In The Dark Child, how is culture involved in Camera Laye's coming-of-age?

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belarafon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Culture affects Camera Laye's coming-of-age in two major ways. First, in the tradition of his people, the Malinke, he receives the title of "adult" after a ritual circumcision at age fifteen. This ritual and the customs and traditions surrounding it gave Laye a specific cultural identity, allowing him to bond with the other adults over their shared heritage. Without that specific bonding experience, Laye would not have had the deep personal connection with his parents and community. Since the whole community participated in the ritual, Laye and the other boys were able to feel that they had both self-worth and value to the community itself.

On this final day, we were all worked up into a kind of strange excitement. The men who perform this initiation, after having shaved their heads, gathered us together in a hut built apart from the concessions. This hut, which was very spacious, would henceforward be our dwelling place.
(Laye, The Dark Child,

The other culture that affected Laye's development was the more secular French culture. Growing up with both cultures gave Laye pause to think about his heritage and wonder where he truly belonged. As much as the Malinke culture affected his sense of self, the French culture affected his worldly outlook and the way he interacted with people later in life. These cultural differences shaped Laye into a complex individual with a very specific self-identity.

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The Dark Child

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