Chapters 13–15

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Last Updated on February 12, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1126

Chapter 13: Thiès: The Apprentices

The teenage boys who once served as apprentices to senior workers regard the strike as a kind of vacation, until their families ask the young men to scavenge for escaped chickens and baobab fruit. Soon, scavenging becomes futile, so the boys must find other activities to occupy their idle time.

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Magatte, Doudou’s apprentice, is the leader of the group. The boys use the hollowed trunk of an ancient baobab tree in one of Thiès’s suburbs, where they spend their days collecting snakes and lizards, retelling the plots of every Western or war film they had seen before the strike. One day, the group decides it wants to make slingshots, so they can kill other creatures with ease.

Magatte organizes a plan to invade the Syrian’s fenced supply yard at the back of his shop so that the apprentices can steal the tire tubing from an abandoned Chevrolet to make their slingshots. The Syrian’s wife is bathing behind a mosquito net in full view of the boys, but their plan is successful. The apprentices use their slingshots to kill hummingbirds and all manner of small animals, which they use for target practice or to eat as their dinner.

Dieynaba’s son, Gorgui, is one of Magatte’s followers. One morning, Dieynaba tells Gorgui that he and his friends should be raiding the toubabs’ chicken coops. The apprentices are exhilarated at the thought, and their early raids are hugely successful, with each boy carrying one or two chickens home to his family. Penda also involves the apprentices in a scheme—which involves pipes, empty sacks, and diversions— to steal rice from the Syrian’s shop.

These escapades motivate the band of apprentices to seek increasingly dangerous fun: The boys begin roaming into the European districts at night, shattering street lamps, headlights, windows, and the like. This incites panic among the whites, leading to increased patrols. On one of these night raids, the youngest of the apprentice crew aims his slingshot at a lizard that scuttles out from behind a parked car’s wheel.

Isnard appears from behind the car with a revolver, emptying his clip into the seven-member group, killing two and wounding a third. Realizing what he has done, Isnard flees the scene. Magatte runs to the union office to announce what has happened, and soon hundreds of people are headed to the place where the children’s bodies are.

They march through the city with anger, enacting funerals in front of the district administrator’s house and other places. Three days later, the railroad company sends the message to the union leaders that it will agree to a meeting.

Chapter 14: Thiès: The Vatican

Among the Africans, the European district of Thiès is known as the Vatican, because it is distinctly different than the rest of the city. There, in one of the spacious villas constructed for the white workers, Isnard is hosting a dinner with some of his colleagues and a new neighbor.

Isnard is haunted by the thought of the two apprentices he killed, but his wife, Beatrice, and his dinner guests urge him to forget it. The young neighbor, Pierre, asks how he can get to know an authentic African family, to which Beatrice remarks that he should not. Leblanc and Victor, the other two guests, begin quarreling over the character of the Africans.

Leblanc, who is always drunk, blames the whites for engendering hatred from the blacks. He boasts about having anonymously donated two thousand francs to the strikers, even though he resents the way they look at him. A representative from Dakar, Eduoard, arrives at the scene to discuss the upcoming meeting with the union representatives. Eduoard suggests that this scandal with the apprentices has put the company in a vulnerable position.

Before the conversation can continue, Victor and Isnard escort the...

(The entire section contains 1126 words.)

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Chapters 16–17