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The Dark Child Summary & Study Guide

This Study Guide consists of approximately 33 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of The Dark Child.
This section contains 501 words
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The Dark Child Summary & Study Guide Description

The Dark Child Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion and a Free Quiz on The Dark Child by Camara Laye.

Laye's autobiographical novel The Dark Child follows one boy's journey from his earliest memories at age five or six to his first moment of definite adulthood—the day he leaves his native Guinea for Paris, where he will study and ultimately decide his destiny.

Respected and loved throughout his childhood, Laye's life may not seem typical, but his experiences are honestly, if not nostalgically, recorded, and readers will universally identify with many of them, although the culture may be foreign.

Laye's father runs the village forge, but his prominent role in the community stems from more than his status as a blacksmith. According to his young son, Laye's father is something of a prophet. A black snake visits him both in his dreams and while he works in the forge, and the father often knows what will happen during the day before the day even begins. Laye cannot explain this mystery, but knows it to be true. Likewise, Laye claims that his mother has special powers, and that people seek her out when they're in distress because they count on her great faith and virtue.

As a child, Laye loves to visit his grandmother, uncles and cousins in the countryside. As a city boy, he is enthralled with the wild animals and open space he finds in the country. He loves to watch the workers harvest rice and feels proud when he gets to help. However, he knows early in his life that he will not be a laborer.

Laye describes in detail the rites of passage undergone by the village boys. A devout Muslim, Laye fully participates in these rites, though he admits that he doesn't understand all of the symbolism and tradition behind the rites. He does feel, however, that the ceremony and rituals instill bravery and confidence in him.

As Laye grows, he excels in school. In his teens, he is sent to Conakry, a coastal city in Guinea, where he attends a technical school. He stays with his mother's brother during the weekends and is treated like a son by this uncle. While at school he suffers a sickness that hospitalizes him for months. He is miserable and homesick, but after a summer vacation at home he is ready to return to school and resume his studies.

At school, he makes friends and develops an interest in girls. He particularly likes a girl named Marie. Their affection for one another is sweet and very innocent. His aunts tease him about his fondness for her and do their best to set them up.

At the end of his studies, Laye is offered a scholarship to go to Paris, but his mother, who is extremely attached to him, forbids him to go. His father agrees with Laye that it is in his best interest to go to Paris to study, but it breaks his mother's heart.

Laye wrote The Dark Child at age nineteen as a student in Paris, homesick for his mother and his homeland.

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