Chapters 10–12

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Last Updated on February 12, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 882

Chapter 10: Thiès: Sounkaré, The Watchman

The elder watchman, Sounkaré, lives alone in a shack near the warehouses by the railroad. When the strike first began, Sounkaré stayed at his home for two weeks, eating from his store of rice, but he has run out of food. On this particular morning, Sounkaré walks with his cane to the nearby machine shop, where he ruminates about the usual commotion he would see if the men were working again. He thinks about the first strike of 1938, when so many men died.

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He attempts to kill two rats with a piece of copper piping, but the animals scurry away before he can reach them. His empty belly turns his thoughts to God, whom Sounkaré asks if He has forsaken the lonely, starving man he has become. Although he used to eat many meals at Dieynaba’s house, he now spends his time alone.

Sounkaré walks from place to place, hoping to find someone who will let him eat. Dieynaba, who is living in a train car with eleven women and children including herself, rebukes Sounkaré for not supporting the strike, turning him away. At the Syrian’s shop in the Place de France, Sounkaré is pushed out into the street as a beggar. At the union office, his old friend Bakary glorifies the strikers, making Sounkaré feel further alienated.

He wanders to the motor repair shop, where he is once again confronted with imposing silence and loneliness. Next to a grease pit, he sees the two rats who had escaped earlier that day. Sounkaré’s vision suddenly turns cloudy, and he drops his cane. When he tries to stand upright after grabbing his cane on the ground, he stumbles headfirst into the grease pit, drowning.

The two rats begin eating Sounkaré’s body, and more rats join them.

Chapter 11: Thiès: Penda

The women in the city sell their personal items—precious headscarves, clothes, and fetishes—to markets so they can buy food. As the strike wears on, however, markets seem less likely to buy these items. Most of the women gather at Dieynaba’s house in the evenings, talking and singing.

Penda, Dieynaba’s incorrigible adopted daughter, comes home to her hut next to Dieynaba’s house in the middle of the night to discover Maïmouna sleeping in her bed. Penda demands that Maïmouna light a match to prove she is alone, but the blind woman replies that she cannot. 

The next morning, the women spread the news that Penda has returned from one of her many absences. Penda, after washing herself at the communal fountain, tells Maïmouna that she can continue to stay in Penda’s hut.

As the strike continues, Penda and Maïmouna get to know each other. Lahbib enlists Penda to distribute rations of rice to the wives of the workmen. On one occasion, an angry wife refuses to let Penda serve the ration, calling Penda a “whore.” In response, Penda violently spits in the woman’s face.

Penda becomes more involved in the union office, gaining the respect of the men while refusing to be mistreated. At night, Penda tells Maïmouna that she will find out the identity of the man who impregnated the blind woman with twins. When Maïmouna questions why Penda helps the strike since she seems to dislike men so much, Penda falls asleep while pondering the answer.

Chapter 12: Thiès: Doudou

As secretary-general of the strike, Doudou has grown disenchanted with his position in the strike that has lasted for forty...

(The entire section contains 882 words.)

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Chapters 7–9


Chapters 13–15