What are the symbols in Camara Laye's The Dark Child?

Symbols in Camara Laye's The Dark Child include the black snake, the rice fields, Laye's circumcision rite, school, the scholarship, and the Paris subway map.

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Camara Laye's novelistic autobiography The Dark Child is filled with symbolism. Let's look at a few of the story's symbols.

Laye grows up in a village in Guinea where his father is a goldsmith. His father also has a reputation as a mystic and a prophet, and this role is symbolized by the black snake. Laye's father pets and talks to the snake, something no one else would attempt, and Laye's mother explains that the snake is their people's spirit animal that guides Laye's father and provides him with wisdom. Laye himself, however, has no apparent mystical abilities, and he realizes that he must ultimately move beyond his family and village.

For a while, the rice fields are symbolic for Laye, for they represent his growth toward young manhood as he is able to help with the harvest. The circumcision rite, however, is the strongest symbol of Laye's movement into manhood. After that, Laye wears different clothing and moves into his own hut, actions that serve as symbols of his new status in the community.

As a teenager, Laye goes away to school, which for him, symbolizes new opportunities and new experiences. Eventually, he earns a scholarship to study in Paris. For Laye, this scholarship is a new symbol of the possibilities of higher education and a different life. For his mother, though, the scholarship is a symbol of her son's distance from his heritage and his family, and she forbids him to go. To her, the scholarship is yet another instance of European interference with the lives of her people.

Yet Laye does use the scholarship and goes to school in Paris, and when he arrives in France, he has only a few things with him. One of those items is a map of the Paris subway system. Laye's father has given him this map, and it becomes a symbol of his family and their care for him as well as of his new life.

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