Ambiguous Adventure Themes

Ambiguous Adventure Themes

Hybridity and Assimilation

The concept of hybridity in Cheikh Hamidou Kane’s Ambiguous Adventure stems from the embodiment of more than two cultures by the protagonist, Samba Diallo. Samba Diallo is educated both traditionally in the Glowing Hearth in an African and religious point of view and also receives the foreign education from the university in Paris. Samba Diallo, therefore, forms a combination of these two, that is, western edification and African knowledge and insight. Samba Diallo, as such, becomes “two in one,” a hybrid of both the western and African ways. In the novel Ambiguous Adventure, Samba Diallo forms a go-between or a “cultural ambassador” between the Diallobé of Africa and the western world in their quest to build a worldwide evolution. In more conceptual terms, Samba Diallo is sent to witness and study western civilization and how they can win without being on the right:

“Go find out, among them, how one can conquer without being in the right” (Ambiguous Adventure, 126).

Furthermore, during Samba Diallo’s discussions with Pierre-Louis, Captain Hubert, and Marc, it becomes apparent that Samba Diallo considers himself not a distinct country but rather an embodiment of two, living by way of counter-balance: “I am not a distinct country of the Diallobé facing a distinct Occident, and appreciating with a cool head what I must take from it and what I must leave with it by way of counter-balance. I have become the two…” (Ambiguous Adventure, 125).


The theme of death is evident in Ambiguous Adventure early in the novel. Thierno, the teacher at the Koranic school, admires Simba Diallo’s grandfather, the late Chief of the Diallobé. The teacher is of the belief that the chief exhibited a great deal of exemplary, particularly with regard to dominating certain aspects of life and even death. The thought of the chief being an example of dominance over death draws in the teacher the idea that real nobleness is spiritualized. The teacher is thus preoccupied with transmitting this spiritual nobility to Samba Diallo as he is of the ideology that exhibiting dominance over death is the road towards a pious life. The teacher believes that teaching his beliefs about death to his children at the Glowing Hearth will foster their understanding of the same and will prepare them such that they will not be afraid of it. The Most Royal Lady is, however, aware of the drawbacks that the teachings of the Koranic school might have on Samba Diallo. She, therefore, objects to them strongly:

“This child speaks of death in terms which do not belong to his years. I believe that the time has come o teach our sons to live, I foresee that they will have to do with the world of the living, in which the values of death will be scoffed at and bankrupt” (Ambiguous Adventure, 26).

However, the teacher stands his ground and reminds the Most Royal Lady’s father and tells her of his interest in bestowing those teachings to her cousin Samba Diallo: “That was a chief, your father, who showed to me – to me the interpreter of the book – how a man should die. I should like to transmit this boon to his little nephew. These are the ultimate values, which will still have their place at the pillow of the last human being” (Ambiguous Adventure, 26).

Identity Crisis

While the novel Ambiguous Adventure is mainly about the attempt to incorporate both aspects of the Western culture as well as the African culture, particularly concerning the main character Samba Diallo. However, the aspect of the cultural crisis is evident in the novel predominantly when Samba Diallo is unable to develop a symbiosis of the two cultures. As a result of this cultural identity crisis, Samba Diallo dies in the novel as he is metamorphosed and transformed. The ambiguity of Ambiguous Adventure is apparent from Samba Diallo’s particular lack of self-sufficiency on multi-multifaceted levels. Not only is Samba Diallo quite misunderstood in his community, but the outside world also misinterprets him. This particular lack of autonomy can be linked to religion as well as the individual mindset.

Colonization and Modernization

The novel is set at a time when the foreigner’s rule is taking black Africa by a storm. Whereas initially, the Diallobé chief is not sure whether they should accept or reject the rule, later the Most Royal Lady campaigns for the people to send their children to the foreign school. The Most Royal lady and the Knight are of the opinion that sending off their children to learn the way of the foreigners and assimilating the French way of life will be of utmost benefit to the Diallobé society.

Even though the Most Royal Lady is aware of the uncertainties related to sending their children off to the foreign schools, she takes the risk of doing the same regardless of the effect it might have on their children, including killing in them what they loved. As such, she is part of the reason that they accept colonization “to learn how to win without being in the right.

Additionally, the Knight shares the same sentiments to those of the Most Loyal Lady. He, too, is of the opinion that accepting and adopting certain aspects related to modernization will benefit the Diallobés. However, the Knight also holds some reservations with regard to modernity. In his discussion with Lacroix, he is of the argument that science and technology only present a “partial truth.”

Moreover, some of the characters in Kane’s Ambiguous Adventure reject the concept of colonization and modernization altogether. For instance, Samba Diallo’s teacher thinks that accepting modernization and colonization will result in their forgetting the virtues that he instills in them. Thierno’s apparent rejection of sending children to the foreigner’s school forms one of his ways of protecting his traditions. He is violent towards his most promising in attempts of protecting him from the psychological effects that he is likely to suffer at the hands of colonization. Besides, the Fool also has the same stand of protecting the Diallobé community against the effects of colonization, particularly about how he speaks of the foreigner as dehumanizing.

The Role of Women

The theme of women’s role in the novel Ambiguous Adventure is also evident. When the Most Royal Lady also invites women to the meeting, it becomes shocking since it was an unfamiliar sighting. The Most Royal Lady additionally apologizes for going against the custom and inviting the women to tag along to the meeting:

“I have done something which is not pleasing to us and which is not in accordance with our customs. I have asked women to come to this meeting today…” (Ambiguous Adventure, 42).

Additionally, the Most Royal Lady becomes a redefining character of the role of women as traditionally defined by customs. She advises the people about enrolling their children to the foreigner’s school despite she having a particular dislike for the school:

“I come here to say this to you: I, the Most Royal Lady, do not like the foreign school. I detest it. My opinion, nevertheless, is that we should send our children there” (Ambiguous Adventure, 42).

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