Behold the Dreamers

Behold the Dreamers

by

Imbolo Mbue

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Behold the Dreamers: Chapter 16 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Jende has been waiting for Vince to come out of his apartment for fifteen minutes. He arrives and hops into the backseat with a cup of coffee in his hand. He apologizes for making Jende wait. Then, he realizes that he left his phone at his apartment but refuses Jende’s offer to drive him back to retrieve it. Vince uses the time to “unindoctrinate” Jende on all the lies he’s learned about America. He talks about how the U.S. conspired to kill the Congolese leader Patrice Lumumba to stop the spread of Communism. Jende tells Vince that he appreciates how Vince wants him to see things another way, but he’s fine with his perspective. Vince says that the problem is that too many people won’t see the Truth because they prefer their illusions. He cites his parents as examples of people who are trapped “under the weight of so many pointless pressures.”
Vince means well, but his self-righteous claim to the Truth comes off as condescending. Jende is patient and diplomatic with Vince, understanding that the younger man is simply finding his own way in the world and doesn’t mean to insult those whose pursuits are different from his own. What Vince doesn’t realize is that someone like Jende doesn’t have the privilege to dismiss the only country that’s ever offered him an opportunity to advance. Vince’s opinion of his parents also discounts their existential pain, which they mask with work and material comforts.
Themes
The Sustainability of the American Dream Theme Icon
Parental Expectations vs. Personal Ambitions Theme Icon
Family and Belonging Theme Icon
Jende assures Vince that his parents are “good people” and that Clark works very hard for his children. Jende thinks that Vince should be thankful that he has parents who have afforded him such a good life and the opportunity to go to law school and become a lawyer. Vince says that he’s not becoming a lawyer and won’t return to law school in the fall; he’s moving to India instead. He asks Jende not to say anything to his parents just yet; he’s only telling Jende this because he enjoys talking to him.
Jende speaks to Vince less as a peer and more as a father who identifies with the opportunities that Clark works to afford his son. Vince’s dismissal of that opportunity may seem wasteful to Jende, but it also reveals that parents are often so preoccupied with molding their children according to their own visions that they fail to see their children for who they are.
Themes
Parental Expectations vs. Personal Ambitions Theme Icon
Jende tells Vince that he should finish school, become a lawyer, and then go to India on vacation. Vince says that lawyers are miserable, and he doesn’t want to be miserable. Jende notes that his cousin, Winston, is a lawyer. When Vince asks if he’s happy, Jende says that sometimes he is and sometimes he isn’t, as one would feel in any line of work. Vince insists that he can’t stand law school, where his classmates are being indoctrinated by lies. Jende knows from the younger man’s impassioned tone that this isn’t really about law school or his country, but about Vince wanting to become his own person, separate from his parents and the world in which they established him.
Jende’s suggestion that Vince go to India “on vacation” indicates that he doesn’t understand what Vince is doing and cannot fathom giving up a lucrative career to live in a poor country. Vince’s dream is the opposite of Jende’s and the opposite of the dream that Jende and Neni have for Liomi. However, Jende doesn’t yet see how Clark and Cindy’s imposition on Vince mirrors his and Neni’s imposition on Liomi’s personal development.
Themes
Parental Expectations vs. Personal Ambitions Theme Icon
Family and Belonging Theme Icon
Vince tells Jende that his family’s never been close and that he’s always viewed his father as “an absent provider who’s going through the motions for the sake of his family.” Jende insists that things are never easy for anyone. Vince agrees and says that this is why “our only choice is to embrace Suffering and surrender to the Truth.” Jende finds this funny. As they arrive at the dentist’s office, Vince reminds Jende to keep the news between them for now. Jende nods in agreement and they shake hands.
Part of Vince’s wish to disobey his parents’ expectations comes out of an unwillingness to become a man like his father—that is, someone who views the earning of income as more important than connections with people. However, Vince can’t really articulate what he feels about his father, so he resorts to platitudes that he picked up through what is implied to be a superficial study of Buddhism.
Themes
Parental Expectations vs. Personal Ambitions Theme Icon
Family and Belonging Theme Icon
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Vince returns to the car in an hour, with an ice pack held to his cheek. He’s numb and drowsy from the anesthesia used during his wisdom tooth extraction. He falls asleep in the backseat. Looking through the rearview mirror at Vince’s face, Jende imagines Liomi in eighteen years. He would never permit Liomi to throw away a chance at a successful career to roam around India “talking about Truth and Suffering.” However, he can’t “fully denounce” Vince’s decision either. He feels both proud of him and worried for him.
Jende imagines Vince as his own son. He admires Vince’s willingness to be his own man, but worries about the consequences of his walking away from a life of privilege in favor of a life of uncertainty. The likelihood of Liomi making the same choice is very small, not only because of the Jongas’ lack of privilege but because Liomi is rooted in cultural richness and has the familial bond that eludes Vince.
Themes
Parental Expectations vs. Personal Ambitions Theme Icon
Family and Belonging Theme Icon