Analysis

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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 309

This is an analysis of Aime Cesaire's play A Season in the Congo. If you want to read a summary of it, check out the excellent study guide available on this website.

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The play is an unabashed anti-colonial polemic. The author was a native of Martinique, a French colony, and he spent decades as the mayor of its biggest city. Knowing that alone would help you make sense of the play. The island of Martinique gave literature some of its fiercest radical critics: Cesaire, Edouard Glissant, Patrick Chamoiseau, and of course Frantz Fanon.

Being a polemic, it's one-sided. Patrice Lumumba and his ideas are good, and all opposed to him are bad. Even though it really is that simple, the plot and the characters aren't without complexity. We see Lumumba struggle with the need for Western capital and the desire to keep Katanga from seceding, before he turns to the Soviet Union. We see Mobutu weighing his friendship with Lumumba against his desire for power. The audience can watch the hopes of an entire nation crash against the reality of ethnic conflict and the fight for resources.

A Season in the Congo is also, in a sense, a gospel. It's easy to superimpose Cesaire's story on the life of Jesus, complete with moneylenders and a climactic betrayal. Lumumba probably knew he would be murdered. He certainly knew he was doomed as soon as he took sides in the Katanga dispute. Yet he carries on because he wants his life to be an example. He certainly achieved his objective in the Congo. Right down to the present, Patrice Lumumba is looked upon as a savior, though successive leaders from Mobutu on down to Joseph Kabila portrayed him as a communist sell-out.

The play is an angry statement. It's an expression of rage against racism and injustice on a continental scale.

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