If Mbue chose a different ending for Neni

What if Behold the Dreamers was written with a feminist approach?

In Behold the Dreamers by Mbue we see the struggle of immigrants coming to America through Jende, Neni, and their family. It is obvious that Mbue’s goal of this novel is to share and spread light on the struggle immigrants face, and that it does not always end beautifully. The American dream is essentially garbage that has been commercialized for years. Well, what if Mbue chose another unidealistic approach to the story? In the store we see the Jongas” story unravel. At first it is just Jende is America, he has been there, and is making effort to get Neni and Liomi also to America. Once Neni is in the picture we see the very traditional thinking of, Jende is the boss of the household because he is the man. He is her husband, and his role is to be the leader of the household. While that traditional thinking is fading in America, in Cameroon it was still very much prevalent. I believe Mbue could have taken a path of women empowerment with Neni. We see Neni start going to pharmaceutical school once she gets to America, which she is excited about. She is also excited about everything New York related. As the story progresses, we see their life in America get harder and harder. Along with Jende’s work and the struggle to be able to stay in America, Neni and Jende’s relationship is also in turmoil. They are not on the same page about what they will do to stay in America. This all boils down to Jende’s pride as a man because there are just some things he will not stoop to, for example Neni’s church plan.

“But if America says they don’t want us in their country, you think I’m going to keep on begging them for the rest of my life? You think I’m going to sleep in a church? Never. Not for one day. You can go and sleep on the church floor all you want. The day you get tired, you can come and meet me and the children in Limbe. Nonsense!”

I believe this is where Mbue could have started an alternate ending and could have taken it in a feminist direction. As things progressively get rougher for the Jongas’, Jende becomes shorter tempered with Neni. He even gets to the point of physical violence, to the point that she did not even want to discuss things with him,

“But she also knew it would be futile reasoning with a raging man, so she decided to sit quietly with her head bowed as he unleashed a verbal lashing, as he called her a stupid idiot and a bloody fool. The man who had promised to always take care of her was standing above her vomiting a parade of insults, spewing out venom she never thought he had inside him. For the first time in a long love affair, she was afraid he would beat her. She was almost certain he would beat her.”

For her to be in such submission to him after awhile is not healthy in my opinion. I believe Mbue could have easily made it to where Neni said okay and let Jende go home like he wanted but for her to take the job with the Edward’s and stay in America to pursue her dreams. She had so much more potential in America than Jende did, because she was so willing to stay.

Driver

When Jende and his family settle into New York, from Cameroon, he is desperate for a job to support his family. He dresses up in his ridiculous green suit and goes to an interview for a chauffeur job. Jende was very clueless and not the most qualified person for this job. Clark saw this in Jende and thought he would be perfect for the spot because of his ignorance. Clark liked that Jende was not in tune with what was going on around him, and saw it as the perfect opportunity to get away with what ever he desired.

With this being said, Jende was given a job that brought him into a very personal part of the Edwards’ lives. The significance of this job played a big role in the plot of the story and would have been very different if he had another job. Being the driver of the Edwards’ family gave Jende contact with every family member. This included Clark, Cindy, and Mighty Edwards.

Jende learned about Clark’s shady habits, like shredding papers or taking trips to hotels and coming our with his clothes wrinkled. He observed Clark and Cindy’s relationship and how their marriage life was. He saw Cindy’s pain from her past and her struggling with addiction. He watched how the Edward’s raised their son mighty and their relationship with him.  With this job, Jende saw and heard everything that went on with the Edward’s, whether it was work related or personal.

Jende’s knowledge of the Edward’s gives his family an advantage when he was fired. Since Jende had so much dirt on the Edward’s family him and his wife were able to use that against them when they needed money. If Jende were lets say the butler of the Edwards, he might have the knowledge of the family life but he would have no clue what Clark was doing at work or his stops during the day. If he worked in the Office with Clark he would have no knowledge of the Edward’s family life or marriage.

Jende’s job as a driver really optimized his appearance and observations of the Edwards.  Life would have been very different for the Jongas’ if Jende had another job. Its hard to say if it would have been better or worse but it is for certain that the job he was given in America set up the whole plot of this story. Without this Job, the Jongas would have probably never met the Edwards. Jende may have never found another job or he may have found one that he wouldn’t get fired from. The Jongas would have never gotten the money from Cindy Edwards, that allowed them to stay afloat in America. The Jongas may have ended up staying in America and not having to go back to Cameroon. They may have been able to achieve their American dream if Jende never got the Job as the Edward’s driver.

There are so many what ifs for both families and their outcomes if Jende never became the driver of the Edward’s. Being the driver versus anything else, allowed Jende into a huge part of the Edward’s lives. He was able to use this knowledge to help his family but ultimately it was not enough for them to stay and follow through with their dreams in America.

 

Welcome Seniors

Hello all!

Aside from reading great literature, this year we have the challenge of three IB assessments, to go with the HL paper you wrote last year: the Individual Oral in December, and the two May Exams. I’m excited to see what you can do as you emerge from your masks and plastic crypts!

Our first unit will be Imbolo Mbue’s Behold the Dreamers, this summer’s reading assignment.

After Dreamers:

  • King Lear
  • Silence
  • The World’s Wife
  • Dubliners
  • Mrs. Dalloway
  • The Remains of the Day
  • Atonement

See y’all soon!

Mr. N

A shelter in the storm for Mr. Nigro's IB Seniors, assorted madmen, and garden variety fools

Skip to toolbar