Themes on Dreams of My Father

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Colonialism
Obama mentions the book Heart of Darkness several times in the book, suggesting possibly that the context within which events are occurring in the book is colonialism. Heart of Darkness was written by Joseph Conrad at a time when European colonialism was at its height, invading and occupying large parts of Africa, including Kenya, the ancestral homeland of Obama himself. He also makes references to his father’s voice, much like Conrad refers to the voice of Kurtz, a mysterious character in his book. Perhaps Obama draws parallels between the elusiveness and indefinable qualities of both his father and Kurtz. Race Relations

Large parts of the book relate conversations between Barack and his friends about race. Through his rebellious teenage years through to his adult years, he constantly assesses what race means and, specifically, what being black means. At one point he expresses anger that a white friend claims to know how black people feel when they are outnumbered at a party, for example. And although he is drawn to the Nation of Islam, he is never completely taken in by their hostility towards white people. The fact that his mother is white may have something to do with that but more than likely it’s Obama’s innate sense of logic and justice that prevent him from adopting such positions. Religion

Although several times through the book Obama seems to be religious, even fasting on Sundays at one point, he does not seem dominated by religion. He does not make decisions based on religious thinking. He does, however, undertake to work with churches throughout the area and has obviously been inspired by one religious leader in particular, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, who performed Barack’s wedding ceremony. Family

Arguably the most important theme in the book.
Having been left by his father when he was only two years old, Barack grew up with a sense of mystery about him. As a child he had a story that kept him positive—that his father had to sort a few...
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