Behold the Dreamers

Behold the Dreamers


Imbolo Mbue

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Themes and Colors
The Sustainability of the American Dream Theme Icon
The Modern Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Class and Interdependency Theme Icon
Parental Expectations vs. Personal Ambitions Theme Icon
Family and Belonging Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Behold the Dreamers, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

The Sustainability of the American Dream

Behold the Dreamers takes a critical look at the American Dream—that is, the idea that anyone who is willing to work hard can become prosperous in the United States. For each of the novel’s characters, prosperity means something different. For Jende Jonga, it means earning a good living and eventually moving his family out of their roach-infested Harlem apartment and into a comfortable home. For his wife, Neni, it means fulfilling her dream…

read analysis of The Sustainability of the American Dream

The Modern Immigrant Experience

Jende Jonga enters the United States in the summer of 2004 on a three-month visitor’s visa with the hope that, within his allotted time, he can get a green card or an American passport. He’s determined to escape from the “future of poverty and despondency” that characterizes his life in Cameroon in favor of “[claiming] his share of the milk, honey, and liberty flowing in the paradise-for-strivers called America.” Jende’s dream of making it in…

read analysis of The Modern Immigrant Experience

Class and Interdependency

If the American economy is a food chain in which benefits “trickle down” from the upper classes to those on the bottom rungs, then Behold the Dreamers explores how the lower classes depend on the generosity of those in the upper-class who employ them. Those who hold and control the most capital thus have the power to improve people’s lives as easily as they can worsen them. When the economy crashes, the wealthy Edwards family…

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Parental Expectations vs. Personal Ambitions

Both the Edwardses and the Jongas place pressure on their sons to have lucrative, prestigious jobs. Both also expect their sons to play active, professional roles in American society—an ambition that may have been less pronounced if Clark Edwards’s and Jende Jonga’s eldest children were girls instead of boys. Vince Edwards and Liomi Jonga become mirrors onto which their parents project their own ideas about what makes a man successful. Mbue uses Vince…

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Family and Belonging

What both the Edwards and Jonga families have in common is a mutual need to feel a sense of belonging, as well as their reliance on family to foster that sensibility. The Jongas remain anchored in an unfamiliar land by remaining closely connected to friends and family from Cameroon, particularly Jende’s cousin, Winston. Conversely, Cindy Edwards exhibits increasingly erratic and unstable behavior as her family drifts apart, starting with her eldest son, Vince

read analysis of Family and Belonging