The Other Ailment

As the novel progresses, we learn more details about some of Adrian’s patients. Some of the ailments include PTSD and epilepsy, but there is another ailment that gets tacitly addressed throughout the second section of the novel: racism. While on the beach with Illeanna, Adrian is approached by two American girls. The passage goes something like this: “I thought you looked saner than the rest of us…You haven’t heard the joke? What’s the difference between a tourist and a racist? Two weeks!” I don’t know about you all, but this passage made me very uncomfortable. I then looked back at the rest of the page and was struck by the way the two women ignored the two men trying to sell trinkets. In response to their presence, the red head remarks, “Don’t bother, they never give up” ( 170). To me, the details of this page are an embodiment of an ailment. I think that the ailments people suffer from in this novel are a metaphor for racism, and instead of blatantly calling out the discrimination Westerners had against the Africans, Forna instead talks about ailments. In this way, Forna is able to address racism, without explicitly calling out white people. The casual way in which the young woman makes the joke says to me that it is easy to find many things wrong with Sierra Leonians. Moreover, it says that three weeks is enough time to determine that Africans are beneath white tourists. When she tells Adrian that no matter what he says to the sellers, they won’t go away, I found it ironic, because I felt she was talking about herself, and the views other racist people like her held. No matter what hardships (the war) people in Sierra Leon went through, their suffering was irrelevant. The ailments they suffered from because of Westerners ( Europeans and Americans) were their own faults. And because the people in power ( most whites) held on to this opinion, Westerns for the most part were “never going to give up” this condescending view of African people. This passage made me think of “ailments” as racism. Do you all see any parallels between the two?

Posted on October 16, 2014, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Hi! Your post makes me to rethink what Forna wants to reveal from her novel It Is interesting that you picked the topic of “ailments.” After reading you blog, I have come to realize that there is a parallel between those rampant PTSD diseases with racism. I see those two parallel in terms of the process of how they cause deep frustration and depression to people who are “infected” with those ailments. Moreover, the solution to the PTSD and racism cannot be done by a single method and instant time. This is because the confidence and dignity that are taken away need to be restored, and that is such a long process. The rampant corruption in Sierra Leone leads to terrible civil war that people loose of confidence and trust to their government. As with racism, the underestimation from the White people even engenders the idea of racism to worsen that this White minority ruling does not take into account that they also contribute in causing the civil war through exploitation of the local resources for granted, without acknowledging that they are in a foreign soil, not their own.

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