English Literature » Notes » Houseboy: Theme of Colonialism

Houseboy: Theme of Colonialism

Ferdinand Oyono crafts the novel Houseboy about the oppression black people go through in the hands of the white colonialist. In West Africa specifically Spanish Guinea, this was under the European rule. The author uses a West African boy to expose the white administration practices that were crude and evil to the Africans. The African boy Toundi, he keeps a diary and events that had occurred in his life in what the author calls an exercise book. Who was better to read the events first hand except the Europeans themselves? A French man on vacation in Spanish guinea finds Toundi seriously injured, however he soon dies. The French man discovers a diary which the Frenchman reads. From this Ferdinand craft a novel of a Frenchman on vacation reading the diary, “exercise book” to himself. The novel is about this man reading Toundi’s recorded events.

The scramble and partion of Africa was the forceful division of the African continent among the European power and a forceful occupation of the same which led to colonialism of the “dark continent. The berlin conference of 1884 was the machinery behind the African continent division. The British, French, Germans, Portuguese, Belgians, Italians and Spanish all acquired pieces of territory in Africa. What followed was a series of exploitations across Africa from east Africa and along the Nile we had the British, to the French West Africa. All Africans were forced into labor land taken away from them as the Europeans took out was economically valuable in Africa. Hargreaves, J. D. (1963).

The author exposes a foreign religion that enticed people especially children into joining Christianity using sugar. Toundi describe himself as a decadent of cannibals which is very inhuman however this is situational irony since the French are the once who show inhuman traits by treating Africans inhumanly. Toundi was so much obsessed by the white man’s way that he abandons his cultural just before his initiation ceremony in which he was going to meet the serpents who watched over human race. He is brainwashed off his culture by the excuse that his father was abusive ,however he lands in the hands of the colonial masters who pretend to be good Samaritans and Christians, whose main agenda was to cut the tires between Toundi, his tradition, his bloodline and his African culture. This is evident in the events that occur immediately after father gilbert. Father Gilbert is in a way an agent of colonialism it is his duty to recruit, brainwash and break the ties of Africans and their African traditions and culture by introducing Christianity to natives and showing them how their religion was evil. Father Gilbert negative action happen when, he humiliates Toundi’s father in front of the boy to make the matter worse, except from mass “service” Toundi does all the house works however he is only paid with an old shirt and trouser. In addition fr gilbert shows him off to other white men about his abilities as if showing of something bought and expensive such as a watch, car or even a pet. The clear picture comes out when Toundi is just delivered to a new master after the death of the old master father gilbert; he was just a slave to work for the whites without pay. He even accepts the fact by saying, “the dog of the king is the king of dogs”. In addition the death of father gilbert is described as a martyr; Toundi supposes that because he died in Africa. He continues to say, “A martyr: killed in action on the front lines of the heathen world, I suppose.” From this it’s clear that even the missionaries were agents of colonialism and oppression to the Africans.

His new master the commandant, who was the head of the area colony openly, exposes colonialism unlike father gilbert a colonial agent hiding in religion, Christianity and holiness, who was just another colonial master however in a “holy” way. His fear and respect for the commandant somehow reduces after he discovered that the French colonial agent was not circumcised. It’s worse when his wife Madame Decazy a lives from France, here beauty and kindness made Toundi into believing that she was a good Christian woman, however this was not to last. The commandant leaves for a tour, soon Madame engages in an affair with the prison director Mr. M. moreu who is known to be very ruthless toward the native Africans. On the return of the commandant Madame has become a very hostile and ruthless woman especially toward Toundi. The initial image that Toundi had of a beautiful French Christian woman is deleted by her actions with the prison warden. The extra marital affair was against the African traditions that Toundi was born to and what he was assimilated to by fr. gilbert that shows how much evil was conducted by the whites who portrayed Africans as evil and the whites holy. When Madame discovers that Toundi knew about the affair and disapproved it she becomes much more hostile against him. However Toundi continues to disagree with the oppression of the white man and the hypocrisy of Christianity.

On the same, Christian hypocrisy is evident when Sophie the black mistress of a French engineer is kept around only for the engineer’s sexual pleasure, in fact the engineer hides Sophie from other white men. Hypocrisy shows itself when Toundi is warned by the engineer never to have a relationship with her. He hides his “sexual toy” Sophie from other French men yet jealous that she may have an affair with a black man. Sophie escape with some of engineers money that was intended to pay his workers to Spanish Guinea , in shame the engineer accuses Toundi of the action and is sent to prison.

In prison Toundi is touchered into accepting the crime that he never did. He is celled in a hut neighboring the police headquarters; however Toundi has a friend who works in the police station. His name is mendim, who in the description of other prisoners as the very masculine. Moreau orders that Toundi be beaten, not because he had sinned but because he knew of his affair with Madame. However mendim pours blood on Toundi to simulate injury and spend the lest of the time playing cards. Soon after Toundi’s sickness he is taken to a hospital but they had to wait for the black doctor since all the white had been promoted to captain. He is diagnosed of a blocked rib, which he had incurred from a beating he received in the hands of the white man in prison. Moreau brings a white doctor and orders him to punish Toundi some more. The inhumane nature of the French colonial master toward its subject is revealed once again. When Toundi heard this he also escapes to Spanish Guinea. Its because of colonialism that he is not safe in his home anymore.