God's Bits of Wood

by Ousmane Sembène

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God's Bits of Wood Characters

Of the dozens of characters in God’s Bits of Wood, the four most central are Ramatoulaye, N’Deye Touti, Bakayoko, and Dejean.

  • Ramatoulaye cares deeply for her family and community and steps forward as a leader when the women organize their march on Dakar.
  • N’Deye Touti is torn between the European education she has received and the African culture she comes from.
  • Bakayoko is a union leader who adeptly organizes the workers’ groups across Dakar, Thiès, and Bamako. He is instrumental in the strike.
  • Dejean is the regional director of the railway. He represents French colonialism in his racist treatment of the workers.


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Last Updated on September 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 423


Bakayoko, described as a strong and intelligent man, represents the resolve that drives the Africans to strike: he is a union man, able to speak multiple languages and communicate his ideas to people in multiple social groups to help drive people toward revolution. Bakayoko never loses faith and is one of the great heroes of the strike.


Doudou works for the railway as a secretary; he is at times uncertain of his role in life. Ultimately, he dies of an illness thought by many to have been exacerbated by the behavior of the French management.

Monsieur Dejean

Although the behavior of the French managers is criticized by the narrative, Monsieur Dejean, who leads the local railway office, is not necessarily a one-dimensional character. His behavior toward his African workers, however, is deplorable, especially when he is physically violent toward Bakayoko. He is able to leave Dakar before any violence is enacted upon him in return.


Monsieur Dejean stands in contrast to Edouard, who is also a Frenchman working for the railway. Edouard is a more peaceful character, genuine in his desire for diplomatic negotiations, but he is ultimately unable to prevent conflict from breaking out because of the harsh penalties imposed by the French. He does not have sufficient strength of character to manage the situation.


There are two major female characters in the novel, one of whom, Ramatoulaye, is representative of a certain class of rich Muslims. She is a very strong woman and leads the march upon Dakar, which helps shore up flagging spirits and ensure the victory of the striking workers.

N'Deye Touti

N'Deye Touti, Ramatoulaye's niece, is representative of division: she cannot find a place for herself in the world where she truly belongs. She has pride in her African upbringing but is also courted by a Frenchman, Beaugosse. In the end, however, she burns her ties to the French normal school in the form of her schoolwork but is unable to fully join the African culture of her roots when she is rejected by Bakayoko as a marriage prospect.

The great strength of God's Bits of Wood is that it is able to discuss these characters, and still more, and communicate a sense that they are all real people existing in a real place but, in the end, subject to the vicissitudes of God. They are his "bits of wood," or puppets, but through their actions they are able to prevent themselves from going through life as mere puppets for the French railroad owners.

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