God's Bits of Wood by Sembene Ousmane

1029 Words5 Pages
God's Bits of Wood by Sembene Ousmane

The novel God's Bits of Wood by Sembene Ousmane is an account of the strike Senegalese trainworkers underwent in pursuit of equal benefits and compensation from their French employers. In an effort to coerce the workers into returning to their jobs, the French cut off the water and food supply to the three villages wherein these events transpire: Thies, Dakar, and Bamako. Ousmane's novel explores the way in which these hardships evolve the worker's and their families till the strike is ultimately resolved. Arguably the most significant transformation that takes place is in the role of women within these societies. Prior to the strike, the women were expected to be subservient to their husband, with exclusively domestic roles consisting of cooking, cleaning, and caring for the children. As a result of the strike and the famine that accompanied it, the women were forced to alter their role to provide food for their families. The goals of the men in women differed in that the men were fighting for equality and better pay, whereas the women were fighting a battle for their own and their children's survival. So despite the fact that the declaration of strike and refusal to work until their demands were met was the campaign of the men, it was the women who ultimately forced the Frenchmen to see their resolve and succumb to their demands.

The culprit behind the alteration of women's role in society was the enforced famine, which eventually resulted in the first of the women's rebellions against the French. Because the men were no longer providing money to purchase food, the women became the providers of the family. As their situation worsened and starvation became imminent, the women resorted to breaking the law. What's remarkable in light of the situation is that the women were united in their efforts rather than watching out for themselves. The hunger visible in their children eyes did not cause them to despair and lose their resolve, rather it helped to develop unity amongst them as they faced this hardship together. For instance, when Ramatoulaye killed the ram Vendredi, the meat from its bones was distributed to all those in need. So when the French soldiers came to collect her for breaking a law, they did not face one lone woman but an army of women prepared to fight.

More about God's Bits of Wood by Sembene Ousmane

Open Document