Reading Psychological Trauma in Bessie Head’s A Question of Power

Lèfara Silue


Bessie Head’s A Question of Power depicts the trauma of South-African activists exiled in Botswana. In the text, apartheid regime is portrayed as a racist dictatorship which privileges the white minority to the detriment of the large majority of Africans. The heroine Elizabeth is described as a character suffering from a psychological trauma. Her trauma is revealed in the text in different ways: depression, sexual abuse, alcoholism and madness. Furthermore, the village of Motabeng is seen as the starting point of Elizabeth’s mental instability. She cannot solve the internal conflict which opposes her to her superego. The flashbacks and the memories of apartheid’s torture and bestiality force Elizabeth to use her sex as a remedy against anguish and trauma. In the fictitious South-African society people are judged and classified on the basis of their color. Consequently, Europeans and Africans do not have the same rights and duties.


anguish, apartheid, depression, madness, trauma.

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