Childhood and Initiation in Camara Laye’s The African Child (1954) and Francis Selormey’s The Narrow Path (1966).
university Mouloud Mammeri of Tizi-Ouzou
Our research paper deals with the issues of childhood and initiation in Camara Laye’s The African Child (1954) and Francis Selormey’s The Narrow Path (1966). It intends to compare the visions of two African writers, the Guinean Camara Laye and the Ghanaian Francis Selormey, who write about such important issues in two different Western languages, French and English, and in two different periods of African history, colonial and post-colonial times. The purpose of this dissertation is to study the African child’s growth and how the African narratives of childhood use the image of the child as a symbol of growth and of the individual’s passage from childhood to adulthood in parallel with his county’s passage from colonization to independence. We focus similarly on the change in the experience of childhood between the early African narratives of childhood and the recent ones. Besides, we will deal with the new African child’s identity through discussing the clash of cultures and childhood trauma that resulted from colonialism. Stress will be put on the idea of life as a passage and the different ceremonies and celebrations that accompany that passage from one stage to another. To attain our objective, we need to compare the two narratives of childhood The African Child and The Narrow Path in the light of Arnold Van Gennep’s theory The Rites of Passage (1960) and to rely also on Stefan Helgesson’s Exit: Endings and New Beginnings in Literature and Life (2011). In order to prove this issue, it is necessary to apply the cited theories on the two novels and to study the processes of initiation presented by the authors: the traditional rites of passage and modern education, in addition to the comparison of the identities of the two child protagonists in relation to a range of influential factors mainly the clash of cultures and childhood trauma and in relation to important figures such as the father and the mother. It is deduced that the problem of identity is a recurrent issue in these narratives of childhood that record the African quest for identity in post-colonial times. However, there exist several differences between the two fictions and varied attitudes towards the issue that are determined and stressed by the divergence in their periods of publication.