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The significance of NDeye Toutis identity in Gods Bits of Wood

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Chloe Lau Ho Yi (candidate no.) English Literature SL Written Assignment God’s Bit’s of Wood by Sembène Ousmane The significance of N’Deye Touti’s identity in God’s Bits of Wood Name: Lau Ho Yi Chloe Candidate number: Word count: 1494 Date: 15th October 2012 ________________ Reflective Statement: During the interactive oral sessions, the novel evolved in my eyes from a narrative of the 1948 railroad strike in Senegal to an in-depth description of the colonial African society undergoing decolonization and transformation. These sessions led me to admire the thoughtfulness of the author, Sembène Ousmane, who expressed the conflicts between gender and classes in the society through various literary aspects. The causes for the success of the strike and the effect on the traditional African society are expressed through characterization, structure and description. Although the structure of the book is confusing because the chapters switches between characters and places, I learn that the vast amount of characters presented let readers understand the extent of the strike, and how characters with different cultural background are considered in the context of a society undergoing structural change. Discussion with peers and teacher on individualism in the novel marks the transformation of the African society because individualism is not a traditional ideal in African culture; rather a household is considered to be a unit in the society. The structure of the novel reinforces this idea as the chapters are named after specific characters in different locations. ...read more.


Ousmane develops the character N?Deye Touti through the deterioration of her fancy clothes, and burning of her books. The destruction symbolizes how she finally understands her efforts to be westernized is futile and eventually accepts her African roots. When N?Deye Touti overhears some white officers degrading her to be a prostitute, she is ? a strange sight. Her normally well-combed and braided hair was in wild disorder her eyes glittered angrily, and her clothing was disarranged and covered with dust.?[5] The incident indicates that she can never join the upper, French class in the society as a Black French woman. After Bakayoko rejected her to be his wife, she is ?carelessly dressed and wearing a pair of old sandals and a hat that had long since lost its brim?[6] making her ??unrecognizable. Her face was haggard and drawn, her clothing was plastered to her body with sweat.?[7] The clothes? deterioration is a statement to the struggle N?Deye Touti goes through to realize her African identity, ultimately leading her to do household chores willingly. Ousmane brings out the theme that one should embrace their background, but also it is possible for the Western world and African cultures to come together. N?Deye Touti might be well educated about the Western world, but she can also fulfil her role as an African woman with her unique knowledge. Thus, her transformation from adopting Western culture as her own to recognizing her African roots is symbolized by her state of clothing. ...read more.


The rejection is a lesson of humility, but also a lesson for her to make self-validating and fulfilling life choices out of her knowledge. N?Deye Touti?s dismissal of Beaugosse?s advances shows beyond doubt that she is not a materialistic person like Beaugosse. The fever symbolizes her retreat and self-reflection after being rejected by Bakayoko, acting as an emotion purge for her to overcome her self-pride and finally embrace her African background. The rejection paradoxically has a positive impact on N?Deye Touti, allowing readers to re-access the character as a person growing out of individualist aspirations to a selfless African woman who fetch water stoically for the household. Now,?everyone still called her ?mad?mizelle?, but now there was admiration and affection in their use of the word.?[11] In conclusion, Ousmane develops N?Deye Touti?s character to reflect changes in women characters? roles in the West African society after the strike. Her process of embracing African identity is visualized through metaphors and symbols. She is an odd figure that contrasts with the other women characters: Ousmane presents her to be an educated, westernized character that seems to have no place in the traditional African society, but manipulates N?Deye Touti?s identity to make a narrative argument on integration of Western knowledge in a decolonizing society for the common welfare. He makes clear that one?s ethnic and cultural background can co-exist with their ideals and education, paralleling N?Deye Touti?s journey of self-discovery to the transition of the society from agricultural to industrial. ...read more.

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