The novel Bomboy revolves around the character of Leke, a single young man who is portrayed as quite restless and antisocial; hence, he develops the habit of stalking women and stealing irrelevant things from people. He later finds out through a series of letter written to him by his biological father that the cause of his queer mannerisms stems from a generational curse placed on his family by a witch doctor whom they wronged. Having found the source of his troubles, Leke embarks on a mission to rid himself of the curse. All the events in the story prove that the novel Bomboy is one that can be analysed based on the verisimilitude it shares with the human society.
The novel Bomboy is rich in content in that it displays the relationship between modernity and tradition as it portrays human life. The novel portrays modernity through several ways such as the author’s depiction of a plethora of instances when Leke seeks modern and professional help in his search for rest and peace of mind. By so doing, themes such as: the universal theme of cultural conflict, as depicted by the clash between the Nigerian and South African beliefs; the theme of identity; the theme of love; the theme of racial discrimination; and the theme of the despicable nature of the prison system etc., are projected by the author. All the aforementioned help reinforce the argument that this novel contains some present issues faced by people in the society.
However, it is, arguably, the author’s use of traditional events that make this novel really stand out. By fusing tradition into the story, the author, who is of the Yoruba origin, has been able to reinforce several notions postulated by other Yoruba authors such as Wole Soyinka in Death and the King’s Horseman, Femi Osofisan in Women of Owu and Ola Rotimi in his Nigerian adaptation of Sophocles Oedipus Rex — that is, The Gods are not to Blame. One of these notions is the belief in the gods and their ability to affect destinies. Consequently, we have the theme of fate. All these themes combine to strengthen the argument that Bomboy is a realistic work of art with happenings that are peculiar to man.
The theme of fate can be considered as central to this story. The author develops this theme by employing several literary devices such as flashback, suspense and other factors such as happenstance. Through these devices, the theme of fate is established and the reader is also able to link different events to the subject matter. One may be tempted to argue that the author’s use of similar dates to convey past events that have significant effects on present events is purely coincidental; but however, it simply strengthens the argument that everything has been premeditated by the gods. Hence, one can be justified to describe the gods as domineering and all powerful because they are capable of determining the destinies of man. This theme of fate is arguably most prominent in the life of Oscar, who from a very little age realises that he will never know peace or be happy because of the curse of the witch doctor, an emissary of the gods, on his family. Therefore, one can be justified to declare that it is the pronouncement of the gods that made Leke to behave awkwardly.
Another theme that is worthy of attention is the theme of cultural conflict. The concept of cultural conflict is a universal phenomenon which appears in many works of art. This theme is portrayed by Oscar who finds it difficult to get along with his South African colleagues because of his belief in the stories which surround the mythical and ancestral Queen Moremi of Ile-Ife. Because of this belief, Oscar fails to acknowledge South African heroes such as Rhodes. This clash of beliefs adequately sums up the tensions that plague the relationship between Nigerians and South Africans in the modern era — that is, 21st Century.
Closely related to the theme of cultural conflict is the theme of identity, another universal concept. The theme of identity is brought into focus in this book through the plights of biracial people. Both Leke and his father are the products of interracial unions; hence, they can hardly pass as whites or as blacks. This issue plagues Leke’s childhood because he gets bullied by school mates who recognise, through his white foster parents, that he was adopted. Another instance which reinforces the theme of identity is Leke’s name. Leke, because he was not raised by his biological parents, is forced to answer awkward questions about the meaning of his name and its origin.
The theme of love is another recurring idea which helps to project realism in the text. Love, however abstract, may be regarded as the force behind the actions of the characters. For example, Oscar’s grandmother is motivated by her love for her daughter; hence, she refuses to honour her promise by withholding her daughter. Unarguably, love may also be regarded as the catalyst behind Oscar’s decision to have Malcom Feathers killed. Also, everything Jane does for Leke is motivated by love and this explains why he really adores her, even after death, as seen in his ritual of planting 4 o’clock flowers. The budding love affair between Leke and Tsotso cannot be exempted. Through this theme, the characters have been able to vividly portray the sacrifices humans can do for their loved ones.
Another theme which ensures that this novel possesses verisimilitude with its environment is the theme which captures the despicable nature of the South African prison system. The South African prison system neither rehabilitates or reforms. Rather, it is a place where different vices such as murder, homosexuality, rape violence, etc., thrive. The pathetic situation of these prisons are vividly portrayed in Dennis Brutus poem: “Letters to Martha” where Dennis Brutus describes in detail the atrocities that are committed by inmates on one another. This inter-textual evidence strengthens the theme being discussed because it proves the truism of the theme through the similarities in the way the inmates in both texts act —that is, violence, homosexuality and killing are the order of the day. With all this evidence, one will surely not receive Oscar’s death in prison with much surprise. Therefore, one cannot gainsay the fact that the theme of the despicable nature of the South African prison system as portrayed in Bomboy captures the reality of prisoners in South Africa, and by extension, prisoners all over the world.
In conclusion, the text Bomboy is one which portrays real life with its setting — places drawn from real life; themes — ideas that are universal; and character actions etc.