Fiela's Child

Fiela's Child Literary Elements


Realistic fiction, South African literature

Setting and Context

South Africa in the 19th century

Narrator and Point of View

The narration is told in the third person. The point of view alternates between mainly Fiela, Benjamin, and Elias.

Tone and Mood

Serious and suspenseful

Protagonist and Antagonist

Both Fiela and Benjamin Komoetie are the protagonists of the story. Elias van Rooyen is the antagonist. It is possible to say that bigotry is also the conceptual antagonist.

Major Conflict

The major conflict is that of the inner turmoil in Benjamin as he struggles to find his identity. It could also be Fiela's struggle to relocate Benjamin and get justice.


Barta’s confession is the climax of the story. As soon as she admits that Benjamin is not her son, he leaves the family, never to return ever again.


Fiela speaks of omens that should have warned her about something bad set to happen, such as her hens being killed. Her uneasiness at the beginning of the story foreshadows the tragic events to come—mainly, the loss Benjamin.


Fiela often understates her own grief and sorrow after Benjamin being taken in order to focus her mind on what she regards as her duty: taking care of the household.


The novel frequently alludes to concepts and passages from the Bible, such as the Kings verse about the women splitting a child in half. This is mostly when Fiela is narrating, as she is a religious woman and uses the Bible's stories to help her live and cope with the tragedies of her life.


Dalene Matthee paints a vivid picture of the South African landscape in all its variety: the dense and alive forest, the vast stretch of the Long Kloof, and the turbulent atmosphere of the seaside.

See the separate ClassicNote "Imagery" section for further details on the novel's imagery.


It is through accepting the transgression of loving the woman who is supposed to be his sister (Nina) that Lukas/Benjamin is able to realize that she is not truly his sister and that he is not a van Rooyen.


The narrative structure, in which the narrative perspective frequently bounces around between characters, parallels Benjamin's internal struggle to determine his authentic self.

Metonymy and Synecdoche

Dawid’s team being referred to as having too many "hands," where "hands" is a metonymy for "workers."
When Lukas sees his "nightshirt disappear round a bend way down the footpath," this is a metonymy for the person wearing the shirt.


The elements are often described as having human traits, such as the fire being portrayed as "glowing cheerfully."