Song Summary: Scarlet

Good Essays
This book is engaging from the outset, and deceptively simple. It takes us into the world of a young Sengalese student,
Ousmane Gueye, the son of a devout Muslim. Ousmane is more devoted to his mother, Yahe
Khady, than to religion or tradition. The first chapters use the framing device of
Ousmane’s walk to the university to tell his backstory, how he helped his mother and developed a thirst for knowledge, which was only strengthened after he was snubbed by his flirtatious childhood friend Ouleymatou.
Ousmane becomes an academic success, determined to get out of his poor working class district on the outskirts of
Dakar. So we are introduced to
Ousmane as a disciplined young intellectual, respectful to his family and background, but eager to use his education to make something out of himself.
When the narrative catches up to itself Ousmane, whose progress is based on his self- discipline and rejection of romance, makes the acquaintance of Mireille, a white teenager who comes to school in a limosine, the daughter of a
French diplomat. Over time, in a well-told story, they fall in love.
This romance seems to answer
Ousmane’s ambition, as he is respectful and reticent, only succumbing to Mireille when he discovers she loves him. After a brief idyll, Mireille’s father, a liberal politician, discovers the relationship, which is abhorrent to him and shows his hypocrisy.
He puts Mireille on the first plane back to Paris, and it seems at this point as if the novel is going to be the story of thwarted interracial lovers.
Mireille returns to Paris in time to take part in the student demonstrations of 1968, and
Ousmane participates in student unrest back in Dakar, a brief section of the story that actually goes a long way to grounding the characters and showing us the nature of their consciousness and political commitment, especially Mireille; she seems authentic to her time through this section, identifiable as a

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