Roots: The Saga of an American Family Chapter 50 Summary

Alex Haley

Chapter 50 Summary

Lapsing in and out of consciousness, Kunta Kinte lies tied up in the center of a strange cabin. He is horrified every time he looks down at his bandaged, right half-foot. During one of the times when Kunta is conscious, a “toubob … carrying a small back bag” comes in. This doctor seems angry at whoever put Kunta in this position, examines Kunta’s foot, takes Kunta’s temperature, and leaves some medicine for Kunta.

Finally, Kunta Kinte sees “Bell”—a short, stocky, and strong woman who is tending to Kunta. She desperately tries to give Kunta his medicine which tastes absolutely horrible. Kunta is finally able to choke it down, however, mostly out of weakness. The doctor gives Bell some extra instructions for Kunta’s care before the doctor leaves. Unfortunately, the medicine does not help much because Kunta gets a severe infection and has such a high fever that he begins hallucinating. There are times when Kunta does not know who or what he is. Bell returns periodically as Kunta gets worse.

Finally, Bell comes in with some boiling water and leaves. She makes a poultice from the strange plant, puts it on Kunta’s skin, covers him with a blanket, and watches as Kunta can do nothing but sweat and wail. She leaves only after she removes all evidence of the ritual. Although very weak, Kunta knows that his fever has broken, that this woman named Bell was the reason, and that she did something distinctly African to get Kunta to this stage of healing. Kunta realizes that Bell has features that are distinctly from the Mandinka tribe.

Kunta begins to despise having to lie there, helpless, as he wonders where he is. He takes all of his anger out on Bell who seems to look upon Kunta with warmth and amusement. Still, it is the first time Kunta has spoken to anyone in the Mandinka dialect since he came to this land. Bell, of course, does not understand Kunta’s words.

Kunta’s foot bandages are finally removed as Kunta begins to gain full use of his faculties again. He is given crutches to practice with as Bell returns speaking softly and caring for his wound. Kunta Kinte won’t practice on the crutches until Bell leaves; however, the next time she returns, Kunta catches her looking with pleasure at the marks in the dirt where the crutches have been. Kunta is now almost fully recovered.