The argument and contention. Conde begins her novel

The year is 1797 and we are in the heart of Segu located in West Africa and unforeseen change are arriving on the horizon. In the novel Segu, by Maryse Conde we explore an empire at its height on the brink of drastic change and conflict. In this Historical fiction novel Conde introduces the major theme of change, which is brought about through the spread of foreign religions, the rise of the slave trade, and the death of traditional ways in Segu. These major themes are conveyed through the use of the use of the Traore family and their four sons Tiekoro, Siga, Naba, and Malobi who each represent a form of change in Segu. In the novel Conde takes the readers on a trip experiencing average life in West Africa as we follow each of the fours sons journeys to make a new name for themselves. Conde gives many subtle themes and thoughts on segu and its downfall but mostly sets up the novel in a way that allows the reader to gather perspective on life in segu and form their own argument and contention. Conde begins her novel in the mist of family conflict as Dousike as the kings trusted advisor is sentenced to the royal palace of segu. Here we find out a fellow counselor to the king named Samake, Dousikas arch enemy has devised a plot to oust Dousike from power. Rumors are spread throughout the inner circle about Dousika who has married a slave who has beared him a child, this leads to doubt within the kings circle causing Dousika to be ousted from government. This outstation becomes the underlying cause of the actions of all four of his sons as they now feel they must make a new name for themselves in alternative ways. As we continue through the book we learn that more and more white men appear on the borders of Segu with plans of colonization and new religions which threaten Segus very way of life. The culmination of all these events is what influences the actions of Dousikas four sons to either embrace this change or reject it and fight for Segus traditional valuesPrior to the date of the book the Empire of Segu is at its height in West Africa with its wealth and culture dominating much of the region. However, it is during this time Segu and the traditional beliefs that defined its culture and way of life begin to be challenged by foreign entities. One of these foreign threats is the introduction of Islam from the East. Conde helps visualize the introduction of Islam through the life of Dousikas eldest son Tiekoro. Tiekoro is the embodiment of change and represents the adoption of foreign ideas and the stray from traditional ideas. Disgusted by constant violence and lack of peace in Segu leads Tiekoro to seek the enlightenment of peace portrayed by the teachings of Islam. Furthermore Tiekoro was also fascinated by the concept of reading and writing. Tiekoro believed that the ability to read and write could help propel him beyond that of what he was now in Segu into a more educated and socially affluent society. Tiekoro saw this as a way to escape his life in Segu and make a name for himself in other distant lands. This wasn’t always the case, for most of his traditional life Tiekroro was motivated by one man, and that man was his father. “…Tiekoro looked up to his father as a god. He had admired him much more than the Mansa. When had he started to think of him as a barbarian and an ignorant drinker of dolo? It was when the achievements of the Muslims had begun to acquire importance in his life. But the fact that he’d stopped admiring his father didn’t mean he didn’t love him anymore…Tiekoro suffered from a conflict between his heart and his head, between instinctive feelings and intellectual reasoning.” This conflict between heart and head, and instinctive versus intellectual feeling is used directly to represent the larger and more prevalent conflict of tradition and change. It is used to represent how Tiekoro who represents the people of Segu are having an internal conflict between heart which represents their love for traditional ways of life, and head which represents the adoption of change to your own benefit despite your traditions. Conde does this beautifully in order to help contextualize the major theme of change into that of a small character conflict, thus enabling the reader to better comprehend the overlying theme. In a more broad interpretation you can even argue that Tiekoro represents Islam itself. Tiekoro is a man who is not so satisfied with the fear represented by his tradition religion and is in search for an religion focused on peace not fear. Tiekoro saw how “Islam was new to the region, brought here by the Arab caravans like some exotic merchandise.” Not only did this open the eyes of Tiekoro  as a way of escaping his old world for that of a new more loving world, it also allowed conde to show the opportunities of Islam to that of the average african. Tiekoro blinded by prospect ventures off to timbuktu to study the teachings of Islam in hopes to one day be able to preach the teachings of islam similar to that of the man that converted him. Tiekoro upon his return to Segu is met with great amounts of respect and worship for the journey he had made to the distant lands of timbuktu. He becomes so respected he eventually becomes a member of the kings council similar to that of his father. In this position he gains the respect of many people in his community and becomes a powerful member of his community.  This journey of Tiekoro can be directly compared to the perception and spread of Islam. In the beginning Islam is shunned and those who adopted it were outcast similar to Tiekoros adaptation and expulsion to foreign lands. However, as time passed Islam became more prominent and gained the respect of the people of Segu similar to Tiekoros return being met with praise and respect. The most direct correlation between the two was Tiekoros membership of the high council. In the beginning of the novel during the time of traditional Segu, Tiekoros father Dousika was the high councilman however he is ousted from power. Later in the novel we witness Tiekoro being accepted to the same position as his father. This is done to represent the rejection of traditional religion in the Segu government and the embracing of Islam in the government of Segu reigning in a new era in Segu dominated by Islam rather than traditional beliefs. Tiekoro much like Islam in general becomes widely respected and accepted due to its vast opportunity in Segu, with Tiekoro ultimately representing the spread and acceptance of Islam. Siga was the third son of Dousika and was born on the same day as Tiekoro however Siga not like his other brothers. Siga was the son of Dousikas third wife who was a slave, because of this Siga was considered a slave and was treated as lesser than his brothers. In addition, Sigas mother committed suicide when Siga was still a boy, this left Siga with a sense of lost identity and purpose for much of his early life. Siga from birth was treated differently from his other brothers as he was neglected and went seemingly unnoticed and ignored by all the people around him. Even though Siga and Tiekoro were the same in almost every way including age and height he was seen as illegitimate and forced to live under the wing of Tiekoro unable to make a name for himself. This left Siga with a sense of anger and dissatisfaction leading leading Conde to state “Alas, the hazards of birth! If he’d had been born in this womb rather then that, his life would be different (Conde 30).”  This is the main conflict that torments Siga throughout his journey, he is left with the thought of what could’ve been if it wasn’t for the womb he was born into. Tiekoro serves as a reminder to Siga that he could never be anything respected in life due to his status as a slave. Throughout his life Siga attempts tremendously to gain the respect of Dousika his father, however he is never able to do so as Tikoro always eclipses Siga in the eyes of their father. Conde even states “he had passed too soon, without waiting for him, Siga, to prove himself. Now Dousika would never know what his son was really worth, this whom he regarded as a bastard (Conde 180).” With Dousika dead Siga is left with an overwhelming sense of insecurity knowing he will never be able to prove his worth to his father despite all his effort to do so. Conde uses the character of Siga in order to represent the identity crisis facing Africa around this time.

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