Oppressive Societies in Literature: Short Essays on the Hate U Give and Children of Blood and Bone

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Children of Blood and Bone (2018) is a young adult novel written by Nigerian American author Tomi Adeyemi. Adeyemi's debut novel is the first book in a trilogy and follows Zelie Adebola as she attempts to bring magic back to the Kingdom of Orisha. After the brutal oppression of her people, she will stop at nothing to bring the magic back and set her people free. In the novel, Adeyemi uses a series of symbols to convey the different themes. For instance, the snow leopanaire is for many a symbol of the freedom of their people, but in reality it is a symbol of how King Saran demonstrates absolute rule.

The snow leopanaire is a symbol of absolute rule through its repressive and scary nature that is controlled through fear. The royal seal was selected by King Saran after the raid to establish dominance. The raid alludes to the genocide carried out in Orisha based on the magic of the maji. Orisha's people are slain if they have white hair, regardless of their magic being noble, like healing others. Ever since the raid, magic was strictly forbidden and gone from Orisha. King Saran used the fear of the royal seal to oppress and destroy any evidence of uprisings by controlling the maji, conveying it as a death-bringing seal to the magic practitioners in Orisha.

The snow leopanaire was chosen as a logo because it represents purity. Purity is seen as something the nobility is. They are pure from both magic and gods, and therefore the epitome of men. This reveals how the caste system in Orisha is entrenched in dehumanization and injustice. We particularly see this example of dehumanization in Lagos, where the diviners are forced to live in the streets of the capital. Zelie sees the rough conditions and expresses her anguish and hatred towards the state of affairs, "The vibrant protest defies the title of slum, an ember of beauty where the monarchy sees none." (Adeyemi, 2018, p. 52) This further demonstrates the conflicted relationship between Orisha's people and the caste system. The maji are considered "maggots" by the nobility because of the harsh conditions they are forced to live in and are seen as second-class citizens.

Thirdly, the snow leopanaire highlights the monarchy's specific ideology based on dehumanization and bigotry. The leopanaire is perceived as a deadly predator and is meant to install awe and horror in Orisha. Furthermore, it depicts how the monarchy's strength and authority are maintained through violence and fear. The very root of the monarchy is based on slaughtering an entire people, and King Saran refuses to let his people forget the power he holds. In addition, the color of the snow leopanaire affects how people view the monarchy. 

Furthermore, Throughout Africa, as well as in Orisha, the continent's culture and mythology play a significant part in establishing the rule. Orisha's history has a deep connection with the animals surrounding them. This can be referred to as Zelie's relationship with Nailah, her leopanaire. The leopard is a symbol of dignity, ferocity, and courage across Africa. In many African civilizations, the leopard is respected. Due to its stealth and mystery the leopard is seen as a skilled hunter and has a long history connecting them to kingships and royalty. Many pictures of African chiefs depicted them wearing leopard fur as a display of their rank and power. (Selier, 2018) King Saran uses this to his advantage. With the symbol and meaning behind the snow leopanaire, he established authority over his people.

Children of Blood and Bone is heavily influenced by African religion and plays a significant part of the royal seal. The novel contains a series of African gods and goddesses, connecting them to the maji and their ancestors. Nobles like Amari, on the other hand, deny the existence of gods. This rejection of faith is exemplified by the usage of the exclamation "Skies!" rather than a divine invocation. Furthermore, this is a way to express their disbelief in a higher power. King Saran denies the existence of gods because it doesn't appeal to him. Religion, in his eyes, would pose a danger to his absolute rule. The nobility's rejection of faith, on the other hand, arises from gods not fitting into a world of absolute control. Nobles do not trust in gods; instead, they believe in themselves and their own power. This comparison displays the torn relationship between the maji and the nobles as two different social ranks in Orisha.

Many authors use symbolism to avoid confronting a divisive topic head-on. Adeyemi applies this technique to assist in addressing a potentially divisive topic in a subdued manner. While the novelist may use African mythology and culture for inspiration, the themes are rooted in the real world. The snow leopard is used to draw attention to the oppressive structures today's youth are experiencing. She has drawn inspiration from real life issues that our society faces, such as sexism and racism. With heroines such as Zelie and Amari on the frontline, the fear of the symbol diminishes. The symbolism of the oppressive structures us used to fuel the need.

Both authors drew inspiration from the period in America where police brutality was a recurring theme. Both of their novels depict similar themes, where the characters face racism, authorial brutality, and activism. Adeyemi says in an interview that she wrote the novel with that in mind stating. It's this big fantasy, but it's meant to be this glaring mirror." (Nicolaou, 2018) In addition, she looks at how society utilizes misconceptions about black people to justify racism and violence against them. Thomas, on the other hand, writes about the prejudices against black people that shield the white communities. This is similar to both Starr's prep pupils fancy neighborhoods, and King Saran who shields the nobility from the diviners in Orisha by keeping them in the stocks. Lastly, Starr's father, explains to Starr his view of what thug life is, confronting the issue of systematic racism, "That's the hate they're giving us, baby, a system designed against us. That's Thug Life." (Thomas, 2017, p. 175)

There is a lot we can learn about Children of Blood and Bone through examining The Hate you Give. It broadens our perspective on the oppressive system in Orisha and gives us a clear view of how such systems might operate in our own society. These two books show us that even if corrupt societies can exist in dystopian tales, we can draw similar lines to our own society. The fight for a righteous world is never-ending, but with the right amount of bravery, anything is possible.

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Oppressive Societies in Literature: Short Essays on The Hate U Give and Children of Blood and Bone. (2022, Dec 08). Retrieved June 15, 2024 , from

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