Roots: The Saga of an American Family Chapter 14 Summary

Alex Haley

Chapter 14 Summary

The five long months of the dry season are hard for the village of Juffare in the Gambia of Africa. The sun and heat bake Kunta Kinte’s lips and feet as he tends to his goats all day. Even though Kunta spends the morning rubbing his feet with palm oil, that treatment is no match for the heat of the day on this hot, dry continent. Kunta, Sitafa, and their friends, however, never complain. They are a growing testament to the respect and honor of their fathers in that silence. Still, the friends play less, eat less, and talk less as they try to bear the heat together, herding their goats.

Ironically, the nights are bitterly cold, and groups of Mandinka gather around their separate fires to shiver through the nights together: the grandmothers with the young children, the men, the women and maidens, and the elders. The boys of Kunta’s age flit back and forth trying to decide whether to eavesdrop on the elders (who mostly just talk about the heat) or to listen in to the grandmothers’ stories.

It isn’t long before the horrid harmattan wind makes living in the day unbearable. The harmattan blows dry dust everywhere so that one can hardly breathe. The people of Juffare begin to squabble with each other unnecessarily, and the cattle and goats become thin and sad. During these days, Kunta often herds his goats alone and ponders the sufferings of his people. They always seem to be bearing one hardship or another: too much rain, too little rain, too little food, so much heat and sickness and death. Prayers to Allah to heal it all. Further, Kunta admits that the harvest season doesn’t last nearly long enough for his liking.

Kunta is encouraged when he begins to feel the softer winds starting to blow as he herds his goats in the heat. The rains will soon come, as they do every year. The adults begin to burn the weeds in the fields and scatter the ash to nourish the soil. This year Kunta notices that the little ones flit about gathering the falling flakes of ash: always a symbol of good luck. The rains approach quicker and quicker with the men busily moving their hoes back and forth in the soil. The men and women are preparing long, long rows to receive seeds. It seems to Kunta that this is an “endless cycle of seasons.”