What does it mean to be too Green? That is the question I am asking about the character Toundi in the novel Houseboy by Ferdinand Oyon. You can’t look up the term ‘Being Green’ because it has no academic meaning, it is a metaphor. Being ‘too Green’ is being too naïve, new, young, not wanting to accept your reality. The character Toundi is all of these, until he is hit with the reality of his life of his place in society, his ultimate fate. In the novel Houseboy we see Toundi, as he comes to this realization after he rejects his father and is then rejected by both cultures. He goes from a less established culture to what he believes that is more established culture which he comes to comprehend is a complete ruse. Is it possible that his lack of looking at the dark ugly truth of his society, prevent him from seeing the truth and maturing as a person. Thus leaving him stuck in a childlike state. His ‘greenness’ leaves him constantly vulnerable and open to others impressions upon him.
The story starts out with Toundi and he is carrying a dying man, he feels a certain sadness. Toundi doesn’t understand why he is feeling sad for a man he doesn’t know or care about. The dying man says to Toundi “Brother, what are we? What are we blackmen who are French?” pg. 4 Toundi seems to not know the answer to this question, unfortunately he will never know the answer to this question. He fails to understand what is happening around him, until it is too late. His character refuses to see the changes and twisted lies people are telling him, or the scheme that is being run. How the European’s make fun of the little African children by watching them fight over sugar cubes. He does not recognize that the European’s think that the little African children fighting over sugar cubes is funny, it’s purely a game for them. “Still I am glad I’m dying well away from where they are. My mother always used to say what my greediness would bring me in the end… If I had known it would bring me to my grave … she was right, my poor mother.” Pg.4. This advice the dying man is giving Toundi, fails to hit home with him and just goes to the wind. That greediness in life will bring you nothing but death and that just because something seems superior then what you have it actually isn’t.
As Toundi grows and gets older he still fails to take other’s advice to him, regarding greediness. He refuses to grow-up and face the facts. That he is African and will never be accepted by the European’s no matter who educates him or Catholic he becomes. Toundi believed that running away from his father who he believed was an evil man and going to go live with Father Gilbert would bring him more ‘sugar cubes’ that glorious treat he craved so much. He believed that he would be welcomed amongst the European’s, that they will treat him as if he is their equal. Instead Toundi is abused treated like nothing more than a savage. He is told that if he is a good Christian all will be fine, that if he does his work well he will be accepted. Toundi tries his very hardest to fit in; he continues his hunt for a ‘greener’ pasture. His faith in Father Gilbert, his sugar cubes, and the Catholic Church are just too mesmerizing for him to look at them for anything other than what he wishes them to be.
Toundi becomes a Catechist, he becomes someone who swallows others culture and spits out what he thinks they want to see – he is not authentic. He thinks that by being a good Christian he will be accepted by the European’s. When Toundi is first assigned to the Commandant as his new houseboy, the Commandant says to him as he is looking him over “Your’re a clean lad’… ‘No jiggers. Your shirt is clean, No scabies’… ‘Your intelligent. The priest speak very well of you. So say I can count on little Joseph, eh” pg.22 He hears this and thinks that he is going to be on the same level as the Commandant; Naïve, to him looking at him as if he was a priced cattle or some kind of...
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