Review Questions for The Dark Child

Camara Laye was born on Jan. 1, 1928, in Kouroussa, French Guinea and died on Feb. 4, 1980, in Senegal. The book opens around 1934 and closes in the late-40s. It was published in French in 1954. Laye was one of the first sub-Saharan African writers to achieve an international reputation.


  1. What arrests Laye’s attention outside his father’s workshop?
  2. What do the boubous and prayer rugs signify?
  3. What did the row of pots in Laye’s father’s hut contain?
  4. What attracts the snakes outside of the Camara concession?
  5. Why was the black snake immune from persecution?
  6. How did the snake make himself known to Laye’s father?
  7. What two problems perplex Laye about his future?


  1. Why would women bring go-betweens when requesting work of Laye’s father?
  2. Why did Laye’s father require absolute silence when smelting gold?
  3. What is the role of the snake, according to Laye, in the smelting of gold?
  4. What is the significance of the douga?
  5. What are two reasons Laye’s mother has for disliking her husband’s work in gold?


  1. What do Laye and his uncle do to amuse themselves when traveling to Tindican?
  2. Why hadn’t Bo inherited the concession of his father?
  3. What was the job of children in Tindican?
  4. Why was Laye not as impressed with his clothes as were the village boys?


  1. What is the role of the genii in the festival of the rice harvest?
  2. Why does the head of each household cut a swath of rice to mark the harvest?
  3. What makes December a beautiful season?
  4. Why shouldn’t one boast about one’s achievements?
  5. Why can’t Laye cut rice? What does he feel about that?


  1. Why do the younger apprentices share Laye’s mother’s hut in exclusion of her other children?
  2. What is the relationship between Laye and Sidafa?
  3. Why is Laye forbidden to talk during meals?
  4. What sort of powers does Laye’s mother possess? Where did they come from?
  5. Why did the people respect the power Laye’s mother had?


  1. Where did Laye begin school?
  2. How did the boys tease the girls on the way to school?
  3. Why does Laye’s sister think Laye is in love with Fanta?
  4. How do the children conduct themselves in school?
  5. What are the various types of punishments instituted at the school?
  6. What makes the school’s herd different from normal herds?
  7. What is Laye’s relationship with the older students at the school?
  8. What happened to Kouyate to make him expose the abuse?
  9. What does Laye do when the older children ostracize Kouyate?
  10. What is the effect of Laye’s father striking the director of the school?


  1. Of whom is the Konden comprised?
  2. What are Laye’s fears about Konden Diara? How does his father try to soothe him?
  3. How is the initiation conducted?
  4. What were the uncircumcised boys taught to do following the terror of the lions?
  5. What is remarkable about the long white threads that were tied everywhere in the village following the ceremony?
  6. What is the secret of the night of Konden Diara?


  1. What is the dance of the soli?
  2. Why did the outpouring of gifts not wholly excite the boys?
  3. What is the symbol of the peasant class? What was Laye’s?
  4. What is the point of "isolating" the boys before and after the ordeal?
  5. How were they treated in "isolation"?
  6. What is the dance of the coba?
  7. Why didn’t the boys want to show their fear?
  8. What are the procedures of the circumcision?
  9. Why did the boys have no appetites?
  10. Why do the boys tell nothing of circumcision rites, nor the women of excision rites?
  11. What has happened between Laye and his mother to affect their relationship?
  12. Of what does Laye come in possession after he leaves his "isolation"?


  1. What’s the significance of the feast given for Laye before he departs for the school in Conakry?
  2. What is the purpose of the elixir given to Laye by his mother?
  3. How is it made?
  4. What is it that Laye’s father gives him as a going-away present?
  5. What had happened to Laye’s father at the age of 12?
  6. What is the significance of the griots singing "thou art as wise as the White man"?
  7. What effect did these flatteries have?
  8. List some of Laye’s insights as the train travels to Mamou, then on to Conakry?
  9. What kind of reception does he receive in Conakry? from his uncle? his aunts?
  10. How does Uncle Mamadou treat his religion?
  11. Why is Laye dissatisfied with his school?
  12. Why doesn’t Laye want to be a laborer? What’s the significance of that?
  13. Why was Laye hospitalized?


    1.  What does Laye have to look forward to when he returns to the school?
    2.  Who is Marie?
    3.  Why does Aunt Awa call Marie a clever girl? What is she after?
    4.  In what ways does the relationship between Marie and Laye develop?
    5.  Why does Laye write his mother for help from the marabouts during his examination?


  1. What has Laye’s mother done to his hut? What is the significance of that?
  2. Why does Laye’s mother look adversely upon his even palavers?
  3. What annoys Laye most about his mother’s over-protectiveness?
  4. What happens to Check? How does this affect Laye?
  5. Why doesn’t Laye call aloud his name after Check dies?


  1. What is Laye concerned about telling his mother?
  2. Why does Laye’s father give his consent? Under what condition?
  3. What indeed is Laye’s mother’s reaction to the news of Laye’s impending departure?
  4. Against whom does she vent her anger?
  5. What is the significance of Laye’s feeling the map of the metro at the close of the book?

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