Behold the Dreamers

Behold the Dreamers

by

Imbolo Mbue

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Behold the Dreamers: Chapter 57 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The ten thousand dollars Neni got from Cindy, along with the five thousand they saved and the three thousand that Neni earned working in the Hamptons for Cindy, would make the “millionaires many times over” in Limbe. Jende would become one of the richest men in New Town, their section of Limbe. They could rent a beautiful house with a garage. They could hire a maid. Jende could start a business and, someday, build a large brick house. He’d send Liomi to the boarding school that Winston attended. Winston encourages his idea to hire people to farm the eight acres of land that Pa Jonga left him in Bimbia. He could then sell the food in the Limbe market and ship some of it abroad.
Though the Jongas don’t get to fulfill their dream of making good lives for themselves in the U.S., they do fulfill their dream of earning a small fortune. This will help them to change their circumstances in Cameroon and give them the means to give their children better futures. Contrary to their expectations, their possibilities have expanded in Cameroon as a result of their hard work in America, and their idea of what constitutes success has also expanded.
Themes
The Sustainability of the American Dream Theme Icon
Family and Belonging Theme Icon
Winston asks that Jende not become “an American wonder” when he goes back—one of those Cameroonians who goes to America and returns home with “laughable American accents, spraying ‘wannas’ and ‘gonnas’ all over sentences.” They walk around town wearing suits, cowboy boots, and baseball caps, claiming that they no longer understand Cameroonian culture because they’re now “too American.” Jende assures him that he’ll never be laughable. He’ll always be respectable.
What makes such people “laughable” is that they seem to be parodying an idea of what it means to be American. Furthermore, they are trying too hard to set themselves apart from their fellow Cameroonians, which makes them seem phony. When Jende says that he’ll be “respectable,” he means that he’ll always be true to who he really is.
Themes
The Sustainability of the American Dream Theme Icon
Family and Belonging Theme Icon
Later that evening, Jende shares with Neni his idea about wholesaling food. She contemptuously asks him what he needs her opinion for. He notices that, less than a week after their shared moment in Times Square, that she’s back to despising him for taking her and their children away from America. Liomi, however, has forgiven him.
Neni still doesn’t see any possibilities for herself in Cameroon. Jende talks constantly about plans that will make him successful, but Neni doesn’t see herself starting her own career there.
Themes
The Sustainability of the American Dream Theme Icon
Jende calls Moto and asks him to search for men who’ll till his land in Bimbia, who’ll plant plantains, egusi, and yams. He also asks him to look for a three-bedroom brick house with a garage, a maid, and a car that he’ll drive until the used Hyundai that he bought at a New Jersey auction arrives in a shipping container. His brother texts three days later saying that all of Jende’s requests have been met.
Because Jende is now considered a rich man in Cameroon, he can gather resources and make demands as the Edwardses do in the U.S. He can now experience something akin to the life that Clark Edwards enjoyed—the importance that he admired.
Themes
The Sustainability of the American Dream Theme Icon
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When Neni tells Fatou about all that Jende has arranged, Fatou wonders why her husband, Ousmane, can’t do the same for her. She misses home and worries about her parents, who are in their eighties and need care. Fatou sends money when they fall sick, but, after twenty-six years, she’s ready to stop braiding hair for a living and return home. However, even if Ousmane wanted to go home, her children are Americans who’ve never been to Cameroon and want nothing to do with it. Some of them don’t even consider themselves African. She marvels at how they declare themselves New Yorkers and Americans when others ask where they’re from and that they only reluctantly admit that their parents are African. Fatou wonders if her children think that they’re better than her because they’re Americans and she’s African.
Neni realizes that not every Cameroonian who is rooted in America is happy to be there. Talking to Fatou offers her another perspective. She realizes that being so far away makes it more difficult to be in touch with family members who may need her. Furthermore, though Neni dreams of a better life in America for her children, it’s also possible that, in identifying more as American than African, they could grow to distance themselves and disown their heritage, as Fatou’s children have. This may be due to certain racist stigmas associated with Africa.
Themes
The Sustainability of the American Dream Theme Icon
Family and Belonging Theme Icon