Roots: The Saga of an American Family Chapter 38 Summary

Alex Haley

Chapter 38 Summary

The women sing of their ability to hide knives and other weapons in the hold for the men. This further excites the whisperings of the men below as they shout their suggestions on how to cause an uprising. At this point, Kunta doesn't care whether the attack is immediate or saved for the right time; "Kunta was ready to fight to the death."

Again, the elder in the hold speaks of the importance of being "one village." The majority of the men are on the side of waiting for the right moment to attack. The method is chosen. In the meantime, the men are asked to observe the white men scrupulously and to dance as happily as possible. The latter allows the men to be treated less severely. They discuss the importance of the two white men driving the ship: the only two to be spared.

As Kunta lies in the hold in wait for the moment of attack, he marvels at the ferocity of the rats and the evilness of the toubob. Kunta wonders whether the toubob have no women at all, so that they have to steal from a different race. Further, he wonders whether the white men even believe in anything spiritual.

Things get worse physically for the men in the hold. Bones start showing through where bodies are rubbing against the wood. Men start looking like zombies up on deck. Even the medicine the white men force down their throats doesn't seem to work. Still, one man who believed the attack should be imminent kills two toubob before his head is severed completely. The guns and cannon are fired. The entire hold is emptied to force the prisoners to watch the toubob bludgeon the body of this man in punishment.

Kunta finally hears the attack order for the next time they are up on deck to dance. Wanting to die a warrior, Kunta begins to admire the man with the severed head.

The attack, however, never comes because a huge storm rises. It sends gushes of water into the hold and throws the battered bodies around to grind their bones even harder into the wooden shelves. While attempting to block the water from entering the hold, the toubob also block the air. Many of the men black out, including Kunta, who eventually finds himself on deck again. Kunta is surprised both that he is alive and that so many of his people are dead.

Kunta wonders how Allah could possibly live in a place like this. Kunta longs for death so he can join his ancestors.