Themes in Pede Hollist’s So the Path Does Not Die

Some of the themes in Pede Hollist’s So the Path Does Not Die are female genital mutilation, discrimination,

Themes in So the Path Does Not Die
Themes in So the Path Does Not Die

Some of the themes in Pede Hollist’s So the Path Does Not Die are female genital mutilation, discrimination, marriage and love, death, and sexual harassment. In this post, we are going to discuss these themes in Hollist’s So the Path Does Not Die.

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)

Female Genital Mutilation is one of the dominant themes in Pede Hollist’s So the Path Does Not Die. In the novel, the deadly practice of FGM is a coming-of-age event where a girl finally becomes a woman and ‘belongs’ to the people of the village. Fina’s parents Amadu and Nobuo loathed this practice but her grandma Baramusu was in strong support of it and urged Fina not to let the path die. Fina so eagerly wanted to get through the rites of initiation but her father pulled her out of the initiation ground and she barely got a cut.

Fina’s life revolved round her interrupted FGM initiation process in her village, Talaba. She believed that it was the heap of curses laid on them, as they left the village for Freetown, that caused the problems she was facing in the USA. Hence, her return to Sierra Leone years later to find her grandma.

So the Path Does Not Die
So the Path Does Not Die

Ethnic and Racial Discrimination

The theme of discrimination is one of the dominant themes in So the Path Does Not Die. Fina suffered ethnic discrimination in Crowther College and this was because she was Fula/Fulani. Kemi, who was Fina’s boyfriend at the time, saw nothing wrong with the way Fina was being treated. Fina’s roommate, Memuna, was also discriminatory towards her and this affected her relationship with Fina. Even Fina’s boss in the USA believed that Fina’s shortcomings were the characteristics of Africans as a whole.

Fina faced ethnic group discrimination in the university due to the fact that she was Fulani and they were known to be in the minority. She had to endure all these until she had to finally drop out of the college. Fina had to struggle in the USA to make a living and due to her determination, she became a relatively successful woman.

The Search for Happiness and Belonging

Fina’s search for happiness and belonging began on the night of her aborted circumcision and continues through her teenage years in Freetown. In Freetown, Fina endured hardship in all aspects of her life which includes family problems, university struggles, ethnic group discrimination and much more. Even when she moved to the United States and became a successful woman, she still faced a new set of struggles and for some reason, Fina believed that all these experiences were tied back to her failed initiation process.

She finally found true love, yet she somehow feels she still does not “belong.” For Fina, Sierra Leone seemed to be the only place she would find true happiness and a sense of belonging, the only place she would feel valued, a place where she feels she would be “on the right path” in life. So, Fina travels back to a war-torn Sierra Leone to work as an advocate for war-traumatized children.

Themes in So the Path Does Not Die
Themes in So the Path Does Not Die

Marriage and Love

Love and marriage are two interconnected themes in So the Path Does Not Die. Fina had her own fair share of a failed marriage. Her marriage to Jemal was nothing short of a disaster because he abused her physically, emotionally and sexually. Fina only endured this torture because she wanted to get her green card and as soon as she got it, she divorced Jemal.

The bond Fina shared with Cammy was very strong and unbreakable. Even after Jemal interrupted their wedding ceremony, Fina and Cammy still found ways to reconcile their differences. It was love that led Cammy to move to Sierra Leone to be with Fina and their daughter, Dimusu-Celeste. Aman and Bayo also loved each other and this led to their marriage/wedding ceremony in Nigeria, especially as Aman has to relocate from the USA to Nigeria on a permanent basis.


The theme of death permeates the novel. After Amadu moved his family to Freetown due to his interruption of Fina’s initiation ceremony, the cleansing of his compound and the curses heaped on their heads, he died in less than a year. Amadu died as a result of an untreated tetanus infection from an injury he sustained at the building site where he worked. Amadu’s death led to Fina going to live with Pa Heddle and his family.

After Fina moved to the United States, she lost her mother Nabuo years later and she could not attend her mum’s funeral ceremony because the time frame was short (they were Muslims). We can also see the deaths caused by war in Sierra Leone. Fina’s village, Talaba, was totally destroyed hence her resolve to open a center for war-traumatized children.

Sexual Harassment

Pede Hollist portrays the theme of sexual harassment through the character of Finaba who underwent sexual harassment in the hands of some of the male characters she encountered.

Pa Heddle, who was Fina’s guardian (due to the fact that Fina moved in with his family after Amadu’s death), manipulated Fina into luring her adolescent school friends into having sexual escapades with him. In other to shut Fina up and for his secret act not to be revealed, he always bribed her with money and gifts.

When Fina was at Crowther College, she was sexually assaulted by Kizzy who was a lab attendant in the university at the time. He lured Fina to his apartment under the guise of giving her materials that would help her with Organic Chemistry.

Jemal also assaulted Fina sexually at some point in their marriage, almost choking her to death.

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