Houseboy Summary

7 July 2017

What does it mean to be too Green? That is the question I am asking about the character Tonic in the novel Houseboy by Ferdinand Non. You can’t look up the term ‘Being Green’ because it has no academic meaning, it is a metaphor. Being too Green’ is being too naive, new, young, not wanting to accept your reality. The character Tonic is all of these, until he is hit with the reality of his life of his place in society, his ultimate fate. In the novel Houseboy we see Tonic, as he comes to this realization after he rejects his father and is then rejected by both cultures.

He goes room a less established culture to what he believes that is more established culture which he comes to comprehend is a complete ruse. Is it possible that his lack of looking at the dark ugly truth of his society, prevent him from seeing the truth and maturing as a person.

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Thus leaving him stuck in a childlike state. His ‘greenness’ leaves him constantly vulnerable and open to others impressions upon him. Body: The story starts out with Tonic and he is carrying a dying man, he feels a certain sadness.

Tonic doesn’t understand why he is feeling sad for a man he doesn’t know or care about. The dying man says to Tonic “Brother, what are we? What are we Blackman who are French? ” peg. 4 Tonic seems to not know the answer to this question, unfortunately he will never know the answer to this question. He fails to understand what is happening around him, until it is too late. His character refuses to see the changes and twisted lies people are telling him, or the scheme that is being run. How the Europeans make fun of the little African children by watching them fight over sugar cubes.

He does not recognize that the Europeans think that the little African children fighting over sugar cubes is funny, it’s purely a game for them. Still I am glad I’m dying well away from where they are. My mother always used to say what my greediness would bring me in the end… If I had known it would bring me to my grave she was right, my poor mother. ” Peg. 4. This advice the dying man is giving Tonic, fails to hit home with him and Just goes to the wind. That greediness in life will bring you nothing but death and that Just because something seems superior then what you have it actually isn’t.

As Tonic grows and gets older he still fails to take other’s advice to him, regarding greediness. He refuses to grow-up and face the facts. That he is African and will never be accepted by the Europeans no matter who educates him or Catholic he becomes. Tonic believed that running away from his father who he believed was an evil man and going to go live with Father Gilbert would bring him more ‘sugar cubes’ that glorious treat he craved so much. He believed that he would be welcomed amongst the Europeans, that they will treat him as if he is their equal.

Instead Tonic is abused treated like nothing more than a savage. He is told that if he is a good Christian all will be fine, that if he does his work well he will be accepted. Tonic tries his very hardest to fit in; he continues his hunt for a ‘greener’ pasture. His faith in Father Gilbert, his sugar cubes, and the Catholic Church are Just too be. Tonic becomes a Catechist, he becomes someone who swallows others culture and spits out what he thinks they want to see – he is not authentic.

He thinks that by being a good Christian he will be accepted by the Europeans. When Tonic is first assigned to the Commandant as his new houseboy, the Commandant says to him as he is looking him over mourner a clean lad’… ‘No Jigger’s. Your shirt is clean, No scabies’… Your intelligent. The priest speak very well of you. So say I can count on little Joseph, eh” peg. 22 He hears this and thinks that he is going to be on the same level as the Commandant; Naive, to him looking at him as if he was a priced cattle or some kind of livestock.

The Priest’s that he so looks up to don’t even view will as a grown man, Just as a child they call him ‘Little Joseph’. Not only have they taken his name his heritage, but he has let them he put up no fight he went from Tonic Undone the Son of Zamia to Joseph a Catholic Houseboy for the Commandant. They have taken everything from him and given him nothing in return. Throughout the novel, there are many instances of irony involving the Catholic Church that go acknowledge but misunderstood by Tonic.

Case in point when Tonic is out with the Commandant and his wife, he over hears a conversation between the doctors wife and the school master. She makes a comment about how there are no morals at all in this country peg. 50 she speaks this as if Africa is lawless and immoral. That they do not know right from wrong. She uses the words this country striping the Africans of all right to their country calling it an UN-owned country, taking their power and respect. She goes off on another rant about Father Vandenberg “… Saintly ma, devoting his life to ungrateful savages’ peg. 2 This statement in and of its self is shocking she is supposed to be a good Christian by treating other’s the way you want to be treated. WSDL she want to be called a savage, immoral, lawless? Why does this make her believe she is better? Father Vandenberg is known to be vicious to the Africans; he is supposed to be a priest but acts like a scoundrel ‘… Sunday after Mass has become a terrible time for everyone who has Father Vandenberg as a spiritual director’ peg. 5 Mass supposed to be a peaceful time, when you leave you’re supposed to feel rejuvenated, Joyful.

Instead he is terrorizing these poor Africans he is supposed to be directing. Tonic is under the impression that the Catholic Church is a supposed to be a place of ethics and purity – turns out to be the opposite. From the day he stepped into the Catholic Church Tonic has been told that he needs to be a good Christian, do what he is told and he will be rewarded. What he instead receives is cruelty and discrimination; he is told his race is incapable of doing anything. Africans are ruthless; his church which he puts all his faith into seems to have abandoned him.

He is not even able to sit in a decent place in the church, the races are constantly segregated. Tonic is told that he should get a wife and have children it is god’s wish but he knows they will never be treated the like the white children. ” … You must be serious. Everyone has their position in life. You are a houseboy, my husband is the Who is she to say that is supposed to stay his position, what makes him different why can he not be a Commandant. The way the Europeans use God and Religion to goon hold the Africans in their place is despicable.

As if being a good Christian has anything to do with his social class, about him listening and taking orders from people or making anyone’s race superior to another’s. While the Europeans sit upon their high horse and Judge the native Africans on their religion, customs and tradition because they do not understand them. For instance the commandants wife preaches about how the Africans are barbaric and deviants. She is sleeping around on her husband. She is openly committing adultery with no fear the Africans will spill to any of the other Europeans leaving you with two hints.

The first being that she doesn’t hold them in any regard, doesn’t view them having a say in society that they are nothing Just mire workers passing through. The second is this goes against the catholic teachings, they speak so highly of having to be a good Christian but adultery is cardinal sin, one of the worst. When looking in retro spec who is the barbaric one, the primitive one, the deviant – the native African or the promiscuous European? What is your identity? When asked this question can you give an instant answer? When you are growing up this is the most important thing to you.

Will you be like your mother your father or even your uncle; not knowing your identity can leave you vulnerable to others impressions on you “they say in the village that I was the cause of my father’s death because I ran away to a white priest on the day before initiation when I should have met the famous serpent who watches over all the men of my race. “peg. 9 These few lines tell Tonic’s whole life story, of how because as a child he was always told he was of bad blood, his father abused him. No one really cared about him, and on the day he was to become someone – a man, he ran away.

He shed his responsibility, he shed his faith, he shed his tradition, he shamed his father for eternity. So Tonic was forced to find his identity elsewhere. In the Catholic Church, in there little compound, he was told it by the Europeans; he was told it by the other Africans. Tonic was a Native African, he was a savage, a man with no laws, a man with nothing, he was not even a man – he was a Houseboy. When he is alone with other Africans he knows not what to say. He doesn’t believe in their gossip about the white man for he doesn’t want to anger them.

Tonic soonest speak up about anything; he never raises his voice even at the natives. He is content with being a good houseboy “what a man you are! Really, Vive never come across a man like you. You are shut up all night with in a hut with a woman and you say your mouth is tired. When I tell people they won’t believe me. They’ll say, ‘perhaps, it’s because his knife is not very sharp he prefers to keep it in its sheath. ” Page she insults his man hood call him a coward and yet does nothing. He does not strike her as would be custom, he does not even raise his voice at her, he Just takes it.

Tonic is not a ma, not Just because he has not seen the serpent, but because he Tonic has yet to marry and have a family he says it is because he cannot afford the bride price. But in reality it is because he knows he is not a man yet, he knows no woman will take him the way he is. It is not only that, it is because he is doesn’t see the African women as someone who deserves to be married “… Madame but my wife and children will never be able to eat and dress like Madame or like white children. ” Peg. 56 1 believe this statement sums up why he will not fully take up a bride.

He is attracted to the French way of life, to the all of their shiny things. He wishes he could be Just good enough, that someday if he does not betray the white man they will accept him. If he shows them how strong he is they will see that. Even as he is taken into custody at the police station he refuses to scream out in pain, he doesn’t understand his circumstance. ‘Scream for God’s sake … ‘carryout. They’ll never let me stop while you won’t cry… ‘ peg. 113 Tonic is clinging to the fact that his Commandant will come to his add that he will take him back because he is a good houseboy.

Till the very end Tonic continues to cling to the Europeans, he still continues to compare himself where there is no need for it. His lack of knowing, which he felt was pride, by not shaming his Commandant and not screaming he felt was redemption. He felt that by not cowering he was able to prove a point ” I felt pleased to think that neither the Commandant nor M. More nor Sophie’s lover…. Nor any other European in Dang could have stood up to like we did” peg. 115 Conclusion: What does it mean to be too Green? What it meaner to be too green is you lack, knowledge of your circumstance no matter how dyer they are.

You are aware that there is something thing better you Just have to work hard and be patient. You must not wait till it is too late to make your leap. This novel has taught me a lot about what I should apply to my own life, that everything that glitters isn’t gold. Speak up for what I feel and know is wrong no matter what the consequences. That everyone should be equal because there is always a Hippocrates out there. I must take my chance. But it’s a slim one…. That chance Just may change your life. Don’t be a fool and ignore what is happening around you be open.

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