Importance of Family and Generational Love in Behold the Dreamers

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Family is the most important thing in a person’s everyday life and today most people don’t realize the importance of a family and people tend to take advantage of the love and support that is right in front of them. Imbolo Mbue is an author based in New York City, she is widely known for her book Behold the Dreamers. As an immigrant herself her work originates from her own personal experiences of living the American Dream. Within the novel there are many apparent themes that seem to show up. The effect of these themes and the use of conflicts each person comes across in the novel allowed her to gain many awards for her being one of the most notable authors. Imbolo Mbue’s novel, Behold the Dreamers, goes into detail with the importance of family and how it has changed throughout generations yet their importance still remains true.

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The most apparent theme that is shown in the novel is the importance of family. Family is important because without their support it can feel like the whole world is falling apart and no matter what they are the first people one turns to when support is needed. This is shown in chapter fourteen of the novel when the main character Jende Jonga reminices to his wife Neni Jonga on his first few days in America. “In his first days in America, it was here he came every night to take in the city. It was here he often sat to call her when he got so lonely and homesick that the only balm that worked was the sound of her voice. During those times, he told her, he often wondered if leaving home in search of something as fleeting as fortune was ever worthwhile” (Behold the Dreamers 95-96). This quote shows how without family and their support everything someone has worked for and all the money in the world is not enough compared to their love and support. Jende Jonga is the main character who shows his importance on family. Not only does this show the importance of family but it also shows the struggle with many immigrants having to leave behind their loved ones in order to create a better life for them. This is also shown through Neni Jonga. While living in America, Neni turns mainly towards friends that she has met while living in New York City. Neni mainly turns towards her friends more rather than her husband, Jende, the reason for this is because she doesn’t want to disappoint her husband and her friends are seen more to her as family. This is shown in chapter fourteen, when Neni starts thinking about how to make small talk with people she barely knew. “No Way could she spend time with a white woman and be herself the way she was with Betty or Fatou” (BTD 91). This just proves that without family’s support there would be no one to turn to in times of need. Family does not always mean people that a blood related it can also mean people who one is comfortable enough with sharing personal information with, just how Neni is comfortable sharing personal information with Betty and Fatou, all women support one another and all the hardships they are going through in life.

With leaving behind loved ones in order to create a better life for them it creates a lot of hardships between one another. In the article “How Immigrants Become ‘Other’”, written by Marcelo M. Suárez-Orozco and Carola Suárez-Orozco it goes into detail how many immigrants come into the United States to create a better life for their family and loved one’s were not able to receive from their country. “When she was four, Marieli’s father was assassinated in front of his wife and children. Left as a widow responsible for her family, Marieli’s mother reluctantly left Guatemala for the United States, as she put it, “In order to be able to feed my family”” (HIBO 2). Many parents will go to drastic measures in order to be able to support their family no matter the consequences that come with it, such as not being able to see their children grow up. Another way this is shown is in chapter sixty of the novel, once Cindy Edward passed away Clark Edward’s life flipped around in the best way possible, that at first he was very distant to his family by trying to provide the most lavish life he could for them as possible all while distancing himself from them. “Mighty and I are moving to Virginia, my parents will be moving from California so they can be close to us. Family’s everything, Clark said” (BTD 368-369). Not only does this show the shift in Clark’s importance of family by allowing him to reconnect with his distant parents but it also shows how he finally has realized the importance of family which allowed him to create a stronger bond with his children that some immigrants are not able to do with their own family.

Families are not always perfect and this is shown throughout the novel, for example in the novel Cindy Edward’s was the result of her mother being raped. Her mother was very abusive towards her and despite her efforts her and her mother never had a close relationship like she did with her other daughter she had in another marriage. As a result of this Cindy has a longing desire to make sure her family loves her. “Every time Cindy walked into a room to see her and Mighty laughing or playing, Neni could sense Cindy’s approval because nothing appeared to matter to the madam more than the happiness of her children, their nonstop possession of every good thing life has to offer” (BTD 115). It shows that as long as her children were happy then she would be too and she wants for them to have a much better life than she ever did with her parents, and even though she wasn’t always present with her kids she made sure she was doing something in the mean time to benefit them and her family.

Now this is not the only example in the novel where it shows that not every family is perfect. Throughout the story it is shown that the Jonga family goes through a lot of stress while living in New York City, trying to live out their American dream. This is shown mainly through Jende, having to support his two kids as well as his wife, all while trying to pay for her school as well as sending money frequently to his family back to Cameroon. All of this starts to weigh on Jende and with Neni and him having different viewpoints on their future, it causes Jende to snap on Neni one night. In chapter fifty four of the novel it states, “She didn’t see the slap coming. She merely found herself stumbling backward and falling on the floor from the force and shock of it, her cheek burning as if someone had rubbed hot tar on it. He was standing over her, his fists clenched, screaming in the ugliest voice she’d ever heard. He was calling her useless and idiot and studpid and a selfish woman who would be happy to see her husband die in pain all so she could live in New York” (BTD 333). Jende starts becoming verbally and physically abusive towards Neni, this is mainly because he starts to see Neni growing a life for herself in New York, while he is mainly focused with work and his immigration status. He starts feeling powerless because he believes if he got deported back to Limbe, Neni would stay and she would be able to support her family perfectly fine. Growing up in Limbe, Neni has different viewpoints as people do from all over the world, one of the viewpoints are that she must stand with her husband and family, no matter the circumstance and Neni does just that. This just proves that families are not always perfect but with the right mindset and forgiveness, family can get through anything that is thrown their way.

For young children, family is the most important role that plays in that child’s life. Children depend on their family for all their needs. In an article written by U.S. News, published April second, twenty nineteen by Philip Moeller it states “The parent-child relationship is arguably the most important of all family bonds. Like all human ties, it can produce both well-being and stress.” This is evident in the novel with the Edwards’s youngest child Mighty. With his dad always too busy with his work and his mother dealing with alcohol and substance abuse as well as his brother out of the country, Mighty does not have that nurturing figure that all children need, and because of this he sees Neni Jonga more as his mother figure. “Neni agreed it was beyond fai, and arrived at June’s apartment on West End Avenue the next Sunday afternoon. There were no more than six children there, and Mighty, thankfully, was one of them. He ran to her when he saw her entering the apartment and hugged her so tightly that Neni had to remind him he wasn’t her only baby, she had another baby growing inside her” (BTD 152). This quote shows that Neni and Mighty have a close relationship to one another and the attachment they have, thus referring to him as her ‘baby’. Neni has become a source of comfort to Mighty that he is not able to receive from his family.

Although it seems as if the Jongas and Edward’s are always facing conflict in the novel with their family members, that is not always the case. Throughout the novel it there were many moments where it seemed as if the family’s were at their highest moment and nothing could tear them apart. This is shown in chapter two when Neni states “She remembered how they had moved Liomi from their bed to the cot in the middle of the night so they could lie side by side, do all the things they had promised to do to each other in emails and phone calls and text messages” (BTD 12). Not only does this show how strong the Jongas marriage since Neni and Jende hadn’t seen each other for more than two years but this also shows how strong their marriage is even though they face many hardships trying to achieve the American Dream, their marriage always remains strong due to how much they have gone through and accomplished throughout their marriage.

Not only do the Jongas face many hardships throughout the novel so do the Edward’s. Clark and Cindy don’t have the healthiest relationship in the novel although the good times they did have definitely stands out in the novel more than all the hardships they had faced. In chapter thirty two of the novel, Cindy starts requiring Jende to write in a notebook of everywhere and everyone Clark sees on a daily basis. Once he started submitting these entries to Cindy it seemed as their marriage started flourishing again. “Whatever it was, it was more than sufficient to turn them into young lovers, whispering and giggling on the ride to the gala” (BTD 210). This shows that all Cindy needed was reassurance that her husband still loved and cared for her, and no matter what has happened or will happen they will stick together similar to Jende and Neni their family was strong enough to get through any difficult times that would come in the future.

All in all the Novel Behold the Dreamers written by award winning novelist Imbolo Mbue goes into many conflicting themes throughout the novel, although the one that stood out to me the most was family and all the things that go into a family, such as the importance of family, leaving loved ones in order to benefit them in the future, the hardships that every family goes through and lastly how important family is for a child. This novel creates a story of the struggle that all family’s face yet they never gave up and their love remained true throughout all the hardships that were faced. Imbolo Mbue’s novel, Behold the Dreamers, goes into detail with the importance of family and how it has changed throughout generations yet their importance still remains true. 

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