The Wretched of the Earth

by Frantz Fanon

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Last Updated on September 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 461

The Wretched of the Earth by Frantz Fanon exposes the negative impacts of colonialism on cultures that have been colonized. He also discusses the barriers that prevent people from working to decolonize other cultures.

Fanon says that decolonization is always a violent event and the first section of his book focuses on this violence. He explains that this occurs because it's substituting one type of people for another and that it completely changes the social fabric of a place. However, decolonization is something that people want and by the process they became more self-actualized. In order to be free, the people have to also free themselves of the reality created by the colonizers—for example, that one type of skin is worth less than another. Many cultures internalized this idea, he says. It was one of the things that kept people wanting to fight against oppression. It's natural to want to fight against being so maligned.

Since colonized places are kept that way with force, Fanon says that the only way to fight it is with force. When people came in to try and overtake new areas, they removed culture and ways of life that people already had. They also oppressed the people and tried to put themselves above them. Even when that process isn't inherently physically violent, it leaves mental scars and impacts.

When Fanon talks about people organizing to fight colonialism, he says that a major problem is a desire for things to happen quickly. Decolonization isn't a fast process because it takes a lot of mental groundwork to prepare to free people from mental and physical oppression. Changing a culture from the inside out is not easy or immediate. One problem he identifies is the disconnect between the people outside the country working for liberation and the people in the smaller regions of the colonized countries. They need to find common ground to understand each other; this can be a difficult barrier.

He believes that the people who are the lowest in society need to be the basis of the revolution. Fanon says that people have to find their way back to their national heritage and culture in order to fight colonialism and heal from being colonized.

Fanon also shares stories that he heard from people he treated while he worked in Algeria. The stories show the mental wounds and scars left even after the colonizers have withdrawn. When the people reject the colonizers and fight back, any type of effort to recover the national culture and consciousness has to consider what happened. Things can't go back to what they were before. Instead, they have to be something new—something that considers the culture they were before the colonizers and something separate from the culture of the colonizers.

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