Mother to Mother Grade 10: Essay, Contextual Questions and Answers

Mother to Mother Grade 10: Essay, Contextual Questions, and Answers

Content – Mother to Mother Grade 10: Essay, Contextual Questions and Answers

Mother to Mother Book Summary

Mother to Mother weaves back and forth in time, covering the narrator, Mandisa’s life from her early childhood, through the birth of her children, through her son, Mxolisi’s murder of the Girl, a white American driving through their township of Guguletu. This is interspersed with The Girl, Mandisa, and Mxolisi’s experiences on the day of the murder, and the morning after.

The novel also includes interludes in which Mandisa addresses the Mother of the Girl, asking rhetorical questions about the Girl’s life and upbringing, expressing her grief for the Girl’s death, and attempting to explain—but not justify— Mxolisi’s actions.

Chronologically, the novel begins with Mandisa’s childhood. She and her brother, Khaya, were raised in Blouvlei, but were forced to relocate to Guguletu by the South African government. This derailed the educations of many students, although Mandisa and Khaya were able to remain in school for a while, at least until Khaya impregnated his girlfriend, Nono, and Mandisa became accidentally pregnant through non-penetrative sex with her boyfriend, China.

Mama, Mandisa’s mother, is furious with her daughter, feeling that her pregnancy will embarrass the whole family, but eventually comes to love Mandisa and her newborn son. Mandisa’s parents force her to marry China, who is no longer interested in her romantically, and the two lived together unhappily for two years, until one day China runs away and disappears forever. Mandisa then moves into a hokkie of her own and does her best to raise Mxolisi, eventually having another child, Lunga, with a man named Lungile, and finally marrying a man, Dwadwa, with whom she has her youngest child and only daughter, Siziwe.

Mandisa recounts Mxolisi’s childhood. A talkative precocious boy, he stops talking for several years after witnessing the death of two older boys, Zazi and Mzamo. He regains his speech, but during his silence Mandisa realizes the resentment she feels for him, for interrupting her life with an unplanned pregnancy, and dramatically changing the course of her future.

As Mxolisi gets older he becomes involved in youth political movements, like the Young Lions. Increasingly radicalized and violent, this group burns cars, buildings, and even kills black South Africans around their township.

On the day of the tragedy, Amy is driving some of her black South African friends home from their university, when Mxolisi and others spot her in her car. A group of men converge, chasing her from the car, but Mxolisi is the man to stab and kill her. Mandisa discovers this later, spending the first night after the murder anxiously wondering if her son, who has not returned home, was somehow involved. A late-night police raid of Mandisa’s house furthers her suspicions.

In the morning, Reverend Mananga stops by and gives Mandisa vague instructions for how to see her son. She follows them and is briefly reunited with Mxolisi, whom she comforts and who comforts her, before he (presumably though not explicitly) turns himself into the police.

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Mother to mother characters

Main Characters

  • Mandisa Ntloko – Mother of Mxolisi and first person narrator
  • Mxolisi – Son of Mandisa, involved in the killing of Amy Biehl, AKA Boyboy, Michael, Hlumelo)
  • Amy Biehl – not part of the active storyline, but present in flashbacks, killed by a group of black teenagers, amongst others, Mxolisi

Secondary Characters

  • China – married (traditionally only) to Mandisa, father of Mxolisi, but not present in the active storyline.
  • Lungile – unmarried partner of Mandisa, one son (Lungisa)
  • Dwadwa – husband of Mandisa, father of Siziwe
  • Tata – Mandisa’s father
  • Mama – Mandisa’s mother
  • Tatomkhulu – Mandisa’s grandfather (Tata’s father)
  • Makhulu – Mandisa’s grandmother (Tata’s mother)
  • Mzamo and Zazi – friends of Mxolisi while he is still a small boy
  • Aunty Funiwe – Mandisa’s aunt, Mama’s younger sister
  • Khaya – Mandisa’s brother, married to Nono
  • Nono – Mandisa’s school friend, married to her brother

Questions per Chapters

Chapter 1 Questions

  1. What is a lament?
  2. How is this lament represented and who is it written for and by?
  3. What is the purpose of the short introductory statement?
  4. Quote two places that indicate that Mxolisi’s conception was unusual.
  5. Discuss Mandisa’s portrayal of Mxolisi as a child.
  6. Why does Mandisa refer to Amy as “a white girl” in paragraph 7?
  7. Discuss why it appears as though Mxolisi and Mandisa have a strained relationship.
  8. Why does Mandisa think that Amy was irresponsible for putting herself in such a dangerous position?
  9. Explain the racial tension found in paragraph 13 and 15.
  10. What is the irony found in paragraph 18?

Chapter 2 Questions

  1. There are three storylines in this chapter. Which characters are being followed?
  2. Identify and explain the metaphors in the following paragraphs: par 13; par 18; par 24
  3. Comment on what you’ve learnt about Amy’s physical appearance and character traits.
  4. Explain the illusion that Mandisa is trying to create in par 37 and why it fails.
  5. Discuss the purpose of the writer’s explanation of the political background in par 44.
  6. Explain the ritual in par. 45.
  7. Explain Amy’s initial reaction when she offered her friends a lift.
  8. Discuss Lumka’s inner struggle in par 60 to 64 and why it is so important to the story.
  9. Discuss the scene of the burning car in par 88 and what we have learnt about the crowd of people that set it alight.
  10. Comment on the following sentence: “The car is small.”

Chapter 3 Questions

  1. Explain which storylines are being followed in this chapter
  2. Identify and explain the metaphors in the following paragraphs: par 23; par 56; par 68; par 98; par 104.
  3. Discuss the differences between Mandisa and Mrs Nelson’s social/ economic classes, highlighted in par 7, 9 and 13.
  4. What is Mandisa’s normal routine on a Wednesday at work and how is this Wednesday different?
  5. Quote Mandisa’s use of emotive words in par 46 that portrays her feelings towards Blouvlei.
  6. Discuss Mandisa’s initial impression about Gugulethu when she arrived there as a child.
  7. Quote an example of personification from par 47 and explain why she used this phrase.
  8. Explain the difference between people’s attitudes toward each other in par 49 and then in par 74 – 88 and par 95 – 96.
  9. Explain the simile Mandisa uses to describe the police in par 99
  10. What can we tell from Mandisa’s words “I found myself doing something I had not known I still remembered”?
  11. Why is she concerned for Siziwe’s safety in par 100?
  12. Explain what happened to Mandisa in par 104 and how it affected her behaviour in par 106.
  13. What is the purpose of the unanswered question “Where are your brothers?” in par 107?

Chapter 4 Questions

  1. Explain where this chapter fits into the main storyline of the book.
  2. Identify and explain the metaphors in the following paragraphs: par 17; par 29; par 43.
  3. Quote two lines from par 5, 6 and/or 10 that give us the idea that Siziwe maybe knows more about what happened that day than what she is leading on.
  4. What are the two things Mandisa is comparing in par 7?
  5. Discuss the emergence of Mandisa’s victim complex.
  6. Identify and explain the onomatopoeia found in par 13 and 43.
  7. In par 31 the words “every day” are repeated three times. Comment on this.
  8. Comment on the feeling of opposition Mandisa creates between the people of Gugulethu and the police in par 32. Quote to support your answer.
  9. Comment on the last line of the chapter “They stabbed her.”

Chapter 6 Questions

  1. Identify the emotive language in par 5 – 6 and explain the image that Mandisa is trying to create.
  2. Identify and explain the metaphors in the following paragraphs: par8; par 29; par 50; par 59; par 61; par 69 – 72; par 88; par 102; par 135; par 189; par 200; par 205; par 206; par 213.
  3. Identify and explain the uses of personification in the following paragraphs: par 10; par 11; par 50; par 56; par 59; par 60; par 64 (two occurences); par 143.
  4. Identify and explain the uses of simile in the following paragraphs: par 11; par 44; par 95; par 135; par 143.
  5. Identify and explain the uses of figurative language in the following paragraphs: par 147; par 205.
  6. Explain the use of the words “those days” in par 15.
  7. Identify the persuasive techniques used by Mandisa in par 19.
  8. Why did Mandisa translate the words of the man in par 33?
  9. Explain the community’s reaction to the rumour; when it came out, how they thought about it over time and after the plane dropped the flyers off.
  10. Why does Mandisa paint the story of a happy life in par 57?
  11. Identify examples of the metaphor of the flyers and explain what it means.
  12. What did we learn about Mandisa’s father in par 125?
  13. Identify the emotive words in par 134 and explain their use.
  14. Identify and explain the contrast illustrated in par 148 to Mandisa’s memory of Blouvlei.
  1. How can we see that Dwadwa is not fond of Mxolisi?
  2. Identify the similarities between the nun in East London and Amy.
  3. Comment on the structure the writer uses from par 175 to par 183.
  4. Discuss Mandisa’s use of the quotation from chapter 1 in par 184.
  5. Summarise the process of the degradation of the youth, as explained by Mandisa in par 191 – 207.

Chapter 6 Questions

  1. Identify and explain the emotive language in par 12.
  2. Identify and explain the metaphors in the following paragraphs: par 12; par 14 (two occurrences); par 37; par 38; par 39; par 42; par 51; par 55; par 63.
  3. Identify and explain the uses of personification in the following paragraphs: par 37; par 38.
  4. Identify and explain the uses of simile in the following paragraphs: par 17; par 18; par 19; par 35.
  5. Identify and explain the use of onomatopoeia in par 14.
  6. Discuss the hyperbole in par 39.
  7. The last paragraph of the chapter shows a big moment for Mandisa. What happened in that moment?

Chapter 7 Questions

  1. There is a jump in the timeline from the previous chapter to the current one. Explain the purpose of the first paragraph to indicate the timeline that will follow.
  2. Identify and explain the metaphors in the following paragraphs:
    par; 7; par 11; par 13; par 25; par 27; par 39; par 41; par 50; par 53; par 57; par 65; par 80; par 92 (two occurrences); par 95; par 130; par 131 (four occurrences); par 139; par 196 (two occurrences)
  3. Identify and explain the uses of personification in the following paragraphs: par 7; par 45; par 100; par 133
  4. Identify and explain the uses of simile in the following paragraphs: par 49; par 95; par 98
  5. Identify and explain the uses of emotive language in the following paragraphs: par 7; par 10; par 36; par 106.
  6. What in the chapter indicated that Mandisa’s relationship with her mother is not what it used to be in Blouvlei?
  7. Comment on the use of intertextuality in par 119.
  8. Explain what happened when Mandisa went into her gran’s room and her aunt Funiwe saw her.
  9. Compare Mandisa’s initial reaction to the realisation that she was pregnant, to her thoughts at the end of the chapter.

Chapter 8 Questions

  1. Discuss China’s reaction to seeing that Mandisa is pregnant by referring to his body language. Quote and interpret the metaphors used to emphasize his body language and facial expressions.
  2. Describe the emotional response that Mandisa had to China’s disbelief.
  3. Name two positive things that happened when Hlumelo was born.
  4. Shortly discuss Mandisa’s induction ceremony in her new home by focusing on the reactions of her new family members. The purpose is to ultimately identify how her new family feels about her.
  5. Par 230: “I shrunk because he was.” Discuss what feelings Mandisa reveals towards her son in this sentence.
  6. Discuss Mandisa’s emotional response to China’s disappearance and the changes she had to make to her life as a result.
  7. Explain what happened in par 259 – 278, focusing on Mxolisi’s point of view of the events.
  8. What did Mandisa and her family do to try to get Mxolisi to speak again?

Chapter 9 Questions

  1. Discuss the metaphor found in par 17: “he will immediately donate that person to me.”
  2. Discuss how the following metaphor found in par 99 ties into the theme of presience: “…he will come here dragging such a thorny bush of a scandal, you won’t know what to do with yourself or where to hide your eyes.”

Chapter 10 Questions

  1. Discuss how the British took advantage of Nongqawuse’s failed prophecy.
  2. Discuss the various emotions present in Mandisa and Mxolisi’s interaction.

Chapter 11 Questions

  1. Discuss the metaphor Mandisa uses in par 7 in an attempt to take the blame for the murder away from her son.
  2. In par 10 – 12, Mandisa comes to a stark realisation about her community and the way their children are raised. What did she realise?
  3. In par 16 – 28, something special happens to Mandisa. Discuss what happened and the significance of the event.
  4. How is Mandisa trying to console Amy’s mother in par 31?

Chapter 12 Questions

  1. Discuss the monologue Mandisa has with Amy’s mother in the beginning of Chapter 12.
  2. Comment on the techniques used by the writer in the remainder of the chapter, to build tension up to the climax, where Amy is killed.
  3. In par 74, Mandisa says: “Died when the time and place and hands were all in perfect congruence; cruel confluence of time, place and agent.” Discuss this statement and how it ties into the theme of contingency.
  4. Discuss the final sentence of the chapter and what it finally reveals about Mandisa’s opinion of her son.

Mother to Mother Themes

  1. Colonialism and Apartheid
  2. Family, Tradition, and Obligation
  3. Fate and the Fragility of Human Plans
  4. Motherhood and the Nature of Home and Family
  5. The nature and the role of Education and Knowledge
  6. The Human Condition

Character Analysis: Mother to Mother

Mandisa Character Analysis:

The novel’s narrator, Mandisa is also referred to as Molokazana and Nohenhake by her husband China’s family. Mandisa is the early middle-aged mother of three: Mxolisi, Lunga, and Siziwe. Born in Blouvlei to Mama and Tata, she has one brother Khaya. Mandisa was a respectful, hardworking child and talented student, whose life was first disrupted by her family’s forced relocation to Guguletu, and then by her surprise pregnancy.

Mandisa and her then-boyfriend, China, had purposefully avoided having penetrative sex, but they conceived anyway, and Mandisa has her first son, Mxolisi. Out of duty, Mandisa marries China, and the two are unhappily married for two years. However, one day China leaves for work and never comes back, leaving Mandisa to fend for herself. As she pieces her life back together and starts anew, Mandisa comes to resent Mxolisi for disrupting her life. Mandisa then conceives a second child with a man named Lungile, who, like China, also leaves her.

She eventually marries a man named Dwadwa, with whom she has her youngest child and only daughter, Siziwe. Out of all of Mandisa’s children, Mxolisi becomes the biggest troublemaker and the most politically charged. When he gets into hot water for stabbing and murdering The Girl—a white college girl who had ventured into Guguletu, earning her the attention of an angry mob, of which Mxolisi was a part—Mandisa feels great guilt regarding Mxolisi’s life and crimes. She feels responsible for him, and is made to feel responsible for his murder of The Girl by people in her community. The book, which she narrates, is a way for her to come to terms with her son’s actions, and to apologize to The Mother of the Girl for her hand in Mxolisi’s upbringing, while also explaining the factors beyond their control that lead to the tragedy at the novel’s centre.

Mxolisi Character Analysis

Mandisa’s oldest son, and her only son with China. He is originally named Hlumelo, but China’s family renames him, claiming their right to do so, as grandparents traditionally name the baby. Mxolisi is twenty, but still in the equivalent of middle or early high school, both because of his own truancy and because of the abysmal school system. Mandisa and Mxolisi have a troubled relationship; she blames him for his own conception (he was unplanned), and, because she had never had penetrative sex before giving birth, she blames Mxolisi for essentially taking her virginity.

Mandisa, however, tries to compensate for resenting her son by paying more attention to him, at the expense of her other children, Siziwe and Lunga, who accuse her of favouring their brother. Mxolisi began his life as a sweet child, but when he witnessed the police murder his friends, Zazi and Mzamo, he stopped speaking for several years. He eventually regained his speech, and Mandisa sent him to school, where beatings from teachers discouraged him from continuing to pursue his education.

He dropped out without Mandisa’s knowledge to work and help her support the family, but she convinced him to return. Eventually he became politically active, and joined the Young Lions, spending his days patrolling the neighbourhood, sometimes fighting for his education, but often harassing members of his own community. Mxolisi becomes caught up in a mob that forms around the car of a white university girl when she drives in Guguletu—a place that is extremely unsafe for white people—and when the violence escalates, he stabs and kills The Girl. Mxolisi clearly feels guilt and regret for what he’s done, which he confesses to Mandisa in their final conversation in the novel. Although not depicted, he likely turns himself in, and spends time (if not the rest of his life) in jail.

Mama Character Analysis:

Mama, whose name is Kukwana, is married to Tata, and has two children, Mandisa and Khaya. Mama is a strict parent, calling in her children while other parents allowed their sons and daughters to continue to play, expecting them to do many chores around the house, and demanding academic excellence. Mandisa, however, has a relatively good relationship with Mama until she hits puberty, at which point Mama becomes obsessed with Mandisa’s virginity, forcing her to undergo vaginal examinations to ensure she hasn’t had sex. Though she balks at the invasive examinations, Mandisa takes Mama’s warnings to heart and refuses to have penetrative sex with her boyfriend, China.

Over time, though, Mandisa begins to refuse the examinations, and Mama banishes Mandisa to live with her grandmother (Mama’s own mother), Makhulu, in Gungululu. Mama, a member of a local church, is concerned with her own social standing and the stigma Mandisa’s pregnancy could bring upon the family. She cares about her own social capital more than her daughter’s wellbeing, and so when Mandisa does finally become pregnant—despite not having penetrative sex— Mama is ashamed and embarrassed, and unable to bring herself to help her daughter. Once Mxolisi is born, however, Mama warms to him and begins to forgive Mandisa for having sex and getting pregnant out of wedlock, accepting her back into her life.

CHINA Character Analysis:

Mandisa’s first boyfriend, and the father of Mxolisi. In his youth, China was a respectful teenage boy, a good student with a bright future, and never pressured Mandisa for sex, carefully listening to and acknowledging her boundaries. When Mandisa moves away to live with Makhulu in Gungululu, China writes her frequently, and presumably stays faithful. However, when he discovers Mandisa is pregnant, his entire demeanour changes.

He scathingly accuses Mandisa of cheating on him—after all, the pair have never had penetrative sex—and believes that she’s trying to trick him into taking responsibility as the father of the child. Although he and his family are eventually convinced to acknowledge Mxolisi as part of their bloodline, and China and Mandisa marry out of duty, China never forgives Mandisa or their son for ruining his future. He is forced to drop out of school to work and support the family, and, after two years of unhappy marriage, runs away, never to be heard from again. Mandisa feels similarly, and throughout her life she resents Mxolisi for getting in the way of her own plans for her life.

Amy Character Analysis:

The white girl whom Mxolisi stabs and murders when she drives into Guguletu—a place that is extremely dangerous for white people like herself. Mandisa believes that The Girl was driving through the town in order to drop of her black friends from college, who had warned her about the risks of going to Guguletu, which she had promptly brushed off. As soon as the Guguletu residents spot a white person in their town, though, they begin to chant, “One settler, one bullet,” and a mob forms around The Girl’s car, rocking it menacingly.

The crowd swiftly turns violent, as they chant that Boers (white people in South Africa) are dogs—“AmaBhulu, azizinja!” When Mxolisi fatally stabs her, he is treated like a “king.”

Although a fictional character, The Girl based on Amy Elizabeth Biehl, an American Fulbright Scholar studying in South Africa, who was murdered by a group of young black South Africans. The story is occasionally told from The Girl’s point of view in the third person, but these passages are always Mandisa mournfully imagining what The Girl’s final moments were like. The Girl’s internal life is not known, instead it is constructed by Mandisa. Mandisa creates a book-smart, kind- hearted, dedicated friend, who nonetheless doesn’t fully understand the racial dynamics of South Africa.

Makhulu Character Analysis:

Mandisa’s maternal grandmother and Mama’s mother, who lives in Gungululu. When Mandisa stops submitting willingly to Mama’s invasive “virginity checks,” Mama banishes her to live with Makhulu, despite the fact that Mandisa has never even met the woman. Luckily, Makhulu is a kind caretaker, keeping Mandisa “sane” and “bodily alive,” making sure to cook food she knows Mandisa likes, and making sure she feels love even if Mama abandoned her. Much less judgmental than Mama, when Makhulu discovers that Mandisa is pregnant, she accepts the truth: that this was an accident and Mandisa should not be blamed. Instead, Mandisa should be comforted, supported, and accepted by her family.

Lunga Character Analysis:

Mandisa’s second son, and her only son with Lungile, who eventually leaves her just like China did not long after she gave birth to Mxolisi. Lunga is small for his age, especially compared to his brother. Unlike Mxolisi he is not (yet) involved in student protests, and more regularly attends school. Both Lunga and his sister, Siziwe, accuse Mandisa of preferring their older brother, Mxolisi, to them. In actuality, Mandisa deeply resents Mxolisi for changing the course of her life, but she does shower him with extra attention to make up for her resentment.

Sizwe Character Analysis:

Mandisa’s youngest child and only daughter, and Dwadwa’s only biological child. Both Lunga and Siziwe accuse Mandisa of preferring their older brother, Mxolisi, to them. This is partly true, as Mandisa objectively does give Mxolisi more attention than her other two children. However, this is because Mandisa deeply resents Mxolisi for ruining her life and blames him for his own surprise conception (Mandisa and her then-boyfriend China never had penetrative sex, but got pregnant anyway). Mandisa gives her eldest son more attention to make up for holding such a fierce grudge against him.

Khaya Character Analysis:

Mandisa’s brother, and Mama and Tata’s son. Like Mandisa, Khaya is a smart, well-behaved child. He and Nono, Mandisa’s close friend, begin dating when they are all teenagers, and Khaya eventually impregnates her. Unlike Mandisa, who Mama feels has brought shame to the family, Mama does not see Khaya as responsible for his girlfriend’s pregnancy, illuminating a double standard in her treatment of her children based on gender.

Dwadwa Character Analysis:

Mandisa’s husband, and the father of her youngest child and only daughter, Siziwe. Dwadwa is a good man, who treats Mandisa’s first two children, Mxolisi and Lunga, as his own (their fathers are China and Lungile, respectively). Still, Mandisa remains the primary parent of her three children, and is more involved in the internal and external lives of all of her children than Dwadwa is with his biological daughter and adopted sons.


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