Aminata – good character, trustworthy, of African origin, secretive and introverted yet good at talking to those comfortable with, (Amina mother of Mohammed the Prophet)
This is a very specific and careful choice of a name for the character. Aminata in the novel is all of these things. She is a good person but in a very bad situation and forced to do some very bad things. At heart, Aminata is a good, trustworthy person. People could “talk without end” (Page 67) to her, as there is an aura of trust that she gives off. Aminata likes to be by herself, and cherishes moments in which she can just relax and be by herself. But she is also good at talking to people and slowly winning them over. Whether it be the “stocky and snarly” (Page 44) pregnant woman or the “distasteful” (Page 37) traitor of Chekura, they all come along eventually. Amina is the mother of Mohammed, who is one of the most important figures in Muslim religion.
“We Glide Over the Unburied
One day, if I ever got home, perhaps they would make an exception and allows me to become a djeli, or storyteller. At night, in the village, while the fire glowed and the elders drank sweetened tea, visitors would come from afar to hear my curious story. To become a djeli, you had to be born into a special family. I used to wish that I had been, for the honour of learning and retelling the stories of our village and ancestors. Early in life, a child born into the djeli family would be taught the story of the crocodile who carried off five children, and of the man who was so rich that he had seventeen wives but so cruel that each ran away, and of the first time a man in our village returned from Timbuktu with the mysterious Qur’an in his hand. It is said that when a djeli passed away, the knowledge of one hundred men died with him.
When I was carried up the ladder and dropped like a sack of meal on the deck of the toubabu’s ship, I sought comfort by imagining that I had been made a djeli, and was required to see and remember everything. My purpose would be to witness, and prepare to testify. Papa was not supposed to show his daughter how to read and write a few lines in Arabic. Why did he break the rules? Perhaps he knew something was coming, and wanted me to be ready.” (Page 55)
1. Characterization – Aminata still has hope inside her that she will escape slavery. Yet she sees it as unlikely and a far off event. 2. Characterization and Irony– Aminata feels abandoned and lost in her new setting. She longs for home, but the use of ‘if’ means she understands the chances of it. Ironically, in the beginning of the book, (when she is not telling the story) Aminata says she no longer wants to return home. 3. Characterization – Aminata still feels like she belongs in the village with her people, but that her experience has isolated her and made her different from everyone else. 4. Characterization – A storyteller is someone of wisdom and knowledge who uses stories to teach morals and lessons. She feels like her own story is unbelievable and unrealistic to all who were not there (as most stories), but has relevance and a meaning. 5. Emphasis – Here she emphasizes that she is talking about her village, even though it was already clear.
This shows its importance to her. 6. Here she is talking about a camp fire, which represents unity and companionship in the village. 7. Relevance – Her story would be one of wonder and amazement if recounted to her former tribesmen. This is relevant, as she does not realize how common these abductions would soon become. 8. Irony – She hates how her race is treated just because of their colour, yet accepts the fact that being born into the right family in her village grants special privileges off limits to all others. 9. Characterization – Her current situation lets her realize how much she loves her people and kind. She would find it an honour just to share her culture with her people. 10. Symbolism – This story is told to children to teach them of respect and fairness, and that money is not the only valuable thing in the world. 11. Reference and Relevance– Timbuktu is a real place in Africa. It is relevant as it is a once prosperous and secure city, which fell and crumbled. 12. Characterization – Aminata is not oblivious and absolutely realizes the lack of respect in the way she is treated. 13. Vocabulary – A name used in Central and West Africa for white people.
This passage I taken from the very beginning of the next chapter of Aminata’s journey. It marks the end of her treacherous journey across Africa, and the beginning of her journey across the ocean to the new land. One day Aminata was living peacefully in her village as she had done her whole life; the next moment her parents are killed in front of her, her village is set on fire, and she is chained up for a long and treacherous hike to the boat that will be her new home for the next couple weeks. Aminata has had to age ten years in the span of a couple weeks, and mature enough to survive in this new condition. After this passage, it will continue to describe her middle passage and the horrific events that occur during it. This reflection comes at a time when Aminata has seen so many horrible things, and they are beginning to really affect her psychologically. She just wishes for simpler times, and questions why something like this could ever occur.