Samba Diallo is a child of one of the elite families of the Diallobé. His father is a sophisticated and intelligent man who is so dignified that he reminds people of a “knight of the middle ages.” Samba Diallo has inherited many of his father’s gifts, and he is particularly erudite. As a child, he shows great skill at reciting the verses of the Koran. Although he does not yet have a great deal of understanding about what he is saying, he nevertheless feels a great deal of devotion through recitation. He is looked upon as a natural successor to Thierno, the teacher of the Diallobé.
However, the chief’s sister, the Most Royal Lady, sees additional uses in Samba Diallo. For her, he is the sort of boy who can be sent to the French schools to learn what the colonists know without being corrupted by it. Because he is a member of a leading family, she suggests, it is his responsibility to lead the Diallobé into this new and confusing world. The Most Royal Lady’s plans are accepted, and Samba Diallo is sent to the French School just as he is beginning to understand the Koranic verses he has memorized.
Samba Diallo shows great ability at his new school and is able to discuss metaphysics with his father. He goes on to study philosophy in France and again shows a natural aptitude for the subject. He reflects that the power of the French language was in many ways overwhelming to him. In particular, he explains how he was suddenly able to take thoughts from his head and transmit them to his father without speaking out loud. The power of the written language may have opened many opportunities, but it has closed off others. Samba Diallo is concerned that he no longer feels the same level of devotion to God that he once did. When he returns home, he no longer attends prayer and is murdered by the Fool for his lack of devotion. However, during a final scene, Samba Diallo experiences an afterlife that announces that he has entered a place that has no ambiguity.
There are many parallels between Samba Diallo and Cheikh...
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