Head Work

This study guide will help you analyze the short story “Head Work” by Abel Phelps (2004). You can also find a summary of the text, as well as inspiration for interpreting it. 

Excerpt from the study guide:

Direct address

The first-person narrator also addresses the reader directly in the beginning of the story. This technique is also called breaking the fourth wall, and it helps to engage the readers, making them part of the story: “You think of being out of work as something that happens to other people.” (p. 250, ll. 3-4)


In the story, there are a few foreshadowing elements, hinting at what will happen next. First of all, the initial narrative speech about being laid off hints that this is what the story is going to be about. Further on, Gertie’s statement about how a wig would suit Klaas proves to be true when she sends him one: ““I reckon if Klasie got a wig, he could even get a job as Prime Minister”, were her last words.” (p. 253, ll. 14-15)


As we have previously pointed out, the whole story is built on irony and humour which help present the theme of racial...

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Head Work

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