Alex Haley: Roots
2. Alex Haley: Roots
3. Dialogue between Kunta and his father
4. Kunta’s thoughts
Omoro said that three groups of people lived in a village. First were those you could see – walking around, eating, sleeping, and working. Second were the ancestors, whom Grandma Yaisa had now joined. “And the third people – who are they?” asked Kunta.
“The third people,” said Omoro, “are those waiting to be born.”
My essay deals with Alex Haley’s book ROOTS , which was written in 1976. In this essay I will only write about Kunta Kinte, his life and his family. First I will give a short summary of the story. After that I will describe a dialogue between Kunta and his father and a situation, where Kunta is brought away as a slave. I think these two passages are very interesting to get some impressions.
Alex Haley was born in 1921 in Ithaca, New York, and died in 1992. He was an African-American author, whose contributions to American letters led to the popularization of Black history and helped to get an idea of the racial understanding. In 1976 Alex Haley began to work on the family saga, Roots, which got immediately successful. Almost 9 million copies were sold, and it has been translated into 26 languages. Roots recounted the story of Haley’s search for his ancestors and triumphantly recorded his tracing of his lineage back to a West African village. Alex Haley used his imagination to fill in the details of the family story. After reading Haley’s book, lots of black Americans wanted to find out their background. There is one interesting aspect which Alex Haley points out in his book, in the passage where he his the main character: “In the years of the writing, I have also spoken before many audiences of how Roots came to be, naturally now and then someone asks, ‘How much of Roots is fact and how much is fiction?’ To the best of my knowledge and of my effort, every lineage statement within Roots is from either my African or my American families carefully preserved oral history, much of which I have been conventionally to corroborate with documents. (…) Since I wasn’t yet around when most of the story occurred, by far most of the dialogue and most of the incidents are of necessity a novelized amalgam of what I know took place together with what my researching led me to plausibly feel took place.”
2. Roots – a short summary
The story starts in Juffure, a small peaceful village in West Africa, the Gambia, in 1750, and ends in Gambia, in the same village, after several generations. The whole action starts with Kunta Kinte, who was born to Omoro, a Mandinka tribesman and his wife Binta Kinte. Alex Haley uses many African words in this book to describe the everyday life of this community, where Muslims live. This life sees young boys like Kunta being groomed to manhood training with lessons of hunting, protecting their families, and subscribing to codes of honor under the strict supervision of village elders. Every boy “had heard that a full twelve moons would pass before third-kafo boys would return to the village – but then as men.” Years go by and Kunta also hears people talking about “toubob”, who are described as white people. Kunta is very interested in these men and wants to know everything about them. “He wished, that he could see one of them – from a safe distance, of course.” People in Juffure tell about tribesmen, who disappeared and never came back. At the age of 17, while Kunta is on sentry duty and looking for wood he is ambushed by four slave catchers. Although he fights back, he cannot escape and is brought to a ship. This is the beginning of a horrifying sea voyage. The trip is terrible. The slaves are chained on each other and lie in their excrement in the dark. The situation is horrible. “The urine, vomit, and feces that...
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