campus but those people that are easily ignored. The cleaners, construction workers, assistants. They put great effort into making sure this institution progresses positively.



Once a victim twice a heroine!


This book is written from a unique writer, Alice Walker, that tells a story of black women and which some parts could be a story of her own as a black woman. She demonstrates the brutal living conditions of what women face and how they live with abusive, arrogant male partners with more pressure from the white domination.  Walker intends to show the imbalance of freedom, liberation and equality. The main character, Celie, becomes a link towards female consciousness as she goes through a journey of hardship and later a heroine. (Ping & Jinling: 2006).

Women are transformed to what they are usually known for to unheard stories like those of Celie’s story. Gender roles are questioned and the concepts of married wives at home are revealed under shocking circumstances. Celie acts as a voice for young girls that go through a journey of silence and no control over their livelihood.  The black cultural heritage is presented into the book and Walker challenges the domination of the male species which is quite similar to the white domination; the desire to control.



Walker’s work is more of a Black feminist, not only does she point out the patriarchal oppression but voice out the stories of black women. Walker demonstrates the lines between femininity and masculinity. She develops her characters through analysing gender roles and the impact they have on one another.

Gender is explored through language; men and women use the same words but can be said differently. When a woman embraces her feminine side it becomes part of her culture which Simone de Beauvior states. Nettie sends a picture to Celie of the Olinka wives and talks about how these women were treated remind her so much of their vicious father. They lived in a male dominated environment and had to respond to the men’s instructions. The women are taught a submissive language as to always obey while men use language to gain power. Power is only known to be for a male being only and since women are not educated their first goal is to marry in the Olinka culture. Tashi’s parents were not supportive of her interests of studying and learning with Olivia (Celie’s daughter); she can only be regarded as something once she marries. They believed that a woman’s identity can only be defined through her husband and the greatest victory would be to marry the chief. Once a woman rebels against her husband she will be sold and is considered useless.

A bravery character, Sofia, that chooses to not be suppressed by anyone even the white domination. She stands up for herself and fights her way through abusive men. Her strength to fight back makes Harpo father dislike her more. Harpo tries to be the masculine one and have control over Sofia but he has been following instructions from his father that he does not know how to take control. Sofia has masculine features and seems to be in more control over their relationship. However later on, Sofia gets a new boyfriend that has the common features of a tall black masculine man but is not violent and harsh; Sofia is still able to remain the dominant figure in the relationship. Walker shows the intention of women having the desire to think as they please and to act against violence and inequality with a character like Sofia.

Shug has both feminine and masculine characteristics, she in between the lines of what is expected from a woman and what a woman desires. Shug introduces Celie to a world of freedom, bravery, and happiness. Celie becomes more aware of her sexuality and attraction towards Shug. Shug also inspires Celie to sew pants not only for men but for women too; they grow into having a more than a “friend” relationship.

Childhood of Celie and Sofia

Shug makes Celie aware of God, she describes God as “it” and is everywhere around us including the “color purple field”. The God that Celie prays to and writes letters to is right beside her. When she realises that God is actually in every aspect of her life just like how nature surrounds her, she begins to refer God as Dear Stars, Sky. Trees, Everything. Her image of God transforms from a white male figure that the white race describes Him as to a loving Mother Nature which Shug shows to Celie.


The gender conflicts experienced in society can only be explained through social relations. How men and women treat one another socially becomes their everyday routine and it is up to individuals to act to according to how they feel what may be right or normal. Overall race plays a role in the social environment; one is treated differently based on their race which impacts their social interaction towards others. Miss Millie (the mayor’s wife) takes advantage of Sofia by mistreating her and putting her in prison, she then later becomes her maid. Sofia had a stable financial status with her boyfriend and could not tolerate the unfairness of the white race, but Miss Millie could still take away everything away from her because she is white and represents the male domination.

In the black culture even the different shades of colour, makes people treat them differently. Mr._’s father disapproves of Shug, simply because is considered as “black as tar”. On the other hand, Squeak, which is Harpo’s girlfriend, is more pride in her lighter complexion. She discovers she is related to Bubber Hodges, her uncle (a white man). This explains her lighter complexion that the black community finds pleasant especially to men. When she goes over to Hodges to help Sofia with her time in jail, she is raped by her own family member. Squeak is still considered weak, vulnerable and insecure even though she has a white relation. The authority seems to only belong to men and this shows a cycle of abusive men whether black or white. (Pi-Li Hsiao, 2008).


Pi-Li Hsiao. (2008). Language, Gender, And Power in the Color Purple. Available:

Ping & Jinling. (2006). The Color Purple and Alice Walker’s Female Consciousness. Available:

“There are many ways of dying”

Ways of dying

In the beginning of the book, the reader is introduced to the Nurse shouting, “There are many ways of dying,..” (Mda, 1995: 1) An indication on how people do not only die physically but emotionally, mentally and spiritually. The Nurse addresses the young boy that has passed on, and emphasis on how young people are killed by their own people.

Zakes Mda shares the idea that there are many ways of dying through the transition phase of South Africa.  Some were alive but were not living and others had to live through brutal and harsh conditions while most innocent adults and children lost their lives. (Enotes editors, 2013).

In this story, some families or communities were exposed to the result of death from violence. Death had become a norm and commoner in the community while life goes on for the rest of them. The main character in the book, Toloki, speaks about how people live while dying and others live with death, he has a brief experience of this from his father Jwara- “…our ways of dying are our ways of living; or should I say our ways of living are our ways of dying?” (Mda, 1995: 98).

There are some that live to praise others and an example of this character is Jwara, of how he lived a life of praising Noria and could not live without her songs. He had depended on Noria to sing in order for him to carry on with his everyday routine. Jwara could not live a normal life without Noria, he had a way of not living but dying instead. Each day after Noria was no longer present he died slowly from the inside, and chose to distance himself from everyone and reality. When Noria had stopped singing for him, it was the beginning of Jwara’s dying journey. Jwara was not living and had died long before he had died physically. It seems as Jwara had died emotionally and spiritually though his death still remains unknown- “We do not know how Jwara died.” (Mda, 1995: 110-111).

Before the new South Africa had come to take place, there had been a number of unfair means of humanity, anger, bitter memories and blame towards one another. The deaths of youngsters and innocent people were unforgettable which made it difficult for South African citizens to adjust to changes and live within a democratic and peaceful country.

Zakes Mda tells a short background on Ways of Dying:


Magical Realism occurs when the character’s circumstances are completely different from what the character’s thoughts or story is. In other words, a way of imaginations that mixes reality with fantasy. (Hill.2013).

The literal theory is expressed in the struggles of the new South Africa, which is the “transition” phase. Zakes Mda shows magical realism through how people make sense of their own lives. A reader is introduced into the world of a Professional Mourner, and the everyday norms of violence in the country (Enotes Editors.2013).

Mda highlights the following concept saying “Then on two walls, he plasters pictures of ideal houses and gardens and swimming pools, all from the Home and garden magazines. By the time he has finished, every inch of the walls is covered with bright pictures a wallpaper of sheer luxury” (Mda, 2005:11). From this it highlights his views to reflect on the basis of how Noria and Toloki take a walk in the garden and admire all their luxuries, but all this is not true, that is where magical realism comes in. They fantasise the pictures on the walls and make it seem real as their own. Their events of magical realism seem to be unrealistic and impossible to believe but it relates to them and others that have experienced these similar situations.

The harsh reality that these characters experience seem to be unbearable, but Noria and Toloki chose to leave the past behind and escape reality into living together as homeboys and homegirls. Noria was highly praised by everyone and considered to be a goddess. Toloki was seen as an ugly boy, and this reflected on how he had an ugly past just as how South Africa had a brutal past (apartheid). (:127).

The pregnancy of Vutha the Second is also another example of magical realism. Vutha’s existence has a mystery of how he was formed; Mda shows a similar known story of Mary and the birth of Jesus. Noria was not touched by a man, yet she fell pregnant with Vutha which in reality is quite impossible as well as the pregnancy of 15 months. While some believe in miracles and others don’t.


Enotes editors. (2013). Hamlet: Discuss the role of magical realism in the novel Ways of Dying by Zakes Mda. Available: -novel-ways-dying-by-432971 [Accessed: 28 April 2014, Time: 9:45].

Hill, L. (2013). Ways of dying, by Zakes Mda. Available: -of-dying-by-zakes-mda/ [Accessed: 07 May 2014, Time: 12:09].

Mda, Z. (1995). Ways of Dying. Cape Town: Oxford University Press.




When looking at the literal meaning of the title, Heart of Darkness, it is referring to the darkness of, Africa. The main journey is shown in Congo as Africa was still being explored by a number of adventurous foreigners from Europe. “…Heart of Darkness” means the inmost region of the territory which was, in those days, still in the process’ of being explored,…” this could be the means of the events that happened in Congo.

There was a famous explorer and writer called Henry Morton Stanley and Joseph Conrad who had seen parts of Africa as well. But there are big differences between Stanley’s views and Conrad’s views.  Stanley had been one of the first explorers and eventually spreads the phrase of “the dark continent”. While with Conrad, before his journey into Africa, it had already been explored by others.

The physical environment in Europe and the Congo

This novella, Heart of Darkness was set during the 1890s in which Conrad shares his experiences of his journey but was only published in 1902. In the beginning of the story, Charlie Marlow is in the location of England, a much more civilised and developed country compared to Congo. At this point in England, there were no black people; a rarity and seemed not to exist. Marlow shares his storytelling among the men. Some of the events that take place are outside of Congo but the most ground-breaking events happen in Congo. Throughout the novel there is special attention towards a character known as Mr. Kurtz. He had fallen under the influence of the savages and lives through their lifestyle of adapting their environment and brutal way of living. But Congo had belonged to the savages as it is their home. Marlow is the storyteller in this novella.

The physical aspects and the environment are described during an occasion of the Europeans sailing on the river of Congo. The natives notice these visitors and are alarmed, they begin to attack. As the natives peep behind the trees of the jungle, it may have appeared to them as strange and unfamiliar beings and that is why they attacked?

There is an atmosphere in the book that Marlow describes as the first time of beginnings of travelling. He also talks about the silence of the forests and the sunlight in the area that he was exploring was rather not pleasing. Marlow describes the physical features of the river closely, he refers the river to the stillness of peace- “this stillness looked at a man with a revengeful aspect”-this kind of description brings the reader back to the phrase of the “Heart of Darkness.” (Naeem, 2010).

The two rivers

The reader is introduced into the Nellie in between the Thames River near Gravesend, England. Marlow has company on the ship and tells them of his journey. How travelling up to Congo River had been a tremendous adventure. He first gives them an imagination of what it could have been for the Romans that travelled into England for the first time.  He assumes it must have been a jungle of forests as well. But he states that they are different among them as Romans were the victorious, “… they are colonists, whereas the Romans were conquerors.”

Along his journey while he was in London, before exploring Congo, he speaks about how he travelled many places but came across a map and longed to travel elsewhere which appeared to be the unknown depths of Congo. (Novelguide, n. a.).

The colour of some character’s skins

Throughout the novella, the common colours that are used are black and white. It is the contrast of their skin colour and what character they portray and links to a person’s soul. It is the savages’ skin colour that is black and Marlow as well the other European men skin colour that is white. ”Black symbolises evil and white symbolises good.” (AP Lit, 2008).

A black/dark soul that is of a white man is more likely to be evil and dishonest.  “I met a white man in such an unexpected elegance of getup…” (Conrad, 1902: 21) – This shows how a white man is seen to be a good person. And is a good example of Kurtz’s character and skin colour. Though white is good, looks and physical features can be deceiving. While a white/light soul that is a black man is likely to be honest and sincere. “An athletic black belonging to some coast tribe and educated by my poor predecessor… thought all the world of himself” (Conrad, 1902: 45). A black person is seen with evilness in contrast with their skin colour.  Example, the savages.



During one of Marlow events, through the night he seems blinded by the darkness of the sky. He hears a loud splash in the early morning and compares this to a gun that has been fired. As the morning progresses he sees a white fog that covers his sight and seems more unclear then the night. The fog remains, feeling like it was not passing, it would lift up now and then but comes down again making it almost impossible to see.

The fog creates a sense of confusion and uncertainty. While Marlow is on his journey with his steamer, he is uncertain on how his journey may proceed and what may come forth. In the above description of not being able to see clearly gives out a feeling of mysterious encounters. What is beyond this fog? As the fog is literally and physically white and the colour is opposite to darkness; this also emphasises on blindness. ( , 2014).

Physical actions- how the environment and characteristics are treated

Naeem (2010) claimed that when reading through, the natives, the reader can pick up a sense of mystery and fear; this brings the reader into the point of darkness.

In the book when Marlow’s steamer draws closer to the forest, the natives are alarmed and begin the attacks. There is a loud cry by the natives like some kind of language among the natives. This cry brings out fear toward the white men. The natives attack with their arrows and the white men respond by firing their rifles. In all of this, it is not about the attack of the natives that creates the effect of darkness.  It is rather their behaviour and reaction of ignorance. They do not have an idea of why these white men-including Marlow’s have arrived. Before considering their reasons, the natives chose to attack. But they were ordered by their master Mr. Kurtz. He is the influence of the savages’ mentality as he is barbaric and identifies himself among them.

In Marlow eyes, Mr. Kurtz has fallen in their ways that he even practising their customs and traditions. He has become evil and holds a high position on their land. Marlow elaborates how Kurtz’s sanity becomes part of the darkness of Congo. For he has lived in the Heart of Darkness and has become a dark person.

There’s a contrast of Kurtz, from a civilized and educated man to a brutal dangerous person. This could also reflect to Africa, a once peaceful continent to conflicted and disastrous and this could lead to the literal darkness of Congo. He behaved like them and the natives regarded him as a GOD because he had given them the impression that he belongs with them. But he was once also a white man visiting their land just like those of Marlow and other white men.



Naeem, M. (2010). Bring out clearly the significance of the titleHeart of Darkness”. Available: http: [Accessed: 20 August 2014].

Novelguide. (n. a. ). Heart of Darkness: Summary: Part 1. Available: [Accessed: 27 August 2014].

Conrad, J. (1902). Heart of Darkness. United Kingdom: Blackwood. (2014). “Symbols and Symbolism Essay: Color as a Tool in Heart of Darkness”. Available: [Accessed: 21 August 2014].

AP Lit. (2008). Heart of Darkness-symbol. Available: [Accessed: 21 August 2014].