The Wretched of the Earth

by Frantz Fanon
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Summarize chapter 1 in The Wretched of the Earth.

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Chapter 1 of The Wretched of the Earth examines the premise and outcome of efforts of decolonization. Fanon asserts that this is "always" a violent process because it involves replacing one "species" of man with a different "species." Although all men belong to the same species, those in a position...

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Chapter 1 of The Wretched of the Earth examines the premise and outcome of efforts of decolonization. Fanon asserts that this is "always" a violent process because it involves replacing one "species" of man with a different "species." Although all men belong to the same species, those in a position of power see the native population as somehow innately different, perhaps even nonhuman.

Two forces therefore clash, marked by violence in an effort to organize the world in a different way. Lines are drawn between these two worlds which do not complement each other. The settlers' town is "strongly built" and "brightly lit." The town of those who are colonized is "a place of ill fame, peopled by men of evil repute." This native town is starved physically and emotionally, and the inhabitants learn to look with lust upon the lives of the settlers.

The settler begins to portray the natives as inherently evil, lacking the values that are found in the colonial world. Furthermore, the native is seen as a "corrosive" force who deforms all that is good and moral. The native is taught that he must adhere to Western values, yet within these values he recognizes white supremacy and violence woven into the culture of the colonizers.

Individualism disappears among the natives as they are taught that the interests of one will be the interests of all. They come to believe that everyone will die or be saved together.

Being forced into this new structure with new values creates anger and aggression in natives, and they first demonstrate this hostility by turning on each other. The native is torn between his feelings of animosity toward the settler's world and being envious of all the settler enjoys. The native finds that he is "overpowered but not tamed." He patiently waits to catch the settler off guard so that he can seek revenge, finally reversing roles and becoming the persecutor.

Nationalist parties become involved in the tense conflict; the "colonialist bourgeoisie" promote nonviolence while simultaneously favoring their own continued privileges and status. Urban workers such as teachers, artisans, and shop owners profit from the colonial setup.

Fanon maintains that those who are colonized are never alone. There are always new ideas which can permeate the society of the colonizers, and violence pushes ideas and people forward. The colonized masses believe that their ultimate liberation can only be accomplished through force, and it may even become the foundation of a political party.

Fanon believes that violence can be a "cleansing force" which restores self-respect in those who have been subjected to colonization. Yet instead of offering up violence as a moralistic choice, Fanon examines the outcomes of brutal dehumanization; people become violent because they have endured great violence.

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