Behold the Dreamers

Behold the Dreamers

by

Imbolo Mbue

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Behold the Dreamers: Chapter 54 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Jende and Neni spend much of their time arguing. She calls him selfish, and he insists that America isn’t “all that.” The truth, as he sees it, is that the country “no longer has room for people like [them].” Their worst fight occurs four days before his court appearance. While rubbing his back, she tells him that doctors in New York are better than those in Limbe and would do a better job of curing his bad back. He pushes her off of him and glares at her. When she doesn’t obey his command to “shut up,” he slaps her. He calls her “useless and idiot and stupid and a selfish woman” who wouldn’t care if he died as long as she could remain in New York. Neni pushes him, saying that America has beaten him and now all he can do is beat her to feel better. So, he does, until she falls to the floor, wailing.
Jende and Neni are at odds because they now envision their futures differently. In referring to “people [like] them,” Jende means that the U.S. is no longer interested in offering itself to poor immigrants, particularly poor, black immigrants. His opinion may have been partly shaped by Winston’s colleague’s disinterest in taking Jende’s case because Jende isn’t wealthy. Indeed, Jende is verbally and physically abusive toward Neni because he feels powerless. Furthermore, he feels threatened by her increasing independence.
Themes
The Sustainability of the American Dream Theme Icon
The Modern Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Liomi runs out of the bedroom and sees his mother “balled in a corner and his father standing over her, his hand raised and about to descend.” Jende barks at him to go back in the bedroom. Liomi bursts into tears and runs back to the bedroom. An elderly man knocks on the door to ask if everything is all right; he thought he heard a woman screaming. Neni answers from the floor that she’s okay. After the man leaves, Jende does, too. It never occurs to Neni to file charges against him; that was unimaginable. If Jende were to do it again, she would get the family involved. A marital dispute “was a private family matter.”
Liomi, like Mighty, becomes a witness to his family’s disintegration as the result of being overwhelmed by financial and legal pressures. Neni’s attitude toward domestic violence is a reflection of her traditional Cameroonian upbringing, which doesn’t regard domestic violence as criminal behavior. Her belief that one should rely on family to settle such disputes may work in her case while, in other instances, it can be disempowering.
Themes
The Sustainability of the American Dream Theme Icon
The Modern Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Family and Belonging Theme Icon
Jende returns fourteen hours later with a bouquet of red roses and a new video game for Liomi. He promises to do all that he can to give them good lives in Cameroon. He tries to pull Neni into his arms and she pulls away, but she decides to forgive him because there’s nothing else to do. Three days later, Jende stands before an immigration judge with Bubakar and requests voluntary departure. Jende doesn’t feel relief until Neni looks at him that night, with tears in her eyes, and says how glad she is that his ordeal may soon be over.
Jende tries to reingratiate himself with gifts and the promise of providing for his family back home. Neni forgives him because she knows that she has no choice but to return to Cameroon with Jende—she can’t survive in New York on her own. Though her husband hurt her physically and emotionally, she remains sympathetic and understanding, believing that his “ordeal” changed his character.
Themes
The Sustainability of the American Dream Theme Icon
The Modern Immigrant Experience Theme Icon