Roots: The Saga of an American Family Chapter 34 Summary

Alex Haley

Chapter 34 Summary

Kunta Kinte wonders at first if he has gone insane. He lies there in pitch blackness amid the most foul stench imaginable, vomiting up the rest of the contents of his stomach, chained to a moaning man beside him, rats brushing against his cheek. Kunta is unable to sit up, with wood above him, wood below him, and wood all around him. Is he in some kind of cage? In his pain, Kunta cannot remember how he got here.

Kunta Kinte futilely fights against his bonds. Then he lies silent, deciding to save his strength. He is disgusted with himself for having to relieve his bowels; however, having been four days, Kunta must. Kunta hates himself for adding to the awful stink of the hold. As he lies in this horrible state, Kunta listens to the shouts and moans of others in his same condition. He hears them pray to Allah. He hears them shout out the names of family members in many different languages. He hears the men shout evil magic at the toubob.

Kunta Kinte decides that Allah is punishing him for a terrible sin. Therefore, Kunta spends some time praying for deep forgiveness. He pleads with Allah for an answer; however, he can think of no sin except the lack of prayer since he blacked out in the fight along the river.

Suddenly, Kunta remembers how he came to be chained here. The memory is painful to relive. As Kunta awakens from the blow to the temple that allowed him to be shackled with rope, the two white men and their black helpers tie Kunta with others they have stolen and bring them along the river to the beach, where a bamboo cage-like structure stands. All the stolen tribesmen and women are thrown, naked, into this structure. Any resistance yields a heavy blow to the head. They are smeared with palm oil and inspected. Even their private parts are fondled in order to assess their quality. Kunta can be subdued only with great force as he takes every opportunity to resist. Kunta spends time in and out of consciousness, noticing things in between. It isn’t long before everyone’s head is shaved and everyone is branded with “LL” upon their back. This marking shows that they are to cross the ocean on a boat called the Lord Ligonier. They are logged into the ship’s books, forced into canoes, rowed to the boat itself, lifted with ropes onto the boat’s deck, and forced into the ship's hold. Kunta Kinta vomits and blacks out again. Such ends his reverie.