Themes and Meanings

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Although Beti’s novel debunks the relevance of Christianity to traditional Africa with wit and comedy, the larger and more serious charge against Christianity is that it paves the road of colonialism with a spiritual chaos that softens the resistance to colonial exploitation. In the metaphor of Christianity as a venereal disease that spreads quietly through the countryside, the Talas lose their capacity for not only resistance but also self-determination. Implicitly, Beti argues the negritude movement’s position that sensuality is superior to rationality, that emotion determines human relationships much more powerfully than does reason. Left without a coherent set of emotional principles for guidance, the Talas are deprived of the basis of their identity with a larger community. Drumont preaches constantly against sexuality not simply because he represents a theology that espouses sexual repression but also because to forbid sex among traditional Tala practices is to undermine a crucial element of Tala morality. Socially, the destruction of polygamy, the superficial imposition of alien ritual, and the absence of young men and women from the traditional family (a result of Christian education and the introduction of technology into village life) all combine to divide the Talas between those who pursue a European commercial life-style along the roads and those who cling to a pastoral, agrarian life-style in the forest. Consequently, a nascent class system built on sexual practices, values, and race begins to characterize a previously complex kinship system of social organization.

Without either African traditions or viable Christian values to sustain a united community, the Talas are left without the power of wealth, leadership, or numbers to resist the intrusion of Vidal and his soldiers into their...

(The entire section is 741 words.)