Honors English 9, Period 1
23 September 2014
Loss of Innocence
Loss of innocence is usually thought of as an experience or period in a child's life that widens their awareness of evil, pain or suffering in the world around them. For the children of the fictional community of Bonang, losing their innocence comes early in their childhood years and comes with strong memories that stay with them for life. An AIDS pandemic is spreading through the town and is adding to its severe poverty. Many people have sympathy for the victims of AIDS but do not actually understand the pain they endure. This novel brings a dramatic awareness to the loss of innocence of children in a Sub-Saharan African community. Allan Stratton writes a powerful novel, Chanda’s Secrets, about Chanda and Esther losing their innocence as a result of the AIDS pandemic in their lives.
When Chanda lost her innocence it was taken from her with force, instead of the nurturing way children are supposed to grow. Chanda seems to be surrounded by death. The story opens with her making funeral arrangements for her younger sister Sarah, who has just passed away after one and a half years of life. Nobody in the family wants to admit it, but Sarah’s cause of death was HIV/AIDS. There are multiple funerals taking place throughout the community daily. Funerals are an expected part of life for Chanda. She has to take a larger role of responsibility in her family because Sarah’s death left Mama and Jonah in profound grieving. Her family’s troubles continue after her father was killed in the diamond mines and they were kicked out of their house. Mama meets Isaac Pheto, who takes in the family in exchange for Mama working for him. Chanda’s time at his house starts off fine, but Issac’s, boundaries become blurry and he starts to sexually abuse Chanda. She is afraid to tell Mama what is going on because the experience is strange to her and she is confused about what her actions should be. When Isaac continues to abuse Chanda, she lies to her mother and says she is fine when, “The truth was, everything was the matter” (17). To clear her head, Chanda sings the ABCs to herself as fast as she can because she needs a way to relieve the stress in her life. When she sings the ABCs, she is remembering her innocent childhood and coping with the complicated situation she is in now. Chanda will forever be tainted by the vivid pictures of losing her innocence.
For Esther, losing her innocence was a choice. Her parents died a few years before the novel begins and after their death, Esther and her siblings were split up between families. She hates the separation and needs her siblings around her as she is mourning her parents’ deaths. Eventually, she develops a sense of responsibility to get her siblings back because she thinks their situations are as bad as hers and as the oldest, taking care of her siblings is her job. Esther is missing love in her life and as a result, is not feeling like she is good enough,