A Critical And Detailed Analysis Of The Immigrant With A Difference by Ndaba Sibanda

Author`s Biography

Ndaba Sibanda is a Zimbabwean born writer. He hails from Bulawayo, Zimbabwe`s second largest city. He is the author of a number of works of art and prose including the following: Notes, Themes, Things And Other Things: Confronting Controversies, Contradictions, and Indoctrinations, The Virtual Landscape, The Dangers of Child Marriages: Billions of Dollars Lost In Earnings and Human Capital, The Gushungo Way, Time bomb: Before the Spring Rains, A Season To Reason: The Irony of a Loud Silence, Sometimes Seasons Come With Unseasonal Harvests, A Different Ballgame, Love O’clock, As If They Minded: The Loudness of whispers, The Dead Must be Sobbing, Of the Saliva and the Tongue, The Way Forward, The Art of Making An Art: As Dramatic and Enigmatic As We Know It To Be, This Cannot Be Happening: Speaking Truth to Power, Sleeping Rivers: A Bleeding, The Ndaba Jamela and Collections. Some of his work has been translated into Serbian. Is works has received Pushcart Prize and the Best of Net Nominations.

The Appropriateness of the title, The Immigrant With A Difference

A glimpse into the Book Title’s Denotations and Connotations 

      A book title is what readers see first and possibly the first thing that they remember.  The moment one sees the title The Immigrant With A Difference, one has an inkling what the book is about without wholly knowing what is inside. Denotatively or simply, an immigrant is a person who comes to live in a country from another country. The denotative meaning is a real meaning based on a given dictionary. However, Sibanda`s book title has a unique bent to it. Call to mind that it not a mere immigrant but one with a difference.  Figuratively or connotatively, the short man or the Goblin in the story is no ordinary immigrant. Not at all. The connotative touch to the title shows us that the word ‘immigrant’ has an emotional association with the storyline but more importantly, that its scope goes beyond its formal definitions. In that light, it can be safely concluded that this is a well-thought out title. The book clearly states that the Ntokoloshe is half human and half spirit and comes from an unknown, alien land. The creature is smallish and outlandish.

“We can be visible and invisible at will. You can call us half-spirit,
half-human. Hence, we derive pleasure from creeping into sleeping
people’s houses and scaring ze hell out of kids!” (page 63)

      The Goblin comes from the world of the bad spirits and wreaks havoc at will. It can appear at any point without the knowledge of a person. There is something suspicious or sinister about its background or creation and its actions.   
 “…..It has slithered into the room with neither a key nor a yanking open of the door.. “ (page 60)

          Though the story is mythological, it is also evident that the Ntokoloshe`s area of residence is unknown. The Ntokoloshe is a mysterious, scary, and troublesome creature. Its physical make- up points to a foreign land too. Its life is alien from that of human beings. When a reader looks at its frame and pranks, one cannot help but wonder at its weirdness and waywardness. If its physical appearance is an epitome of ugliness, the trail of devastation, frustration and vulnerability it leaves behind is not worth the trouble of keeping it for the sake of accumulating worldly wealth or by virtue of its purportedly disproportionate appetite for sex.    

“….Its skin is mottled and leathery. From their chat Sipho discovers some facts about the creature. For example, it is always a male, it has a single buttock, and it is known to be covered in hair or scales. It has hairy legs and feet. It is constantly barefoot. It is usually naked, but sometimes it wears a cloak. It wraps itself in the skin of a leopard or baboon when it is chilly. It

speaks with a lisp. Its red eyes are capable of seeing well both in the dark and during the day.” (page 62)

The Book`s Thesis and Major Argument 

     My critique of the books seems to indicate and highlight that while an accumulation of wealth is a wonderful, noble and commendable idea– just like striving to have good health–however, enlisting the services of goblins to acquire worldly possessions and pride is superfluous, ridiculous and dangerous. It is morally wrong. Chilling stories of hobgoblins terrorizing girls in boarding schools or raping women in a mysterious way in certain Southern African villages are uncommon and plausible. The evaluation of this book`s validity and worth cannot be sufficient and just without mentioning that it represents a rare, brave, global and cultural addition to the genre of hallucinatory magic realism and ‘science fiction from an African perspective ’. It is a work of great rarity, precision and value.         

The Goblin also does not mince its words about its superior sexual prowess.  From the horse`s mouth—yes, according to it, the ‘indigenous’ men`s bedroom performances are no patch on its top-drawer bodily gamboling dexterity. Its voluptuous nimbleness is conspicuous, legendary and unsurpassed.     

 “We’ve a mystic way of making women fall for us. A little charm. I had a girlfriend who also worked for Mumba. ’Cause I’m a blast furnace in bed, ze maid left in a state of panic. But mefinks she was already pregnant! ’Cause I’m a sharp shooter! I’m a red-hot iron. We’ve no match when it comes to sexual prowess. Shen . . . how can I put it? Shen, Mumba had no choice but to hook up wif me. Needless to say Mumba and I are an item.” (page 63)

Whether the Goblin`s assertion that is it is involved in a love affair with Lady Mumba is true or false is anybody`s guess, but what is palpable and unescapable is the fact that she seeks to get rid of it, sooner than later. Could she have ‘created’ or procured solely it for the purposes of accumulating fortune and fame rather than for the sake of having a partner? In spite of the fact that it brags about its sexual prowess, Lady Mumba`s maid ostensibly ran away from it. Evidently, its alien habits, antics and abilities do not seem to endear it to ‘normal’ human beings.  

Characters:

1. Sipho Mbongolo
2. Lady Mumba
3. Makhi
4. Sethekeli
5. Mzwakhe
6. The Goblin/ Ntokoloshe

   The Immigrant With A Difference is an out-of –the -way story set in the Southern part of Africa. It opens at The New Year festivities which have lost meaning and lustre according to the protagonist, Sipho Mbongolo. He tries to eke out a living but his trials and ambitions have been unrewarding and frustrating. Furthermore, people’s negative comments, innuendos and conduct have adversely affected Sipho Mbongolo`s dreams and endeavors. It is poignant from the story that the festivities organised and celebrated by the people in the New Year were mostly meant to bring forth fortune and breakthroughs in the subsequent years, thereby giving people a new start and a new outlook as well.

      The story vividly shows the heightened levels of poverty that have imprisoned and oppressed the ordinary people due to corruption and poor leadership. Several citizens are relocating to the Western world in search of a better life, in search of better working opportunities, conditions and remuneration. For instance, Sipho Mbongolo’s contemporaries and compatriots are nowhere to be seen. He has also lost track of his childhood friends.

   “…..May be they migrated to UK, Botswana, Namibia, US…Any viable land, even a war torn one, seems to be habitable… in search of greener pastures.”

    The ideals of liberation are a mirage that cannot be realized. The citizens are still in the shackles of black neo-colonizers (surrogates) who have failed to change the social, economic and political systems to accommodate the rising number of productive youths. The youths do not only constitute the future and liveliness of any nation in the world, they also represent its foundation and backbone. There cannot be a genuine and meaningful talk on freedom and innovation, if the youths are not active participants and prized beneficiaries. The story demonstrates that the youths have destinies, energies and dreams, and to destroy their destinies and dreams is tantamount to stepping into a minefield.     

“…..”Independence” is like a fairytale he’d once heard of. It is a lost cause too.”

As a result, a lot of the youths languish in abject poverty and penury.

     Despite Sipho Mbongolo’s invitation to the City of Kings and Queens (Bulawayo) in a bid to eke out a better living, he has lost significance of time. He believes that time has made a ridicule of his efforts and hopes. No matter how hard he tried, his efforts turned out to be futile and unrewarding. However, the wise say that you should not curse a day at dawn. Fortunately or unfortunately, he met Lady Mumba ——a modern day woman who was affluent. Her house also smacked of obscene opulence.

 “…Lady Mumba is heavily hunched on an expensive, fine-looking, gold coated garden chair. (page 49)

       Westernisation has taken its roots. It has altered even the mannerisms in dress code. Sipho is hired as a bodyguard by Lady Mumba. The story says that lady Mumba’s lacey shorts are so short that Sipho’s eyes are magnetically riveted to where her enormous legs were joined together in a union of fat and flesh.

    Lady Mumba has a soft part for Sipho Mbongolo. She harbors feelings for him. She likes him despite his humble background. It is no surprise that she goes ahead to beseech him not to call her Lady Mumba but Mona/Monalisa.

“…Sipho, please call me Mona or Monalisa…”

Later, Sipho laments to Lady Mumba how he is uncomfortable living with his cousins especially Sethekeli who is mouthy and who has a tongue too.

Sipho Mbongolo shares with Lady Mumba the exact words Sethekeli utters to him,

“…hey I eat too much, hey I finish everything she gives….” Sethekeli says these words notwithstanding the efforts of Sipho Mbongolo who always protects her from her brothers` wrath and perhaps abusive tendencies.

If the Goblin`s lisping is a fascinating and exceptional addition to the dialogues and discussions found in this story, then Sipho`s use of direct translations and expressions adds linguistic flavor and intrigue to the entire storyline.  Poetic licence is a literary tool used for effect in this book. It does not only colour and illuminate the story`s cultural and linguistic richness, but also it lends itself well to an idiosyncratic space, drama, time, quality and voice. The story has an authentic historical, anthropological and mythological significance and grounding.    

    Sethekeli takes Sipho for granted and she thinks that he has no liver i.e. he cannot reprimand her for the mistakes she does to him. When Sipho is asked by Lady Mumba where his father is, he says that his father died while the maize plants and pumpkins were blooming and tasseling.

“…my bio-o-oligical father, he died five years old while the maize was kicking and the pumpkins were vomiting in the fields.” As an interesting direct translator, Sipho is basically saying his father died while the maize plants and pumpkins were blooming or tasselling.    

  Sipho Mbongolo suspects that Lady Mumba is not loyal at all. He thinks that she has a boyfriend. Inaudible sounds emanate from her room and according to Sipho, it is likely that Lady Mumba is communicating with a man.

  “I care for you.”

  “Yes, I confess I was going out with that minister, but…”

In bed, he reminisces how he met Lady Mumba and how she offered him a job of a bodyguard, digging him out of his financial mess. He even recalls the party that appeared like a billionaire’s evening party where men and women who drove the latest and most expensive cars and wore immaculate designer suit had fun and exhibited cultural antics and ‘shenanigans’ that were possibly influenced by their past lives in the Diaspora. In the eyes of Sipho, there is an air of arrogance and brazenness about their conduct and words.

   When Sipho tells a certain man in the party that he was a teetotaler and a member of Zionist Bakhonzi Beqiniso Church, the man calls him a stupid, rustic pumpkin who did not know that heaven is on earth. The immigrant clearly depicts how greed for material wealth and flamboyant lifestyle has taken over the current generation. The thirst and greed for material wealth is on the increase. It has led to moral decadence. It has even changed mannerisms especially among Africans. Lady Mumba tells Sipho Mbongolo,

“… your body, oh boy, I feel like licking you up like a chocolate bar. Please make me feel like a girl again.”

“… the smoking, swaying and over embellished woman unleashed F-prefixed obscenities at him…canoodling a man who could have been her youngest grandson.”

   Decked in her dazzling dress, Lady Mumba bids farewell to Sipho Mbongolo and leaves. In fact, before she departs, she shows him where to find the food whenever he feels pangs of hunger. Later on the dreaded Goblin appears, much to Sipho`s consternation, confusion and subjection.  

The drama happens in Mumba’s poshy house. Sipho wrestles with the hobgoblin but eventually the turns the tables on him. The creature is mightier than him. The goblin lets out a throated chuckle upon realizing how Sipho Mbongolo is gasping, bleeding and pleading on the floor.

   The physical appearance of the goblin is scaring and unpleasing. The goblin is male, has a single buttock covered with hair and scales, and is usually naked but sometimes wears a cloak. The short man is alien because it is half human and half spirit. One could possibly mistake it for bizarre creatures that originate in outer space. 

“… we can be visible and invisible at will…”

It warns Sipho Mbongolo of meddling in its relationship with Lady Mumba.

“…I am a jealous, lascivious and dangerous man…jealous zat you don’t mess wif our relationship, by hook or crook…”

If not chased away authoritatively and timeously, the goblin is notorious for putting marriages, relationships, businesses and life itself to an abrupt end.

    The goblin expresses its disappointments with Lady Mumba who has betrayed it. It affirms that it brought all the affluence and she prides in and parades.  It vows to revenge against Lady Mumba who it accuses of being unfaithful, ungrateful, disrespectful and dangerous.

“…Yes, zat woman will taste my wrath. They don’t call me Ntokoloshe for noffing.”

   In a kind gesture, it gifts Sipho Mbongolo with a suitcase filled to the brim with crisp notes! U.S. dollars. He walks past the colourful, computerised gate. With a trembling joy, he hurries on, his horizon characterised by the diminishing grandeur of the house and the snowballing mysteries inside. However, it warns Sipho Mbongolo against disclosing the information to Lady Mumba. The consequences of such carelessness or leakiness are dire. Is Sipho ready and prepared to pay that ultimate price?  Sipho knows what is at stake. Let the soft lady solve her problems with her own soft hands. He could make his own future.

“Don’t ever come back here. You did not talk wif me. You did not see me, is zat right? You disclose, you’re dead. Zat me!”

The Book`s Style

Stylistic devices/ Figures of speech used in The Immigrant with a Difference.

The study and interpretation of texts of all types and/or spoken language shows that without literary devices or figurative language, writing would be bare, uninspiring and shallow. . Stylistic devices are techniques used by a writer to give auxiliary meaning, ideas, or feeling to the written work of art. They embellish a literary work by creating a fresh, distinctive and clear touch to it. Stylistic devices can include such elements as settings, characters, plot, language techniques, use of colour and subject matter.     

1. Similes

It is a figure of speech that compares one thing with another. It uses words such as ‘like’ and ‘as’. There are a number of similes used in The Immigrant With A Difference. They include:

“… independence is like a fairy tale he’d once heard of…” (page 47)

“… I face it like Shaka.” (page 50)

“… A sense of hopelessness has imprisoned him like someone who binges on alcohol day and night.” (page 47)

“…To end up wetting the bed would be like a crime.” (page 52)

“…took to her heal like her body was a mere feather.” (page 53)

“… their lives are soft-soft, yet ours are hard like a rock.” (page 56)

“…Sipho is like a badly injured, lily livered soldier…” (page 61)

“….it leaps like a possessed mortal…” (page 61)

“…like a defeated wrestler in the ring, Sipho is gasping, bleeding, pleading on the floor.” (page 62)

“… he feels for the zip like an inept, butter-fingered fellow.” (page 52)

“….I will kill her if she continues madly like a nervous fool..” (page 64)

“…how such a magnificent chair can be needle- like as well?”

2. Metaphors

They compare two different things that have some characteristics in common.  These are figures of speech in which words or phrases are applied to objects or actions to which they are not literally applicable. They are more complex as one thing is referred to another. There are a number of metaphors used in The Immigrant With A Difference.

One linguistic feature about this story is how Sipho uses direct translations from Ndebele to English.    

“…She has a mouth…” (page 50)  This means that Sethekeli has a tendency of provoking others to a fight. She is talkative and she cannot restrain her tongue.

 Sipho says “…She has a tongue…” This implies that Sethekeli cannot keep y confidential information. Sipho says that that is the reason he does not tell her his secrets.

“…Tomorrow is yesterday…” This means bear in mind that whatever bad thing you do or say today will haunt you in the future (e.g. You can laugh at someone else’s abject poverty today but when you are in need in future you may turn to the same person for help).

“….I have no liver…” In this context Sipho Mbongolo means that Sethekeli thought that he did not have the courage to tell her that she was committing a crime or a mistake.

“…She is a flooded river…” This means that Lady Mumba is angry because Sipho is overstepping by saying that he thinks there is a witch on Lady Mumba’s premises. That antiquated nonsense makes Mumba grow with ire.

“….The human hosepipe…” This refers to Sipho’s manhood.

“…Some people look for the rays of light instead of becoming the sunlight themselves…”

“… He has a grandparent of a nightmare…” ( Page 55)

3. Hyperbole

Sometimes it is referred to as overstatement. It is extreme exaggeration. It is poignant in The Immigrant With A Difference in the following instances:

… So angry that she can swallow up a chameleon…( page 56)

…sneezed in English…

…A silly man with an elephantine neck…
(Page 54)

4. Personification

It is a figure of speech whereby inanimate objects are given the qualities of animate objects.

It is manifested in The Immigrant With A Difference in the following ways:

“…His bladder threatens to split apart with sudden violence…” (Pg 52)

“… The mess looks him in the eye…” (Pg 52)

5. Rhetorical questions

These are questions asked in order to create a dramatic effect or to make a point rather than to get an answer.

“Who has turned on the lights? Is Lady Mumba playing games?” (Pg 58)

“It is hunger or the heat? Or the cold air? Is it by virtue of the odd commotion? Is this a haunted house? Whose ghost?” (Pg 58)

“Mumba dreaming aloud? Is she soliloquizing?” ( Pg 53)

“… what odds and opportunities does he have? What does the future

hold for him? What is in store for him?” ( pg 47)

6. Local dialect.

This is a form of a language which is spoken in a given area. It may be used to promote cultures or lack of equivalent words to translate it.

“…she counts for me. Uyangibalela ukudla…” To condescendingly claim that one eats too much food which they did not sweat for or uses someone else`s item.    

7. Dialogue.

This is spoken or written conversational exchange between two people.

 Lady Mumba and Sipho are savoring the exotic Ethiopian coffee.

“That picture on the wall was taken some years back when I was

in the U.K. Isn’t it beautiful, Sipho?”

“It’s beautiful, Lady—sorry, Mona. So you lived in the U.K.?”

“For ten years. That’s where I met some of the party attendees.”

Sipho hops into a different subject.

“Madam, methinks there is a witch here?”

“What?” His boss grimaces, looking him in the eye, perhaps for

the first time.

Sipho takes a mouthful of the coffee, as if he is unconscious of

a tonal change.

“Methinks there’s a witch who’s doing rounds and sounds here.

I hear them in the night.”

Sipho, get this clear: I hired a bodyguard, not a witch-hunter.”

“Sorry, madam, but I’m made to see in my dreams as a Zionist—”

“Antiquated nonsense! Whether you’re a Zionist or whatnot, I

don’t bloody care a whit. Stick to your job description or else.” (Pg 55)

Sipho Mbongolo is having a conversation with Lady Mumba:

“My bio-o-ological father, he died five years old while the maize

was kicking and the pumpkins were vomiting in the fields.” His

face is a little gloomy. He adds, “It was the disappearance of luck,

as elders say. He, my father, didn’t like a person who doesn’t hear.

His stomach was running him, running him . . .”

“Sipho, my goodness, you’re such a fascinating literal translator.

Your parlance is what is sometimes referred to as Ndenglish. I

guess that even if you cannot give me a blow-by-blow account of

how your father died five years ago, you’re basically saying he died

while the maize plants and pumpkins were blooming, or tasselling.

Is that so?”

The reply is phrased like a question.

“Yes—madam. No—Mona. Yes, is that so, shuwa. M-Mona, I

mean, he was going outside fast-fast. He was carrying heavy.”

(page 51)

Sipho Mbongolo is compelled to keep asking the goblin some questions to save his life.

“What do you drink?”

“Sorghum beer and sour milk”.

 “Is it true that you like moving into sleeping people’s rooms

and causing problems?”

“We can be visible and invisible at will. You can call us half-spirit,

half-human. Hence, we derive pleasure from creeping into sleeping

people’s houses and scaring ze hell out of kids!” (page 63)

8. Flashback

These are events that takes a reader back in time to the past events.

Sipho Mbongolo remembers what Lady Mumba once told him.

“…He remembers the words of Lady

Mumba: “There will come a time when you will protect me in every way possible. When that time comes, both of us will happy. I will be happy. You will be happy.” He recalls that she added rather

softly, “I hope you won’t mind looking after me in my room when

I ask you to, especially when l fall sick. Sipho, would that be a

problem?” He’d been thrown speechless, tempted by a tenderness

he now saw was never there.” (page 64)

9. Humor

This is the quality of being amusing or comical.

“My bio-o-ological father, he died five years old while the maize

was kicking and the pumpkins were vomiting in the fields.” His

face is a little gloomy. He adds, “It was the disappearance of luck,

as elders say. He, my father, didn’t like a person who doesn’t hear.

His stomach was running him, running him . . .” (page 51)

10. Proverbs/Sayings

These are pithy statements which contain folk wisdom.

In The Immigrant With A Difference these proverbs/ sayings are used:

“… A child who does not cry risks dying whilst strapped to the back of its mother.”

(Ndebele Proverb-page 61)

“…Time waits for no man…”

“…No man lives twice…”  (page 47)

11. Point of view

The writer uses the third person point of view, which is characterized by the  he/she/it/they perspective.

He has been searching for it high and low for almost five minutes to no avail. Has the TV remote control developed legs? He has no shred of doubt that an hour ago it was on the coffee table.

12. Tone

Tone is an author`s attitude toward their subject matter. It reflects their personal opinion or it can channel the feelings of a particular character. Authors deliver or portray tone through their word choice, punctuation, and sentence structure.

From the very first sentence to the last one, the tone of the story is dramatic . For example: It heralds wild and dramatic festivities usually accompanied with champagne toasts, fireworks, dancing, singing and even whistling.  

 With its emaciated, long legs and long claws it tries to push and pin him down. Sipho rolls over the sofa, seeking to repel it with his tired arms. The human and subhuman wrestle and wheeze, call and curse.

At times the tone is playful, reflective and nostalgic, for example: Sipho is feasting his eyes on the furnishings in the living room.  

At other times, the reader is exposed to a repetitive and sarcastic tone.

 Do they know the troubles of life? Life is harsh.  These people live in their own world. A soft world that shines because of gold and silver.  Most of them have soft bodies, they eat soft things, do soft jobs, shake with their soft hands, and sit on soft chairs.  

13. Syntax and translations

The writer varies his sentence structures. At times one encounters short proverbial translations like: Tomorrow is yesterday. This means  bear in mind that whatever bad thing you do or say today will haunt you in the future (e.g. You can laugh at someone else’s abject poverty today but when you are in need in future you may turn to the same person for help).

Carrying heavy: Toiling or suffering.

A chest kicked by a zebra: this refers to a person who cannot keep secrets or whose chest `leaks` confidential information easily

Tomorrow is yesterday: Bear in mind that whatever bad thing you do or say today will haunt you in the future (e.g You can laugh at someone else’s abject poverty today but when you are in need in future you may turn to the same person for help).

The maize is kicking and the pumpkins vomiting: this a literal translation used to refer to the stage at which the maize plant is tasseling and the pumpkins are blooming.

Shuwa:sure.

Demedi-damn

Sangoma: a herbalist, a traditional seer.

Carrying heavy: Toiling or suffering.

Inyanga: In Ndebele, this term refers to a herbalist or traditional healer

Has a black: a literal translation for bad luck.

Ask for fire: When a suitor’s delegation goes to the girl’s parents/relatives in order to tell them that a man is interested in marrying their daughter.

(It used to be a fiery affair, with the mediators being sometimes (initially) beaten/tossed about or chased away.

Open the mouth money: the money that kick-starts the above negotiations.

Tikoloshe: half-man half-spirit, it is believed to be a dwarf-like male creature with pronounced sexual characteristics. References to this mystical creature date back to before 1700.

13. Experimental Writing

Sibanda is a contemporary author who uses language in an innovative, active and distinctive fashion. Out of his hands, the reader has the pleasure and privilege of tucking into expressional delicacies and ecstasies like,” Gold is my first name. Fun my second. Body-licious my surname.”  

As a practicing poet, his language and vocabulary tend to be poetic, pragmatic and profound. Experimental writing is writing that rejects to stay within the boundaries laid out either by traditional realistic literary fiction or standard genres of mystery, thriller or poetry. The way the writer deliberately and deftly plays and mixes Ndebele words with English expressions and terms to create ‘Ndeglish’ can be both intriguing and challenging. Typical of avant-garde writers, this particular register or diction is a controversial work of art that is experimental . Stylistically and thematically, it somehow rejects mainstream culture and conventions as it pushes boundaries. Experimental fiction is fiction that radically tests the principal norms of realism through the use of hybrid discourse, unconventional syntax,   anti-heroes/heroines, thematic innovations, fabulist fiction, magic realism, speculative fiction,  stream-of-consciousness , absurd situations, alternate cultures, genre mashing, hyperbole, fragmented narration or metafiction. Metafiction is a form of fiction that emphasizes its own contructedness in a way that reminds readers to be aware that they are reading or viewing a fictional work. It looks into the status of a text in any given medium as something created, authored, composed, framed, mediated, and/or edited rather than being an unmediated part of life on the globe. It is a thought-provoking phenomenon. In short, avante-garde writing is a representation of new and experimental ideas and methods in literature or art or music. It is a rebellious innovation that seems to say “convention move out, here I come”.    

Themes:

A theme is a central idea in a work of art. There are various themes used in The Immigrant With A Difference:

1. Love

Lady Mumba has strong affection for Sipho Mbongolo whom she had hired as a bodyguard.

Lady Mumba won’t look Sipho in the eye. “How old are you?”

Though it is not dark, the pupils of her eyes have been acting up,

growing in size as if to provide her a clearer vision of the rustic man.

(page 48)

“Sipho, please call me Mona or Monalisa…”

(page 49)

“She steadies herself, before tapping Sipho in a playfully hooking and

tickling manner between his legs. The rustical man draws away,

batting his eye. He gasps, looks askance—much to the amusement of the teaser. She picks up a glass of wine and ungracefully some

splashes out, dropping on her fatty neck.

(page 50)

Sipho also had a vivid picture of a lady who told him squarely, “I love

you boy. I’ve gold and silver. What more can a soul want? Those who

have had the privilege and pleasure of rubbing shoulders with me

have confessed that I uniquely nurture a soul’s heart and body, as

if the earth’s axis is on my palm. Run away from this portly pig,

Mumba. I would pay you more, give you my everything, boy. Just

bring your freaking fresh figure to my place, boy. My body oozes

love and more love for you. Your body, oh boy, I feel like licking

you up like a chocolate bar. Please make me feel like a girl again?” (Page 54)

2. Fear.

       This is dreading a person or a situation and a person feels nervous and insecure.

When being interrogated by Lady Mumba, Sipho shows fear to her:

“How old are you?”

“I’m t-twenty-f-five,” Sipho responds in a rather shaky, strained voice.

“You’re a man. Relax. What skills and experience do you have?”

Sipho is also in a state of panic when he is left by Lady Mumba at her residence. This is prompted by the arrival of the goblin.

“The sight of it makes his hair stand on end. It has slithered into the room with neither a key nor a yanking open of the door. It seems like a dream.” (Pg 60)

3. Authority/ Greed

Lady Mumba reasserts her authority by warning Sipho Mbongolo of poking noses into her life matters.

        Sipho takes a mouthful of the coffee, as if he is unconscious of a tonal change.

“Methinks there’s a witch who’s doing rounds and sounds here.

I hear them in the night.”

Sipho, get this clear: I hired a bodyguard, not a witch-hunter.”

“Sorry, madam, but I’m made to see in my dreams as a Zionist—”

“Antiquated nonsense! Whether you’re a Zionist or whatnot, I

don’t bloody care a whit. Stick to your job description or else.”

      The goblin is seething with impotent anger because of Lady Mumba who has betrayed it. It claims that it gave her possessions and she can’t get away with it. It was out of greed that Lady Mumba had made all her fortunes.

“I’m disappointed wif Lady Mumba. She won’t get away wif it.

I brought her all ze fortune she possesses and parades.”

4. Moral decadence

This is erosion of morals in the society. This state of affairs has escalated the vices in the communities.

 “The smoking, swaying, and over-embellished woman unleashed

F-prefixed obscenities at him. She called him the most unintelligent, rural, backward cat she had ever seen, before reeling away and canoodling a man who could easily have been her youngest grandson.”

6. Social stratification

Social stratification is a process by which a society is divided into different layers, or strata, based on factors like level of education, occupation, income, and wealth. Material possessions have not only highlighted the social, cultural and educational disparities that could exist in a given country, but also they are a microscope through which we see and study how certain mannerisms could be associated with elitism, privileges and power , as opposed to bearings and dispositions that are synonymous with lowliness, powerlessness and obliviousness.    

 In The Immigrant With A Difference it is evident that there is a big gap between the rich and the poor.

“Sipho is feasting his eyes on the furnishings in the living room.

He is gazing in awe at the fittings: an exotic Lalique crystal coffee

table, with its high quality and gorgeously detailed designs. His eyes

fall on an end table, lamps, a chair, an ottoman, a neat bookshelf,

and a T.V. and stereo system. The couches in the spacious room

are enclosed in a pigmented leather that speaks of durability and

resistance to soiling. The air has a chocolate-like taste and floral

aroma. Lady Mumba and Sipho are savoring the exotic Ethiopian

coffee.”

7. Opulence/ Pomposity

This is a state of being rich and having luxurious lifestyle.

“Then on Monday, at what appeared like a billionaire’s evening

party, how at the Mumba residence, men and women who drove the

latest and most expensive cars, spoke on the trendiest of cell phones,

and wore immaculate designer suits converged, wined, and dined.

They swayed in an English way and even sneezed in English—or

so it seemed to Sipho.”

“ I love you boy. I’ve gold and silver. Gold is my first name. Fun my second.

Body-licious my surname. What more can a soul want? Those who

have had the privilege and pleasure of rubbing shoulders with me

have confessed that I uniquely nurture a soul’s heart and body, as

if the earth’s axis is on my palm. Run away from this portly pig,

Mumba. I would pay you more, give you my everything, boy. Just

bring your freaking fresh figure to my place, boy. My body oozes

love and more love for you. Your body, oh boy, I feel like licking

you up like a chocolate bar. Please make me feel like a girl again?”

The Reviewer`s Final Comments and Assumptions On the Book

The Immigrant With A Difference is a fascinating, fast-paced and fresh story that roars and soars with an artistic, linguistic and thematic difference; and a legendary, irrepressible and haunting brilliance. Do goblins really exist? No doubt this story will get tongues wagging. It will redirect consideration, exploration and focus on the superstitious and supernatural elements that we hear of or read about in newspapers and magazines. It will rekindle animated debates, controversies and discussions on the horrors of the goblins and how and why they inhabit and harass their victims and users. This extraordinary book will appeal to both scholars and the generality of the readers and writers, irrespective of their age, region, religion and usual reading interests. Its rarity has a universal appeal.  It beckons to be explored, experienced and guzzled in one sitting!      

The Reviewer`s Biography:

      Maina Wahome is an author, a playwright and a poet. He was born in 5/10/1992 in Murang’a county-Kenya, but raised in Mukurwe-ini-Kenya. He did his undergraduate studies at Laikipia University where he graduated with a Bachelor of Education Degree (English and Literature). He has written two novels: The Double Edged Princess (2020) and Trials and Tribulations (2020). He has also authored a Secondary School writing book: The Illuminator (2020) and a play Trouble for Sale (2021).

   He worked as a teacher of English and Literature at Wamagana Secondary School (Kenya), Ilpolei High school (Kenya). He is currently working as a teacher of English and Literature at Gibson School Systems, Addis Ababa- Ethiopia.