Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Samba Diallo

Samba Diallo, a young man of the Diallobé aristocracy who is perceived by all to represent the future of his people. For this reason, the older generation of the Diallobé people struggles to influence the course of his life. As a child, Samba evinces a profound sense of the spiritual beauty of Islam and of the Koran, the words of which he repeats without understanding them. When it is decided that he will attend a French school, he becomes enamored with the Western alphabet, philosophy, and scientific method, all of which suggest that everything can be expressed, analyzed, and mastered. Undertaking university studies in philosophy in Paris, he suffers deeply over the loss of the spiritual plenitude he had known before his contact with the West. As he discusses philosophical, spiritual, and political issues with those he meets, he realizes that in the course of his “ambiguous adventure” he has internalized aspects of both cultures and is no longer completely at ease in either. Recalled to Africa by his worried father, he seems to seek out his own demise and apparently experiences a return of faith at the moment of his death.


Thierno (tee-EHR-no), a teacher of Islam in the Koranic school and spiritual master of the Diallobé people. The fragility and stiffness of his aging body make a vivid contrast with the ethereal joy in his soul. Thierno declines to help the Diallobé decide whether to send their children to the colonial schools. With his preferred successor, Samba, away in Paris, he designates Demba, a pragmatic youth of peasant stock, whose first official act is to allow the Diallobé children to attend the French school.

The Knight

The Knight, Samba’s father, so dubbed by a school friend of Samba (Jean Lacroix) because of his stature and noble bearing. Although he works at a civil service post in the colonial administration, his contact with the West has not altered his deep faith. Indeed, he asserts that Africa’s urgent...

(The entire section is 846 words.)

Ambiguous Adventure The Characters

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Schooled in the rich oral tradition of the Peul and firmly grounded in the Arabic scripture of the Koran, Kane draws clearly on his own experience, having pursued a French education in Paris. His affinities with his protagonist, however, resemble only the general movement out of Senegal. The name “Samba” was a title bestowed on the second son of the family, and Kane employs it to suggest a second generation of Peul-Muslim Senegalese who have to come to terms with their identity as French colonial subjects. Kane himself served both as the French regional Governor of Thies and, after Senegal’s independence, as cabinet director in the Ministry of Development and Planning of the new government. Remaining a devout Muslim but acknowledging his pragmatic perspective toward the French, Kane would say of “Europeanized Africans” that “we are cultural half-breeds. If we feel as Negroes, we express ourselves in French, because French is a language of universal vocation.” That vocation, as writer and as political leader, however, serves only to arm Kane with diverse experience upon which he reflects in order to create the protagonist Samba and the other characters, all of whom are largely type characters who express distinct points of view through the complex discussions in the novel.

Of the West African characters, Thierno exercises the greatest determining influence on Samba, who serves as the conscience and identity upon whom all issues of the debates converge. Thierno is a stern, demanding master, shaping Samba’s early consciousness. He demands perfect recitations and does not hesitate to draw blood in order to punish mistakes. From hour to hour, he sustains the principles of suffering and martyrdom in his training of Samba. Yet Thierno is also quietly compassionate, struggling not to show favoritism despite his pride in Samba’s spiritual growth. When the fool returns to the village crazed by Europe’s...

(The entire section is 788 words.)

Ambiguous Adventure Characters

Samba Diallo

Samba Diallo is a child of one of the elite families of the Diallobé. His father is a sophisticated and intelligent man who is so dignified that he reminds people of a “knight of the middle ages.” Samba Diallo has inherited many of his father’s gifts, and he is particularly erudite. As a child, he shows great skill at reciting the verses of the Koran. Although he does not yet have a great deal of understanding about what he is saying, he nevertheless feels a great deal of devotion through recitation. He is looked upon as a natural successor to Thierno, the teacher of the Diallobé.

However, the chief’s sister, the Most Royal Lady, sees additional uses in Samba Diallo. For her, he is the sort of boy who can be sent to the French schools to learn what the colonists know without being corrupted by it. Because he is a member of a leading family, she suggests, it is his responsibility to lead the Diallobé into this new and confusing world. The Most Royal Lady’s plans are accepted, and Samba Diallo is sent to the French School just as he is beginning to understand the Koranic verses he has memorized.

Samba Diallo shows great ability at his new school and is able to discuss metaphysics with his father. He goes on to study philosophy in France and again shows a natural aptitude for the subject. He reflects that the power of the French language was in many ways overwhelming to him. In particular, he explains how he was suddenly able to take thoughts from his head and transmit them to his father without speaking out loud. The power of the written language may have opened many opportunities, but it has closed off others. Samba Diallo is concerned that he no longer feels the same level of devotion to God that he once did. When he returns home, he no longer attends prayer and is murdered by the Fool for his lack of devotion. However, during a final scene, Samba Diallo experiences an afterlife that announces that he has entered a place that has no ambiguity.

There are many parallels between Samba Diallo and Cheikh...

(The entire section is 852 words.)