His literary work is recognised for a sense of irony that reveals how easily people can be fooled. Writing in French in the s, Oyono had only a brief literary career, but his anti-colonialist novels are considered classics of 20th century African literature ; his first novel, Une vie de boy—published in and later translated as Houseboy —is considered particularly important. Beginning in the s, Oyono had a long career of service as a diplomat and as a minister in the government of Cameroon. Diplomatic and political career[ edit ] Oyono was born near Ebolowa in the South Province of Cameroon. He was briefly the Ambassador to Liberia in , then served as ambassador to the Benelux countries and the European Communities from to and as ambassador to France, with additional accreditation for Spain, Italy, Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia, from to
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Toundi refers to this man as his master and holds him in high praise. This affection for Father Gilbert is known as European paternalism which is the theme displayed throughout the novel grahambaden.
Not long after he professes his admiration for his master, the religious leader gets into a fatal motorcycle accident. He also begins to realize how much the natives and the colonists are divided by the way that he is treated without the presence of his beloved master. The Commandant treats Toundi more as a servant than Father Gilbert, but Toundi does not allow this treatment to affect the quality of his work. It becomes evident that Toundi has nothing more than respect for the Commandant and does not confide in him as much as he did with Father Gilbert.
He soon realizes that her beauty is the only thing that masks her authoritative nature. The Commandant begins to travel again for lengthy periods of time and his wife soon grows bored. Madame begins to have an affair with the prison-director in the community and does not sufficiently keep this relationship a secret. She uses Toundi as her messenger and he tries to remain out of the situation.
He is disappointed with the actions of the Madame and feels sorrow for the Commandant. The tension of the affair builds amongst the natives and, much later, the Commandant finds out about the affair. He is infuriated with his wife at first, but she manipulates the Commandant to blame Toundi for his involvement.
Throughout the novel Houseboy, the theme of colonialism is very apparent. The historical, social, and cultural context of Cameroon is attributed to the colonization of the country by many European cultures.
The setting of the novel takes place in the s when the country was under the rule of the French. There are many French characters mentioned within the novel who encounter Toundi and to whom he shows the utmost respect.
This historical context is the foundation on which the plot is created. The effect of the colonial history of Cameroon leads the sense of European paternalism that Toundi feels towards the men that he serves. Toundi continuously feels as if he is indebted to those who he works for because of the division between the Europeans and the natives.
The social context of Houseboy is established early within the novel. The French colonists were given the power in Cameroon, but there were still leaders within the country. These countrymen were described to have a mocking relationship with the colonists. The colonists and the natives had a fabricated relationship to the extent that each group called out the flaws of the other.
The natives begin to catch onto the actions of the pair much sooner than the other colonists because of the connections of the natives.
The natives regarded the colonists as peculiar individuals and analyzed many of their methods of courtship. They mocked the colonists for their obliviousness to their surroundings and continued to converse about the situation in secrecy until the Commandant found out.
Not only did the colonists implement their superiority upon the natives, but also they began to have an influence on their culture. The natives were accustomed to labor intensive work, but their cultural strength symbolically faltered within the novel. It is inevitable to remain in solidified cultural state when one is constantly surrounded by individuals who do not have the same beliefs as one does.
The presence of other native workers within the households helped keep Toundi in touch with his culture. Many of these workers viewed Toundi differently because of how he treated the colonists, but this concern made a tremendous difference on the outcome of the book.
Their input gave Toundi another perspective on the decisions that he made around the colonists. Houseboy by Ferdinand Oyono is written in the form of a diary. The components of this diary include a first person point of view, private comments and thoughts, and important events. Toundi does not record every aspect of his life nor does he include dates so there is a slight discrepancy within the text. His thoughts and ideas are the only perspectives that we are exposed to because it is a diary.
The effect of a first person point of view is a singular portrayal of events. The theme of the novel is not clearly represented; however, it can be inferred from the text that European colonization caused many native Africans to struggle with their social and cultural identities. Toundi has an inner conflict within the novel between his mind and his beliefs. He knows that certain actions are not appropriate, but he continues to debate within himself if he should follow through with them or not.
The conflict that he faces within himself is influenced by his colonial surroundings. According to britannica. He returned to Cameroon after his studies in Paris to become an advocate for his country within the United Nations and an ambassador to other countries. Share this:.
Literary Analysis – Houseboy by Ferdinand Oyono
The Frenchman finds his diary, which is called an "exercise book" by Toundi. The rest of the story consists of the diary exercise book that the Frenchman is supposedly reading. There is no further discussion of the Frenchman after this point. The first "exercise book" starts with Toundi living with his family. His father beats him constantly, and one day Toundi runs away from home to the rescue of Father Gilbert, a priest who lives nearby. His father comes back for him, telling Toundi that everything will be all right if he comes back.
Ferdinand Léopold Oyono