The literary analysis Of The Old Man and the Medal

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1 The literary analysis Of The Old Man and the Medal

2 Title: The Old Man and the Medal. Novelist: Ferdinand Oyono. Setting: Cameroon before independence. This novel fiercely satires the colonial situation through the eyes of Africans. Meka, an old villager has always been loyal to the white men. It is this pride he first hears he has to receive a medal. While waiting for the ceremony Meka suffers a lot and finally his happiness disappears and comes to know the true color of the white men who pretend to be good for sometimes and later on turn to animals. This novel has three parts which are part one, part two and part three. Part one comprises five chapters part two comprises three chapters and part three comprises three chapters. PART ONE. CHAPTER ONE. It is early in the morning Meka is shown to wake from the first ray of sunwlight, he stretches himself and yawns while his wife keeps snoring. He says Wake up! How can you sleep when I have troubles. Women you are as weak as the disclipes of Olives. Meka is busy, wants to get prepared to see the commandant. They say their prayers kneeling near the bamboo bed like camels wait to be loaded, at last Meka says Amen. Meka gets out of the hut, his wife sits beside the door follow him with eyes until his shape is no more. The distance for him amounts to one stopping place which belongs to Mammy Titi. She is the distiller of arki, everyone who works in European quarter visits this place. Meka lowers himself onto the old oil drum, he leans backward and yawns. You must have been early to go out hunting says his neighbor with his eyes fix on Meka s trouser. They talk a bit and discuss the issue of Meka toward the decision to give his land to the White men. Meka is on his way to the commandant, Mammy Titi holds out a full bowl to Meka, he drinks it and gets worried because of being drunkard. He says If the government can smell that I have just drunk this Then his neighbor tells him All you have to do is to suck a couple of oranges. Meka asks how could he say I have eaten an orange in French, then some body responds by saying Moi Suce d Orange. Meka leaves the place and goes to see the commandant. It is also in this chapter where Africans are shown to be forbidden to distill their own cheap alcohol from maize and banana and being forced to European spirits and the red wine flooded into the commercial center. Ark becomes as scarce as dog tears. They proclaim that every African who drinks local alcohol is like committing a mortal sin.

3 It is the same chapter Catechist Ignatus Obebe is shown to lead the player, Kelara kneels down all the inhabitants at Doum are shown to be around the chapel by the time Ignatus Obebe pronounces the word Amen. He finally says Yessoos Christooss and the villagers respond by saying For ever and ever. Kelara is seen to wait for Meka around the chapel, Kelara s hope drains away when the sun sinks lower. While at her home, she hears the sound of the car and the villagers hear it too. All villagers come outside of their huts. The car moves toward the middle of the yard followed by the crowd of naked children screaming in frenzy. Meka sits beside the white man who drives the car, every now and then Meka leans out the window so that everyone in the village could see him. The whole village comes around Meka. Meka clears his throat and says Well, the commandant me that the great chief of all the white men is coming to give me a medal on the 14 th July.. He then sends the women away because he believes that the pre-mature celebration might bring bad luck. There are other villagers like Nua whose real age no one knows either, his jaws move all the time. He always keeps cola nuts under his tongue. Another one is Nti, he is not a native to Doum, he is only attracted by his neighboring town. Mvondo is Meka s nephew, although he is the son of Mekas s younger sister, all his hair has gone. Everybody accepts that he has never been young, there is also a story that he was born with all his teeth and no one surprises that at thirty he is bald and wrinkled like an ancient lizard. Meka is shown to narrate a story on how he reached to the commandant, he says The first one to be called was me. They called an interpreter and translated like this, Meka you are now somebody among men, since I came to this country I have never seen cocoa as well dried as yours. You have done much to forward the work of France, You have given your land to the missionaries, You have given your two sons in the war they found a glorious death (He wiped away in an imaginary tears). The medal we are to give you we mean is more than our friend. Then we worked over to the commercial center, there I met Mr. Kobbingolom and he told me to take whatever I wanted from his shop For nothing? Asked Mvondo, perhaps his heart told him to do it.. replied Meka. Meka finishes narrating his story then Ignaus Obebe enters and says he is very happy for Meka and his sincerely wish is that he wants Meka to win another medal. Ignatus continues with another story by saying that the world is corrupt. It is ruled by pride and it goes to the destruction of what God has created. He gives example of prostitution that is everywhere in African location the alcohol that keeps coming and the bombs white have inverted. He wonders why people should not see those sights which have been told they will come before the end of the world. He says that the world is living the devil s advanture. We missionaries says Ignatus smiling broadly, are like owls. As soon as we tell you what is going to happen everyone shouts witchcraft. CHAPTER TWO. It is also morning Engaba is shown to finish his breakfast, it consists of maize, cucumber and viper. His dog keeps watching over him. There is noise heard from other end of the village, Engaba comes out into

4 the yard. He then sees a man comes across the yard with his trouser rolled up to the thighs then he introduces himself as Nkolo the son of Mendo. He offers an open bottle and rubs the end of his nose with the back of his hand. When Mbogsi finishes himself he passes to the next man. Engaba gets up and goes to the center of the hut he then goes back to his seat. Mbogsi wants to take his place at the hut pole. Sit down someone interrupts, What kind of a man are you? Whenever you hear drumming you hurry along the feast where you have not been invited. Mbogsi says Engaba is his brother, anything that concerns Engaba concerns him too. They both have the same blood, then he asks Tell me, have I eaten at your house eh? Have I? Mbogsi shouts. Engaba cuts their conversation then somebody gives an opportunity to the stranger to speak. Nkolo says that he has walked under the beating son to bring them the news, he narrates that he comes from Doum and what he had ever seen there can not be told. He says his future parents-in-law had asked him for a bundle of stock fish so that he could marry their daughter according to civil rites. He has already given them thirty thousands francs, a case of beer, a pith helmet, a sack of salt, three machetes, three sheep, a bucket, iron cooking pot and sack of rice. All that was left was the stock fish. He says He also explains how he could see the different atmosphere at Doum when the a lorry after lorry full of soldiers with rifles spread through the towns towards commandant s office. He talks of soldiers who come from Gabon and he says that they are as black as bottom of a pot and their heads are the same shape as ram s scrotum and their teeth are like the teeth of saw. A war! a war! awar! has started says Mbogsi. The stranger comes him down by saying that it is only the coming of the chief of the whites who comes to Doum to give a medal to.. before he finishes speaking Engaba shouts Meka my brother inlaw, that s it! Isn t it? He says that the night before he had a dream that he was bigger than an elephant. He gets proud of himself and finally complains that he does not have good things to give his brother in-law with the exception of old goat. This gives a chance for other people to promise him other gifts like chicken, a duck and bottle of palm wine. Engaba goes with the stranger to the far end of the village by the bank of the river which makes the end of his tribe and the beginning of the Yemeyemas to which to which the stranger belongs to. A friend is worth more than a brother Says Engaba. I have met more than a brother, if your feet ever brings you to Ngolman you will drink good palm wine and the wine in its turn will drink you. They say goodbye to themselves and the bush on the other side of the river swallows up Nkolo. Engaba remembers all the good old days when he had succeeded to his father. Engaba s father had been rich then and they used to say in Zourian as rich as Engaba. When he died his father had left him six young wifes and his mother. In those days Kelara had breasts as big as lemons. He never thought in those days that the whites and their religion could ever trouble his happiness. Amalia is one of the is the one who has married him in church. This chapter also introduces a flashback on how Meka got Kelara is hinted. When Meka passed through Zourian, Engaba s father realized Meka and he was always ready to conciliate his equals, he called Kelara who was then still a baby with a fat bell and had her set on Meka s lap. There is your wife, he told him, you can come and fetch her when she is ready That is how Engaba became Meka s brother in law. Engaba says He is my brother-inlaw, I am his brother-in-law, I am a brother in law of a man with a medal.

5 It is also in this chapter Engaba gives a flashback of how he was before becoming too old. It is pity I have got too old, when we were young you could dance for a whole week without getting tired, nowadays I can not even climb a slop without feeling I am going to die. It is now one day before before the day of 14 th of July to reach for Meka s celebration, Engaba is shown to get prepared for his journey to Doum. CHAPTER THREE. There is a widespread panic when lorries full of soldiers are shown to move to commercial center, People think of the war. M. Foucon supervises everywhere, he is the European administrator. In this chapter another character is introduced called Ela. He promises Meka to make a new catalogue goes by the name of Zazou which come from Paris. Ela says that he is always up with latest fashions, he forgets to sew buttons and tell Meka to do it by himself because it is too easy to do it. For the buttons, I shall give you a reel of cotton and needle. It is quite easy, women s work. My wife is ill, he added. CHAPTER FOUR. Engaba and his wife Amalia are on the way to Doum. They get some rest to a certain village called Nkango, they are well welcome by the natives who are Binama and his wife Agatha. Binama introduces his second little son to Engaba called De Gaulle. Engaba gets surprised then he says Children today grow up like maize They talk for a little while then Binama says Meka is one of those people born under a luck star who are going to find happiness both in this word and the next Engaba also responds by saying You could say that he is the camel that will pass through the eye of a needle Benama continues to say that he has hardly met anyone with a heart as good as his and the white have seen that as well as he has, then a silence follows their conversation. Binama calls his wife with a loud voice Agatha with a loud voice so as to say good bye to Engaba and his wife Amalia. On the way when they escort each other they discuss about the poor infrastructure, Engaba asks How can a path like this lead to the land of men? Binama also responds by saying When I was a labourer at Catholic Mission in Doum where all I earned was thank you from the priest I heard that there was a project in the commandant office to build a new road. CHAPTER FIVE. Amalia and Engaba are now exactly at Meka s home place, Kelara informs others about their presence. She keeps informing the coming of different people to join Meka s celebration including Essomba who is the Meka s brother- in- law. Meka asks for his grand son jokes by asking Where is my wife? Essomba s wife comes and throws herself into Meka s arms, then Meka says I have always wondered how a gorilla like you came to marry such a pretty wife! Then Essomba s wife says It doesn t mean anything to him, he doesn t appreciate me.. The conversation among the visitors still goes on and kelara keeps instructing people where to sleep at night and collects bananas leaves as sleeping mats. She says Those who haven t got the sleeping mats can lie down on the banana leaves, they will find on the veranda, does everyone under stand? Then everyone answered Yeeeeeeeeeeeeee

6 Meka, Kelara, Amalia, Mvondo and Engaba are shown are showhn in conversation before going to bed. Meka takes a jacket then Kelara says I have never seen a jacket like this, when he puts it on his wife says You are swimming in it like a little fish in the sea Then her husband shouts Don t exaggerate Kelara lifts up the lamp and begins to inspect him. I think it is a very good jacket, it must be a new style. Then Meka says Someone at least has some sense, it is new fashion after the De Gaulle jackets, these are the zezou jackets and I am the first one to wear it in Doum. You are fool, how can you appear in front of the commandant and the chief of white in that thing. I am sure if the white see you in that thing tomorrow they wont give you a medal. In any case I am not sewing on the buttons Says Kelara I do not know what you think is the matter with that jacket says Engaba then his wife responds by saying Be quiet Kelara says that they are not in bush. PART TWO. CHAPTER ONE. It is exactly the day of 14 th of July, the guards are shown to have difficult time keeping back the crowds of Meka s fellow Africans who mass behind him. Meka is then taken to a place where he realizes neither his grand father nor his father or any member of his huge family has ever been. He is now neither with his own people nor the other. It his hot and Meka begins to wonder if his heartbeats in his feet because of standing for so long. A white man goes by him, gives him a smile then goes over join with other white men points back at Meka with his finger. Meka feels tired in his stiff neck, tries to pull all his weight on his right foot which hurts less than the other. He then feels pain as if the needle Ela had given him was going through his little toe then up through his ankle, right up to his thigh and sticking into his backbone. The needle multiplied into a million needles swarming and pricking in every party of his body. Meka is now loosing hope but he keeps encouraging himself until the coming of M.Foucon and his assistant. Meka closes his eyes and praying All might God, Thou alone that passeth in hearts of men. Thou seest that my dearest wish at this moment as I wait for the medal and for the white Chief alone. I beseech thee to aid me in this position which I have never been in my all life. He is finally shown to make the sign of cross inwardly. M. Foucon joined by the Gulletand his assistant begin to cross back and forth in front of Meka, then Meka says They are luck not to suffer with their shoes, they are wearing pith helmets and they are young. I am poor old man but I have to leave my head baking in the sun like lizard. It is now so hot that he looks up in the sky to see if the sun is still up there and not resting on his back. There is a roll of drums to welcome the Chief of white men who is now seen to arrive. When the white men finishes to salute him he takes a small case which is held by M.Foucon s assistant and pins it to M. Pipiniaki s breast. It is now the turn of Meka, the Chief stands infront of Meka and pins it onto his breast. Meka looks down at his medal, he feels as if his neck is growing, his head is climbing up and up, up to heaven like the tower of babel. His forehead is nearly to reach the clouds. The pot of goat is cooked and Meka talks to himself Who said that the Mekas were finished, the one African of Doum decorated by the chief of white men, yes his name crossed the seas and flown over the mountains and come to the ear of great chief to decorate him at Doum. The soldiers begin to march,

7 they turn their head sharply towards the great chief, Meka looks for the smoke bombs which Ignatus Obebe had talked about. Kelara watches her husband presented with his medal through eyes damp with joy. When the white men shake hand with hands with Meka she thinks her heart would stop beating. She is then filled with sorrow when she remembers her two sons and nothing can make up for the loss of them. A woman holds her by the sholder and Kelara with all her heart on the woman shoulder. She finally rubs her eyes and look at Meka again. Other African are shown to dance in the courtyard. CHAPTER TWO. Engaba seems not to understand it at all. Kelara sits in the dust of courtyard, her hand on her head, Amalia is with her. Engaba tells them to keep quiet so as not to bring misfortune on that fine day which Meka has been given a medal by the great chief of whitemen. Is any wife or mother more wretched than I am? I thought I had married a man, a real man. Instead I married an arse full of shit. My children, my poor children. Sold like Lord who was sold by Judah, he at least did it for money. The man who lay with me so that I should bear you did not get a good price for the drops of his seeds. Both of you, together my little ones priced at one medal. Is any wife, any mother more wretched than I am? Kelara cried. CHAPTER THREE. Meka is now in at the commercial center enjoying the glasses of the champagne. He is with his fellow Africans talking and drinking on one side side and white men on the side. Later on the chief of the white men with the help of the interpreter gives his appreciation to the Africans by saying that he is very pleased to be with them and they are more than friends, they are like brothers. This makes everyone to clap and the interpreter goes back to his seat. Meka is also seen to ask for an opportunity to speak before the chief of white men, he starts with a proverb says If you want to know what your friend thinks of you, drink a few glasses with him He then asks the chief of white men if he could come with him to eat the goat which his brother in-law has brought for him. The chief of white men responds by saying he had the pleasure for invitation but he would eat the goat with them in thought and he is very e tells them that the commandant is very sorry that he could not eat with them in their hut. He also invites them to go and eat with him some other time and his promise is the beginning of new era. When M. Foucon sees that the atmosphere at African community center becomes more restless, he leaves with the high commissioner. Then the interpreter claps his hands together to call for the silence, he tells them that the commandant has ordered him to tell them that he is very tired, this makes somebody to interfere and shouts Because he has eaten so much then the great burst of laughter drown the voice of the interpreter. The interpreter loses his temper and says What kind of people are you, I ask you? the question restores silence then he continues If your ancestors saw your present condition in front of these men from across the sea, what would they think? I am ashamed of you His words cause people to murmur and divide people into two camps. There are those who want to listen to the interpreter and those who shout for him to be quiet, then someone shouts The whites had upset all the traditions of the land Every one panics this makes the interpreter to bath in sweat. He calls for an apology and asks to be heard again, this makes the situation worse than before and someone

8 suggests that they should hang him up. Then the interpreter is seen not to wait any more, he escapes through the back of the door. Meka is asleep when all these things happen with his head against the shoulder. Everyone is discontented and speaks emotionally. The white men always exaggerates, how could they say we are more than brothers while there was no an African on the platform with them, the whites were very funny people. They didn t know how to tell lies properly and yet they expect Africans to believe them. A car draws up in the courtyard, boots jumping down make a sound like a rain falling on the gravel, then someone shouts Gullet and his men Panic spreads through out the room, bottles are knocked everywhere. No one remembers Meka. At Gullet s arrival Meka s neighbor in his panic pushes him into the middle of the room. The medal slips round into the hallow of his armpit and gradually came unpinned. PART THREE. CHAPTER ONE. Meka drifts back to consciousness. A flash of lighting rent the darkness and the crash of thunder shakes the ground under Meka s buttocks. He then gets to his feet and begins to move forward. In the courtyard the visibility is zero. The storm rages with violence that had never been before. Meka thinks of Kelera and Engaba and the rest who still wait for him before beginning the goal. He makes up his mind and works straight ahead. He tries to call to mind all the events of the day but everything confuses him. Even the medal that had been given by the white is now lost. He suddenly catches a beam of light, he lifts up his arms to cover his eyes then he says O man with the electric torch God has sent you to me, come and help me to find the path leading to the location. Get up you pig! Where are your papers? Where have you come from? What are you doing fucking around here? asks the constable Meka begins to choke and cry like a terrified chimpanzee. Then the constable keeps forcing Meka to move on his way and says On your way my good friend of the Governor! The constable commands with a peal of laughter. Just look at the old devil! Go on, move! Meka responds sadly My son, gasping for breath, you are young enough to be my son, why do you want to shed blood as old as your own father s? Why do you want to bring a curse on you and your before he finishes the constable roars loudly Shut up They keep mistreating Meka then another constable shouts Cover up your dirty old arse and show me your papers!. Meka says that he has not been given the papers by the chief of whites It was only the medal, the constable disagrees with him and accuses him of looting European area. Meka is now commanded to move on so that he can be taken to Gullet. He is called bad names like tortoise. Meka is beaten by many policemen at once then Gullet spits on Meka s face and finally asks Who is this lunatic? CHAPTER TWO. Meka goes back home with strong pains, the day after 14 th of July has become bad to him. He sometimes laughs at himself and blames himself why didn t he think of it before. Meka is now at home and Mvondo runs over him, Meka looks upset and everyone asks what happens.

9 The whites! Just the whites! Says Meka. Meka speaks with the expiring voice he goes stiff and his arms helps him to walk. He says I am finished, these whites have nearly killed me CHAPTER THREE. The native complains the wrongs done by white men, Engaba was also not present looking for Meka and complains that men become invisible like ghosts and disappear like coins has now come back and finds out about the evils of whites. He thinks of Zourian where everyone envies him because of his brother-inlaw, now things have been destroyed by the whites. Then he says I wonder is it exactly these whites want from us later on Meka says We can t do anything about what has happened. The white will always be the whites. FORM ANALYSIS. (I)TITLE It is direct title, just like its title suggests there is an old man who is promised and later on given a medal. The colonial master gives a medal to him for his cooperation and his heart to give his two sons who both got killed in the war. (II) SETTING Refers to the time and place where the events occur. It is the real setting of African country of Cameroon before independence. The French colonial masters have been portrayed differently by the time they invaded in Cameroon. (III) PLOT The events have been arranged chronologically from the first day of sun light Meka goes to the commandant, the preparation of the celebration, the exactly day of celebration and the evils done by white to Meka after the day of celebration. Flashback is also hinted in different ways where the previous events are told in the course of the story. -Example when we are told about how Meka got Kelara. - Also flashback is also given when Engaba remembers his childhood and the things he could do when he was still very young before he has become aged enough. (IV) DICTION In language use, the novelist has made the use of French language example when meka says Moi Suce d Orange to mean I have eaten an orange. Harsh language is also used example when Meka is commanded to go to Gullet, the constable says Get up you pig The use of impolite words such as arse, scrotum and the word fucking. Religious language is also used example when Meka says All might God, Thou alone that passeth in hearts of men Ignatus Obebe says Yessooss christooss The use of literary device like saying and proverbs example Meka gives a proverb by saying If you want to know what your friend thinks of you, drink a few glasses with him Also Engaba says A friend is worth more than a brother

10 You must have been up early to go out hunting OTHER LITERARY DEVICES 1. SIMILE You are swimming in it like a little fish in the sea Says Kelara to Meka Children today grow up like maize Says Engaba to Binama Woman you are as weak as the disciples are Says Meka to Kelara 2. PERSONIFICATION If the government can smell I have just drunk this says Meka to Mammy Titi. perhaps his heart told him to do it Says Meka to Mvondo Yes his name crossed the seas and flown over the mountains Says Meka to himself 3. OVERSTAMENT Meka looks down at his medal, he feels as if his neck is growing, his head is climbing up and up, up to heaven like the tower of babel. His forehead is nearly to reach the clouds. The needle multiplied into a million needles swarming and pricking in every party of his body You are swimming in it like a little fish in the sea 4. ONOMATOPOEIA THEMATIC ANALYSIS Yeeeeeeeeeeeeee!! Responded the crowds to Kelara A. DRUNKENNESS. Men Africans are shown to take local beers commonly known as arki. The one who distills this arki is Mammy Titi. Europeans are shown to take Wisks and wine. It therefore a big number of people are drunkards. B. CATHOLICISM. Many African are shown to get trapped into the White men ways of worshiping, some of them are even dare to give their lands to support it example Meka. Engaba and Amalia get married under the umbrella of Missionaries. Ignatus Obebe is also shown to lead the mass of Africans in a catholic way. C. PROTEST. Africans are shown to protest against the wrongs done by the French men. Example those who want to hang the interpreter because of praising the whites. Kelara is last shown in protest of the medal when she remembers about the loss of her two sons. D. OPPRESSION White men oppress Africans in different ways. Meka is oppressed by the French policemen by false accusation of looting the American property. Gullet and his French policemen are shown to harshly treat the natives in the African community center.

11 E. EXPLOITATION The Africans are exploited in different ways example Binama who has been working for so long with the white men and at last he is only told the word thanks from the priests as his earning. He has been working in a catholic mission as a free laborer. - `

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