Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Father Drumont

Father Drumont, a bearded, middle-aged, archetypal Catholic missionary who founded and for twenty years nurtured the mission at Bomba. A stern but not humorless man, he is obsessed with sex and disillusioned by his failure to persuade Africans to follow church teachings on chastity and monogamy. Frustrated by the persistence of the traditional African social and religious practices that he sees on his tour of the Tala villages, he concludes eventually that he cannot successfully Christianize the Africans. At the end of the tour, he decides to return to France. By then, he is a wiser man but is dejected because he realizes that his work has functioned to soften and prepare the Africans for an exploitative and brutal colonial system.


Denis, the fourteen-year-old narrator and Drumont’s houseboy. He naïvely and ironically identifies with the Christian and European values of the missionary. Accompanying Drumont on a pastoral tour of the bush, he records, but rarely comprehends, the conversations and activities of the entourage and the villagers. Loving and admiring the priest more than his own father, Denis criticizes his fellow Africans for their failure to adhere to Christian principles and their lack of respect for Drumont. He is a sensitive and sweet adolescent who matures quickly as a result of the tour and his mentor’s realizations about the brutality of the colonial mission.


Zacharia, Drumont’s fun-loving, irreverent African cook. A realist, he uses his position to acquire wealth and sexual conquests. Indifferent to Christianity, he explicitly opposes Drumont’s views and explains the “reality”...

(The entire section is 701 words.)

The Characters

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Within the insistently ironic voice of the narrator, Mongo Beti subtly develops a gradual opposition between the seemingly inextricable viewpoints of Drumont and Denis. While Drumont realizes slowly his failure to convert the Talas to Christianity in any authentic sense, Denis realizes slowly that Christianity has destroyed rather than saved his people. Because Denis often says just the opposite of what the author means and because the narrator’s amply detailed description of the mission, villages, forest, and customs is factual rather than ironic, the characterization of the two seems at first nearly static. As the pace of comic events becomes more rapid as the novel progresses, Drumont’s disillusionment appears somewhat sudden, yet, as he himself suggests, the reality of his failures has been emerging over several years. Denis, on the other hand, maintains his naive stance until the last pages of the novel, even though the reader senses the waning of the irony in his voice from the point of his first sexual experience. By the end of the novel, what initially seemed a genuine spiritual alliance between Drumont and Denis becomes an irreconcilable conflict between the colonial Christianity of Drumont and the rootless coming-of-age of a modern African boy.

In Beti’s use of an innocent vision to shape a web from which all other characters speak for themselves and to one another, a second conflicting tension develops. Because Denis records an increasing amount of dialogue as the novel unfolds, the reader can discern two sets of characters who hold contrasting viewpoints on the significance of the mission. The first group, those such as Denis, see the evangelism at work from the inside and depend on the omission of details (such as the flagrant pandering), on discrepancy, and on extreme hyperbole to show the irrelevance of a faith so deeply antagonistic to African values. The vicar, Jean-Martin Le Guen,...

(The entire section is 784 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Britwum, Kwabena. “Irony and the Paradox of Idealism in Mongo Beti’s Le Pauvre Christ de Bomba,” in Re: Arts and Letters. VI (1972), pp. 48-68.

Cassirer, Thomas. “The Dilemma of Leadership as Tragi-Comedy in the Novels of Mongo Beti,” in L’Esprit Createur. X (1970), pp. 223-233.

Chase, Joanne. “Saints and Idiots: The Fanatic Mentality as Depicted in Mongo Beti’s The Poor Christ of Bomba,” in ACLALS Bulletin. V (1980), pp. 86-97.

Lambert, Fernando. “Narrative Perspectives in Mongo Beti’s Le Pauvre Christ de Bomba,” in Yale French Studies. LIII (1976), pp. 78-91.

Porter, Abioseh Mike. “The Child-Narrator and the Theme of Love in Mongo Beti’s Le Pauvre Christ de Bomba,” in Design and Intent in African Literature, 1982.