Akpan provides several visual cues to describe his characters throughout his short story regarding a family being subjected to racism within the family itself (2006). His short story is aimed at enlightening the reader about the raw brutality faced by the people in Rwanda who are forced to live day in and day out with tribal conflicts between Tutsis and Hutus. Monique was one such girl and the narrative is laid out from entirely her perspective.
Akpan makes tremendous strides in describing his characters with great detail so as to effectively pitch the grit of the conflict through to the reader via the eyes of an innocent nine year old girl, for violence affects a growing child more than anything. His efforts in describing his subjects and characters at precise moments shape the entire layout of the narration, for they are relayed as observations of that nine year old girl, who seemingly had no knowledge of the conflict until she was thrown amidst it first hand (Akpan).
Although admittedly a work of fiction, it serve as a powerful recollection of racist agendas threading the streets of Rwanda, and so prompt a detailed description of characters and environments that follow. It is the middle of the night and Monique, the nine year old narrator, has been left with instructions to protect her brother Jean by her mother and father. Monique was born of mixed parentage, her mother being Tutsi and her father being a Hutu. Given the setting of this narration, the Tutsi rebels are necessarily at war with the Hutus, and thus the Hutus come rummaging into the house, and deceive Monique into letting them in.
Some of the people make their way towards the mother’s bedroom. Monique seems to have been kept unaware of all the conflict, and although she recalls her uncle shouting at her father once, she was not developed enough to piece it all together. When some people make their way towards her parent’s bedroom, she follows suit, explaining how no visitors are allowed to go into the bedroom without the parent’s consent. Akpan then goes on to paint a vivid picture of the people inside. Two men in particular ransack the parents’ closet.
One of the men is described as a fat bald individual without a shirt, or shoes, wearing dirty rolled up yellow pants (Akpan). There was mention of a sparsely-haired chest as well, giving an indication of his heritage. His accomplice at the scene was a younger male, described as a school going kid. This man was in just as dirty an attire, wearing jean overalls and unclean shoes. Though young and slightly better groomed than the fat man, with his hair and beard pruned, he still had a feature reminiscent of bad character, in his bug-like eyes.
The scene goes on to become violent where Monique gets attacked by the yellow trousered man in attempt to rape her. She resists and he becomes more violent in order to overcome her but is interrupted by the Wizard who orders him to stand down (Akpan). These are, of course, traits of poor people in an already deprived state such as Rwanda. Apkan puts their status into perspective by making the reader aware of their dilapidated apparel and the lust in their eyes. Morever, the actions that follow (of the attempted rape) paint a profound picture of their ruthlessness.
This is essential to make the reader acknowledge the environment the author is working with, and Apkan relays it with finesse. Later in the story, when the father and mother have returned, the mob of Hutus, who are described as the father’s people, burst through the house with a pre-conceived notion to kill. Their presence is again, vividly described and the person who attempted to rape Monique in the first passage now has a reddish brown trouser instead of the yellow he wore originally. This provides a horridly lucid indication of where he has been and what he has been up to since the last time Monique saw him.
As the scene goes on, its intensity can be judged by the way the dialogues were exchanged between different members of the mob, which heightens further as the mother is struck by the father and she drops to her death (Akpan). Apkan portrays an incredibly vivid picture of the mother’s death. As she bleeds profusely, her feet are seen to be kicking and her chest heaves as she struggles with her last breaths. It makes it very apparent that her life is slowly being sucked out of her. Blood seeps into her eyes, while Monique who is picturing the whole scene ends up peeing at the sight.
Monique is powerless, and the blood engulfs her feet as she stands watching in dismay. She ends up weeping (Akpan). These passages describe the innocence with which Monique visualizes everything. While a strong girl with strong values, she is still only a child and does not fully grasp the seriousness of the situation until the very end. The lengthy details that are provided with regards to every scene ensure that Apkan captures his audience with an inspiring conscience, so they can go to some length themselves in understanding what it must be like to live in Rwanda. Works Cited Akpan, Uwem. My Parent’s Bedroom. The New Yorker, 2006.
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