Worse than Hell
In class, we broached the subject of misplaced anger. In the second half of the novel, there are many instances in which this is seen, but I think one scene in particular illustrates one of the effects of this displaced anger. In a dramatic scene in a Mokolo market, during a Jehovah Witness’s public testimony, a woman falsely accuses an innocent onlooker of stealing her wallet. The resulting riot that ensues afterwards, is chaotic. The most interesting part of this particular scene is the vigor and violence with which the entire crowd pursued the accused. Considering our discussion about binal violence ( like selling non-existing train tickets), I didn’t quite understand what made the crowd go after this particular man, and not the police authorities who abused their power. But along with my surprise, I noticed how this riot ensued in the midst of a “man of God” telling people that they needed to repent for their sins during the crisis. To me this was very ironic, since talk of God should bring comfort and hope, instead of engendering violence. It is this religious presence that finds its implications in the passage on pages 157-158. “Fists flailed behind him,trying to catch him, to grab his shadow.” “The officer stepped aside and let him pass. Then the policeman took his revenge on the anxious crowd, which wanted to follow in the steps of the last witness. He shut the gates of the police station as if they were behind the locked fence….found myself right next to the seat of the final judgement (158).
This scene is significant, because it’s full of ironic details. Firstly, its ironic that a supposed criminal is running to police for help. Secondly, its ironic that the police started to entertain the problem, especially since no one was paying them to quell the problem. Thirdly, referring to the gates of a prison as the gates of heaven seems like a very misplaced likening. Fourthly, it is interesting that a crowd of people who mistrust the corrupt policemen are described as “following the steps of the last whiteness.”
The significance of these ironies is the comparison it makes between the binality the citizens go through and the implications of Heaven, Limbo, and Hell. Looking at this particular situation, it seems as though the binality the crowd is trying to escape from is like a limbo, from which they are ready to move on from. In many ways, the state of their condition, brought on by the crisis, is worse than hell, because there is always the hope of things improving. The conditions of the crisis are illuminated by the resolution of this scene. The man’s innocence is returned ( a piece of individual heaven), the policeman acts as God ( even though he’s far from) , and the crowd turns on the woman it went to bat for. Everything returned to normal ( Limbo).