Dramatic Irony: Selling's Role in Building the Road
As the story develops, we learn about Selling Komoetie's crime and how he was sentenced to hard labor. For most of his years of imprisonment, Selling was working with the other convicts to build a road through the mountains, connecting Knysna and the Long Kloof. This is ironic because Selling participated in the construction of the very road that would later allow for the census men to come to Wolwekraal and take Benjamin, ruining the Komoeties' lives. However, this fact also casts doubt on the story of Benjamin making it to Fiela's doorstep from the forest as a three-year-old, as he supposedly arrived at the Long Kloof before the road was even finished.
Situational Irony: God and Faith
There are frequent instances in which Fiela converses with God, especially where she pleads for Him to save her—yet He never seems to stave off the worst situations, such as the loss of Benjamin or the death of Dawid. Despite seeing herself as a woman of deep faith, Fiela is portrayed as slowly losing this faith, thinking to herself that “God [keeps] putting up one wall after another between her and the child.” Although she continues to look to the Bible for solace, inwardly she feels as if she has been abandoned. Matthee deliberately puts Fiela and God in conflict, showing the irony between Fiela's exalted image of God and His indifference to her suffering, perhaps subverting the reader’s expectation of God in order to question the validity of faith and religion in a flawed society where prejudice runs rampant. However, towards the end of the novel, this irony eventually is resolved as Fiela finds reconciliation with her hard feelings towards God. After Benjamin returns to the Long Koof, she declares that “God is good.” This sentence reflects the end of her long struggle in relating to God where she realizes her inability to fully comprehend God’s larger plan.
Situational Irony: The "Justice" System
The application of the law is a constant theme that Matthee explores throughout Fiela’s Child, exposing to the reader the irony that the very system meant to deliver justice actually only creates grosser injustices. The entire situation of Benjamin being taken from the Long Kloof is revealed by the end of the novel to be wholly erroneous and based on the misguided attempts of government officials to carry out law and order. The magistrate claims that Benjamin is the forest woman’s child because she was able to point him out from a line of four children, yet it turns out that Barta was informed of whom to pick beforehand. When faced with Fiela’s questions, the magistrate reiterates that “‘the child is back with his rightful parents.” Matthee likens the stiffness of the magistrate’s jaw to indicate the stiffness and inflexibility of the law. The judge’s repetition of this statement in Chapter 15 as well as use of the word “rightful” suggest that the magistrate is more keen on administering the law as it is rather than solving the real problems he is faced with, demonstrating how the law ironically does more harm than good, especially towards a childlike Benjamin.
Dramatic Irony: Lukas' Love for Nina
As Lukas grows into a man and starts to seek out his true identity, he grapples with the budding feelings of affection he has for Nina. This disturbs him as he is under the impression that Nina is his sister and knows such feelings are wrong. However, it is revealed at the end of the story that Lukas is not actually Lukas van Rooyen, that Nina is not actually his sister, and that his love for Nina, therefore, is not the perverse thing he thought it was. All of Lukas' inner turmoil in regard to this situation is vanquished when Barta owns up to the truth of what really happened on the day he came to Knsyna.
Fiela’s Child Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Fiela’s Child is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.