ReadingGod’s Bits of Woods was a book thatwas very eye opening and a dramatic novel that brought up important events thathelped me understand how many lives were affected during this time. This novelhelps us better understand what the strike was life in 1947 and 1948 and how itaffected the union leaders, workers and all of the families. The main purposeof the strike was to unify these characters.
Class exploitation led to manystruggles, which led to these strikes between the Bambara natives and theEuropeans. The strike all started when workers decided they deserved a higherpay and left word. They demanded higher wages, pensions, family allowances andfor their union to be recognized.
Those that were being oppressed in this novelwere the trainmen. When the strike first started, they were soon joined by themasons, civil servants, coal miners and even the men of shell. They ended upprevailing over the superior class but it was not easy for them. They werefighting for equality and same treatment.
One thing that drew me into thisbook was being able to visual the scenes while reading along in the novel. Eachscene is so dramatic, which makes it easier to understand the plot and followalong with the book. The way that the characters are described and all of theirgoals and ambitions shows how creative the author is when he made up thesecharacters. Being able to give each character such an imaginations and makeeach one of them so motivated gives them novel so much meaning. The strikebegan in Mali; at the time it was Bamako. Bakayoko was the leader of thestrike, and after he disappeared, the rest of the people decided that theywould join the strike but they would struggle with those people that wouldfight against the strikers. They knew that without their leader they would struggleto continue on. When he leaves and does not return, we see these characters’sacrifice everything they need to in order to survive and be more dedicated tothemselves and their families.
This story is told in three stories,Dakar, Thies and Bamako. Each one of these cities holds its own beauty andthroughout this book, each city comes with its own problems. In the book when Iwas reading the Dakar chapter, the amount of women and children that sufferedfrom the strike was very unfortunate and sad. On page 65 of the novel it says, “All of the women were now crowded aroundthe fountain, holding out pots and jugs, clutching at the babies on their backsto prevent them from falling. Their mouths hung open, and their eyes were fixedhungrily on a single drop of water which had appeared on the spout of thefaucet, like a pearl held in the beak of a bird.
From somewhere within thefountain they heard the gurgling sound again- was it water or only air- thenthere was a little sucking noise, and after that silence.” (Ousmane, pg. 65) Thispassage in the novel just goes to show how desperate the women were to justhave water and keep their babies alive. Later in the novel it describesRamatoulaye fighting with a ram for needs of survival. Women were so desperatethey need to find their own means of survival and that meant fighting with theram to kill it so none of them would go to bed hungry.
The way that this fightis described is very realistic and bloody. In the middle of the novel, tensionsbegin to rise between the women of the Dakar, we see more times where the womenare starting to overpower men and the unity of all the women. This is one thingthat we see through the emphasis of the power of women through this novel God’s Bits of Woods. Ousmane’s emphasison the women in African society holds a big role and we see that through thisnovel. On page 174, Penda and Dieynaba led a chant that was dedicated to theirmen.
The chant was, “The morning light is in the east; It isdaybreak of a day of history. From Koulikoro to Dakar. The smoke of the savannadies.
One the 10th of October, fateful day, We swore before theworld to support you to the end. You have lit the torch of hope, and victory isnear. The morning light is in the east; It is daybreak of a day of history”(Ousmane, pg.
174) When the death of Houdia M’ Bayecame, we see how much the Dakar women really cared about one another. With thedeath of Houdia, the women begin to change their approach towards revolutionand change the way that they care for one another. Ramatoulaye was one of myfavorite characters in this book. She is the strongest female character in thisnovel. We see this through her actions of being a leader and being a assertiveperson.
The way that she went about things was amazing because she did not letanyone control her. On page, 126 we see this when they say, “We are waitingRamatoulaye. I am well aware of your pride, and I promise you before God, whosees and hears everything we do, that not a word of what you say will leavethis room.
” Ramatoulaye was not able to complete the sentence and slaps N’DeyeTouti across the face and says to her, “I didn’t want to do that but I told youto stay out of this. This is just another time where women play a crucial rolein the liberation of Africa. Men are not able to control women who mobilizeagainst their oppressors. As the strike continues, the womenare being forced to sell everything that they own. Women are being forced toeat things that they would not normally eat in order to sustain their families.Earlier in the novel on page 53, Ramatoulaye says, “Real misfortune is not amatter of being hungry and thirst; it is a matter of knowing that there arepeople who want you to be hungry and thirsty- and that is the way it is withus.
” Ousmane’s way of representing women throughout this novel is by givingthem the change to express their opinions and being able to have their voiceheard for once. At the end of the novel when the strike is called off the womendeveloped their own community. Through this novel we see thedifferences of the different classes in this book. We know that the Europeansquarters was the superior class and they earned higher wages. They lived innicer areas whereas the working class lived in the Bambara quarters and it wasnot nice living conditions.
The superior class had good homes who had nativesmaintain the work that needed to be done. The Bambara quarters were litteredwith piles of cans, remains from animals, children deprived from food and homessupported by trees. The way that the author described the city of Thies is theplace of poverty, and poor infrastructure. This was not surprising afterreading about Bakary who has tuberculosis from living most of his life behindthe firebox of the train making his hair and face turn grey. On page 116 of Gods Bits of Woods N’Deye Toutidescribes the memory of her childhood, “The memory was as sharp as the pain ofan open wound, she was almost ready to bless the fire which had destroyed thewitness of her childhood and her shame.
She had a vision of houses painted inclear, fresh colors, of gardens filled with flowers, children in Europeanclothes playing in tidy courtyards. But what she saw around her was somethingelse again. Men and women were already prowling busily through the ruins… whilenaked children whose skin was the colour as the ashes ran about as if it were aholiday.” (Ousmane. Pg. 116)Theway that she describes this memory makes it as if we are experiencing itourselves. The way that Ousmane describes N’Deye Touti makes this novel moreinteresting to read.
The way that she is so open about her heritage and howunhappy she was with her life makes it as if we as the reader have met herbefore. The cruelty that the workersexperienced through this book was know and well distinguished throughout theplot of this novel. As the strike of the trainmen began, the Europeandirectors, even the black bureaucrats were already coming up with a plan tofight against the strikers. The superiorclass understood the whole time that when the needs are taken away they arealso taking away his strength and his power. We see this on page 33 of God’s Bits of Woods, “The days passed, and the nights.
Therewas no news, except what every passing hour brought to every home, and that wasalways the same: the foodstuffs were gone, the meager savings eaten up, and therewas no money in the house. “They could go and ask for credit, but they knewwhat the storekeeper would say. You already owe me this much, and as it is Iwon’t have enough to pay my bills.
Why don’t you do as they say? Why don’t yougo back to work?” As they began to starve they startedto get scared that they would have to close their shop and lose the income thatkeeps them alive. The strikers were denied the simplest thing of water, theonly thing that was going to keep them alive. Water was coming to them at ahigh price since it was becoming so scarce. In this novel, we can see that thisis a story of the rich and the poor class. We see that they are divided bysociety which means the workers and the poor. The strike itself was a hugeawakening to the community and everyone who belonged to it.
The women finallysaw themselves as working citizens and people of society that can help make adifference. This novel helps us see the unity between the cities and helps usunderstand that at this time, nothing was going to succeed unless everyone wasable to work together to make things better. I see the railroad as a new lifefor these people. All of the hard times that these people went through ended upleading them to a better life.
The woman in this novel finally had a voice andthat was so important in itself.