Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 325
African American writer Imbolo Mbue's 2016 novel Behold the Dreamers is told by a third-person omniscient narrator, who gives relatively equal voice to the inner thoughts of many of the main characters, chiefly Jende Jonga and his wife, Neni.
In many ways, Mbue portrays Jende and Neni in counterpoint to the American couple for whom they work: Clark and Cindy. Clark is the paragon of American success at the beginning of the novel; he is an investor at Lehman brothers and has a wife and two sons. A few weeks into Jende's tenure as Clark's chauffeur, the two began to bond, as Clark asks Jende about his hometown. He says,
"Why did you come to America if your town is so beautiful?" Jende laughed a brief, uneasy laugh. "But Sir," he said, "America is America."
Jende goes on to explain to Clark explicitly that his son would be destined for poverty in Cameroon, while in America, he "can become something . . . a respectable man." The irony of this notion is demonstrated when Lehman Brothers declares bankruptcy, and Clark experiences financial and marital troubles when his infidelity is exposed in a newspaper and he is forced to fire Jende owing to financial difficulty.
After Jende decides to return to America (against his wife's initial wishes), the couple prepares to leave. It is explained that
In Limbe, the ten thousand dollars that Neni had taken from Cindy, plus the eight thousand dollars they'd saved . . . would make them millionaires many times over. Even after buying the airlines tickets and making all the necessary purchases, they would have enough money for Jende to become one of the richest men in New Town.
Jende considers that he will send his son to a school that his father could not afford to attend, and his wife will have a maid in their home in Cameroon. This imaginative moment causes one to question the relative merits of the American Dream that the couple sought.
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