Houseboy: Novel Essay

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Colonizers rape societies. [Rape, as the ultimate form of violence and abuse of power, accurately describes colonialism.] Colonized peoples suffered unspeakable atrocities in the hands of European powers. One of the many crimes perpetrated was the loss of identity for many nations and cultures. This was a systematic manipulation to divide and conquer people by assimilation and manipulation. Ferdinand Oyono's Houseboy, told in the form of young Toundi's diary in the time of French colonization of Cameroon, explores this mis-identity within the cruel system of colonization. Although being a coming-of-age novel, Oyono sharply criticizes the ironies of colonial societies through the relationship between the oppressor and oppressed. Houseboy is a great example of an anti-colonialist novel that focuses on mis-identity within colonial societies. Oyono could not have summarized it better when he said "What are we Blackmen who are called French?". He focuses on the issues of assimilation and manipulation and in doing makes Toundi a symbol for imperialism in Africa.

Toundi’s story begins with him on his death bed as a product of his colonized experience in Cameroon. Before he dies, he shares his story and diary with a fellow Cameroonian Listener making it a “ cautionary tale meant to be passed on to others”. Oyono’s novel tries to break the cycle of lost identity by letting this novel disclose the innocent mistakes of Toundi and his belief into the lie that they are Frenchman. In Toundi’s first entry of his diary he states: “Father Gilbert says I can read and write fluently. Now I can keep a diary like he does. Keeping a diary is a white man’s custom and what pleasure there is in it I do not know. But I shall try it out.” (9) We learn as an observant reader, Toundi’s self worth is subject to change based on the observations of his “master and benefactor” sees fit. His need to imitate the white man by keeping a diary also is pulled into question. His innocence allows...
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