Critical Context

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Like Mongo Beti’s Mission to Kala (1964), Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart (1958), and Samuel Selvon’s The Lonely Londoners (1956), Other Leopards is a mixture of style, scenic development, theme, and fragmentation. It is like Mission to Kala because Froad, like Medza, is undergoing a ritualistic search for a self-identity. Like Things Fall Apart, it is a story of dissatisfaction with white European rule, but it represents the breakdown of a single personality rather than a tribe or culture. Like The Lonely Londoners, it is a comic story of a man entangled in foreign cultural influences: It is a British boss who rules Froad’s life and eventually pushes him to violence.

Particularly noteworthy is Williams’ humorous use of dialect. While Williams cannot match Selvon’s exceptional ear for dialogue, he does capture the speech patterns of Froad’s interior and exterior consciousness marvelously well. If the novel’s fragmentary, episodic, and often impenetrable story line tends to confuse the reader, there is adequate compensation in this vivid realization of the protagonist’s inner life, through which Williams articulates the key issues of a divided Africa. Froad can only strike out helplessly and impotently for answers, all the while cursing the “whipping boy” of white European colonialism that made a common language, economy, and popular culture so deadening and so amorphous.