How prejudice exposes the fear and ignorance of the specific Essay Example
How prejudice exposes the fear and ignorance of the specific Essay Example

How prejudice exposes the fear and ignorance of the specific Essay Example

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Ousmane's Black Docker is a tragic and moving novel centred on one black man's struggle to find the liberation, equality and fraternity promised by the modern society of mid 20th century Marseille and Paris. Diaw Falla, originally from Senegal, slaves away on the docks to further his passion for writing and aspirations for becoming an author. Finally completing his work, Falla then journeys to Paris where he meets a famous white authoress who promises to help him publish his work, however, she ultimately deceives him by taking sole credit for his work.

It is the story of the unintentional murder of a famous white woman by an insignificant black man, and whilst both have committed crimes, the judicial system of France condemns only Falla. Throughout the novel, Ousmane introduces a variety of characters who each in turn have something r


elevant to say, not only for the sake of plot development, but also to explore the extreme social conduct of their respective communities.

An exploration of the different relationships between these characters reveals how Ousmane, through the use of speech and monologues, employs the universal theme of prejudice to expose the fear and ignorance of the other communities, and how this in turn becomes Ousmane's device for expressing his philosophical views and criticisms of the society of France at that time. The novel opens up in Senegal, where Yaye Salimata, the mother of Falla, is beside herself with grief over the news of her son's arrest. Even before we are introduced to the protagonist, we learn about his gentle nature and how "It isn't possible... (p3) that he is a murderer.

More significantly, Salimata is used to contrast th

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cultures of Marseille and the local town in Senegal, by representing the Senegalese prejudice against western culture though depictions of the west from Salimata's perspective. Oumane's particular use of colloquial Senegalese, significantly the word "Toubabs" (p1) serves to give the reader a greater feeling and understanding for the Senegalese culture's perspective by grouping all westerners into one word, 'Toubabs' and writing them all off as foreign, incomprehensible, as well as "... having] no heart," (p2) in the eyes of Salimata.

This easy categorization of a whole culture of people stems predominantly from ignorance of them, and in turn fear of the unknown. The vast discrepancies between the two cultures becomes particularly striking when juxtaposed with the prejudice felt by the westerners against the Senegalese, when Falla is labelled as just another "black" in the same way that the whites are labelled as just another 'toubab. ' Evidently, lack of knowledge causes greater ignorance and a fear of the unknown. The reader is then introduced to Catherine Siadem, Falla's girlfriend.

On first impressions, Cath's purpose seems only to reveal yet another woman's anxiety and concern for Falla, as well as to read the newspaper clippings for the reader to see what the tabloids have to say about the murder. The press are extremely harsh, prejudiced and biased against Falla - "Falla is well known in the black district. Local people describe him as a lazy, shady character. A docker by profession, he only turned up for work when he felt like it. " (p10) This is an extremely harsh criticism to Falla, for not only is he black, but is also criticized by his own people, pushing him

even lower down in status.

Cath is quick to prevent the reader from believing the tabloids when Ousmane says "Catherine was unable to read the article to the end, she could not understand anything. The truth was buried. " (p12) This reference to truth ties in with Salimata's previous insistence of her son's gentle character, indicating that the situation is not as it has been brutally depicted by the prejudiced press, and serves to foreshadow the truth to be discovered from Falla's perspective, the only accurate one. However, on second impressions, Cath has a greater purpose than just to reflect upon the newspaper articles.

As her personal life manifests, and the reader is invited to share her world, we see that Cath represents the black women of her community and serves to illustrate the social norms and expectations of woman of that time, and in turn the prejudice felt against women. The relationship between her stepfather, Old Malic Drame, and Cath particularly exposes how black woman are doubly marginalized in a western society, as they are not only black, but also women, thus placing them at the very bottom of the social ladder.

Cath however is half-caste, marginalizing her even further as she belongs neither fully to the black community, nor to the white community. Cruelly treated by her stepfather, it becomes evident that black women have no choice but to put up with physical abuse as they are owned by men, and have few rights to defend themselves with. An interesting relationship brought up slightly later on in the novel is a love affair between a young white woman, and a young black man.

Andree Lazare is forced

by her mother to have an abortion to save the family reputation. The abortion results in her dying of a haemorrhage. This significantly raises several ethical issues, one being, how an affair between a white woman and black man, as well as the concept of a bastard child, is viewed as a complete social disgrace and entirely unacceptable by the western community at that time to the extent where the death of the girl is worth saving the family reputation.

It also focuses on Ousmane's criticism of abortions, as this is said to kill the woman in the novel. Why the author takes a negative stand against abortions is unclear, but we do know that the combinations of these scandals leaves the father completely "... destroyed. " (p62) The extreme prejudice of the community is further reinforced when Paul Sonko, recalls how "... [Andree] had told him that her mother would no more accept a bastard than she would a pica ninny and that she had to agree to do whatever was necessary to preserve her father's reputation. (p72)

Again, the issue of double marginalization is raised with the concept of a mixed child born to unmarried parents as being an unacceptable scandal, and how the fear of this leads to the young woman's death. The relationship between Cath and Falla is another complex one, where Ousmane employs Cath's prejudice against Falla's possible success, due to her fear and ignorance of it, to voice his philosophical ideas: "If you become a famous writer, you'll leave me... men of wit should only marry their equals... (p86)

The issue of social equality fuelling a successful match is displayed as the

most significant aspect of marriage, and the reader may begin to wonder whether Falla really would leave Cath behind if he grew to be 'superior' to her. Finally, the controversial relationship between Falla and Ginette Tontisane, serves to highlight the vast differences between blacks and whites. As the reader discovers later on in the novel, an affair between Ginette and Falla did in fact occur, although the whites will never believe that Ginette would willingly have one with a Negro.

It is easy to imagine how the Negro, in a frenzy of sexual passion, seized poor Ginette Tontisane and raped her. " (p10) Even in a courtroom, the reader is shocked to find that a doctor - a man of science - claiming "Among Black people, [sex maniacs] is natural and especially when it is a question of a white woman. They are fascinated by the whiteness of their skin which is more attractive than that of a negress. " (p25) This ultimately displays the prejudice against the blacks that a man of science could make such a judgement and allude it to scientific facts.

In conclusion, the core theme of prejudice is strongly evident throughout the entire novel, from the very beginning where we are shown the prejudice against westerners from a Senegalese perspective, to the very end where a western doctor will go so far as to use science to back up his prejudice against a black man in order to condemn him in court. The prejudice of the Senegalese towards the westerners strongly contrasts the prejudice held by the whites against blacks, and although one has a lot more effect than another, both cases

demonstrate how it is merely fear and ignorance responsible for such a negative emotion.

This prejudice ultimately becomes the driving force of the plot as well as Ousmane's criticisms towards the western society of that time as it does nothing but expose the weakness of those who hold so strongly onto their prejudices, by demonstrating a lack of knowledge and understanding, which in turn amounts to fear. The negative implications of this is the ultimate devastation of the life of the object of that prejudice, as the promised liberation, equality and freedom of the west becomes merely an fallacy for the blacks who, discriminated and marginalized as they are, stand no chance for justice in such a community.

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