The Dark Child (The African Child)

The Dark Vessel: Laye’s Use of His Protagonist-Narrator to Connect to Western Audiences

Camara Laye’s demonstrative narrative The Dark Child delineates the author’s childhood and adolescence in colonial Upper Guinea in the early twentieth century. Simple in construction, the story gives emotional value to the experiences common among young boys of Laye’s social class as well as to those specific to his family. Laye’s pointedly detailed depictions of traditional village life and belief systems focus on maturation, specifically that of a young boy reaching manhood during a time of profound historical transition. Laye portrays his growth under strong, ancient Malinké values yet also within the contexts of colonial oppression and degradation in a deceptively innocent way, including subtle yet important reflections upon his youth from the perspective of an adult since removed from that culture. This marks the author’s purpose to emphasize the life-changing culture clash that occurred throughout West Africa. Laye’s subtle, indirect references to colonization and the sometimes troubling amalgamation of the Western and West African civilizations speaks to the non-African audience both as a mockery and as an educational tool, while his poignant remembered thoughts and emotions...

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