BOOKS/FILMS/AUTHORS--USEM4a--1998

The Dark Child by Camara Laye

The story of Camara Laye in The Dark Child is one of family values and growing up.

In Camara Laye's semi-autobiographical book, The Dark Child, the reader is able to view the growth and maturation of a young boy and his subsequent integration into adult society. The story begins when Camara is a young child, watching his father with awe as he works shaping chunks of gold into beautiful trinkets. Camara wishes to some day be as revered as his father is in the community, but for the time being, he simply attends school.

After reading this book, I was left with the question: was Camara better off leaving for school in France than staying in his village? I think he was better off going. The village was changing and becoming more modern. . . . The world he grew up in was no longer going to exist.

The issue [of Camara's leaving for school] can be very closely related to how many parents feel when their children leave for college. Even though their lives will be altered when they leave, they realize that their children's leaving is a very important part of education and maturity.

I wonder how long the cultures and religions existing in small parts of the world will last. In the future, will we have to learn about them only from books and museums? . . . Although it is good to look at everyone on an equal basis, will we lose our diversity?

Laye is circumcised in a gigantic festival where he "becomes" a man. . . . In Laye's own words, " . . . . We were still children" (p. 120). He was pronounced an adult but was still an immature child inside. I firmly believe that adulthood is only accomplished through time. The main reaction I take from this book is my title question: Am I an adult? Who tells me when this happens; will I know; will I notice; and, most of all, will I be different?

One of the major themes of this novel is that growing up is hard. . . . the main objective of the novel was to show other people who aren't really familiar with this society that, even though it is very different, there are also a lot of things that are very similar [to ours].

Upon reading the story, I felt a strong relationship to my own experiences with leaving home for college. At first, it seemed so odd, since Laye was raised in a time and place that couldn't be much more different from mine, but it then occurred to me that some things never change.

I miss my parents. After we talked last week I called my parents. This book really made me think about them. The characters in this book truly are universal, the parents remind me a lot of mine and I guess you could say I'm Camara. His father always pushing him to do well, but wanting to restrain him, and standing up for him. My father does the same thing. His mother took care of everyone and the cooking, she kept people in line, although mine didn't always do that, she still tried. Even though my parents both went off to college, they stayed close to home; I moved ten hours away. My mother didn't want me to go so far away, my father pushed me to do what I wanted, but when I left they were both crying.

The Dark Child really made me think about what little community exists in the world today. In our class discussion about rites of passage, when we decided that cultures like Laye's can no longer exist without outside influence, that really made me think.

We learn a lot about the Malinke people through the eyes of a young boy. Just as he is curious, so is the reader as to what this religion and culture is about.

In this text, the severity of manners and politeness really impressed me. One example, which I know many are concerned is lacking in American society, is the respect for meal time. . . . The children of the Malinke tribe quickly learned to respect food and family. . . . Moral guidelines, strict discipline, and strenuous work were all revealed in Laye's book. This cultural awareness hopefully disproved stereotypes, made by the French and others at the time, which incorrectly clumped Africans together as an indolent and barbaric people.

During the coming of age ceremonies, much of what was to happen was unknown to the boys. This raised a question in my mind. Does the fear that exists because of the unknown help to move the boys into manhood? I personally feel that it does have some effectiveness. If the boys knew exactly what to expect, they would not bond the way they did in the book. This story showed me the significance of traditions and rituals.

As a college student who has just recently moved away from home, I can easily relate to The Dark Child. Camara Laye's memories of becoming an adult and broadening his education can be compared to many students' experiences.

The Dark Child impressed me . . . Rarely is the Dark Continent portrayed as a home and family environment. More often than not it is a place of fear and mystery.

The Dark Child is a saga about "paradise lost," about a time when the author was happy. The novel is his device to regain this paradise.