In A Dying Colonialism, which depicts the Algerian struggle during the Algerian Revolution, what does author Frantz Fanon describe as being the changes made in family life?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In his book A Dying Colonialism, Frantz Fanon details in what ways the Algerian Revolution against French colonialists affected Algerian society. During the Algerian Revolution, the role of the Arabic Algerian woman changed due to the fact that she was needed to assist in the war efforts. Virtually all Algerian women participated in the war by acting as secret agents. What's more, in order to fulfill their roles as secret agents without being arrested by the French, the Muslim Algerian women had to pose as Europeans by leaving behind their veils. As a result, as Fanon explains in the chapter titled "The Algerian Family," the absence of the veil also impacted family life.

Fanon saw the Arabic Algerian family as having once been a solid unit, and, due to the war efforts, the family broke up into "separate elements." Each family member gained its own "individuality." One point he makes is that the wife was permitted and especially needed to leave her home rather than tend to only her normal household duties, which of course changed the family structure.

He even asserts that sons in a family now had a new role due to the war. No longer could they remain loyal and obedient to their fathers as they had expected to be for generations. Instead, suddenly, sons were often forced to choose sides between the French and his insurgent father and hand his father over to the French. Other times, the son had to pay ransom for the father. Both situations modified the relationship between father and son among Algerian families because now fathers could no longer trust their sons, and sons had to choose between loyalty to their fathers and loyalty to the ruling French.

Fanon also asserts that the role of dauthers within the Algerian family changed drastically as a result fo the war. Prior to the war, the Algerian daughter had a financial and social need to marry as soon as possible--as soon as she hit puberty. As Fanon phrases it, a Muslim Algerian daughter would be "considered a minor indefinitely," meaning that, like a child, she would always be considered a subordinate, and would need the protection of a husband as soon as possible, especially in the absence of a father (p. 107). However, the war, due to women's role as secret agents, brought new freedoms and changes for the Algerian daughter. As Fanon phrases it:

The unveiled Algerian woman, who assumed an increasingly important place in revolutionary action, developed her personality, discovered the exalting realm of responsibility. (p. 107)

Naturally, the Muslim Algerian woman, once "unveiled," could not return to her past life of subordination. Fanon especially emphasizes the fact that the role of the Algerian daughter, once involved in the war efforts, was no longer a role of silence before her father. She was now allowed and even needed to speak out and share the intelligence she had gathered through her task as a spy.

Hence, as Fanon asserts, the role of the wife changed in that she now left her home; the role of the son changed in that he was now a threat to the father due to the chance that he may become disloyal to the father; and the role of the daughter changed in that she was no longer subordinate and was now able to speak freely. Therefore, as Fanon asserts, each member of the Algerian family certainly did take on new roles as a result of the war.

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