The Embassy of Cambodia by Zadie Smith (2013) is a story about Fatou, an economic immigrant from Ivory Coast who has come to Britain via Ghana, Libya, and Italy in search of stability and a better life. She works as a maid for the Derawal family, who are immigrants themselves, in North West London. The story highlights the isolation of two cultures, white British culture and Asian culture. The Derawals exploit Fatou by retaining her wages and providing her with food, water, and heat, and paying the rent for her room. Fatou's sufferings empower her to identify herself with individuals who are in conditions far more awful and compare herself to a Sudanese slave, but she doesn't consider herself one. On Mondays, Fatou goes swimming in a wellness center by secretly using the Derawals' guest passes. On her way there, she walks past the Embassy of Cambodia, where she regularly watches a badminton game. Fatou realizes that most people entering the embassy don't look Cambodian. On Sundays, she meets with the Nigerian student Andrew Okonkwo, who was able to win her over to Christianity. Conversations about religion and politics mainly under his influence, Fatou begins to reflect on her situation and develops self-confidence. Fatou saves the Derawals' youngest child when the little girl threatened to suffocate on a marble but gets dismissed by the family shortly afterward. With the support of Andrew, Fatou takes her life into her own hands. The story ends with an open end. Fatou is a refugee from Ivory Coast who worked as a chambermaid in different countries and now works as a maid for the Derawals in North West London. She is a woman in a position of great hardships, lacking any trace of self-pity or anxiety. She is exploited and controlled by the Derawals due to her lower-class status, unable to exercise any control. Fatou is passionate about swimming, which serves as a coping mechanism and escapism. It is a constant habit that keeps her grounded and a symbol of her strength. She is smart, clever, and naive, with no inclination or feeling of belonging towards England. Fatou is a prime example of how undocumented workers in any country are affected by racism, which shapes the way they work hard for a better life. Andrew is a Nigerian student and Fatou's closest friend and moral support. He influences and encourages her, is religious but often relies on logic and rationality, and stands for equality. He is attentive, educated, friendly, open-minded, and conscientious. The Derawals are wealthy Pakistani immigrants who mistreat and exploit Fatou. They show discriminating, disrespectful, and racist behavior towards their maid, including verbal and mental abuse. They do not appreciate Fatou saving their daughter and fire her. They are in full control and possibly aware that their behavior constitutes illegal modern slavery. Fatou compares herself to a Sudanese slave, who was kidnapped, separated from her family, and all alone. She has no communication skills due to a lack of education, experienced a great amount of violence and abuse, has no access to her passport, and has lots of restrictions and prohibitions. She has no freedom and is basically a prisoner. In contrast, Fatou was taken by her father in favor of her own well-being, was employed with her father for a certain amount of time, is educated with reading skills in English and little Italian, and has experienced very little violence. However, she is a victim of sexual assault and verbal abuse by the Derawals, has a hidden or disappeared passport, doesn't get paid, and is dependent on others. She has to hand in receipts and has the opportunity to leave the house and do things she enjoys every now and then but is isolated. Fatou does not see herself as a slave but really only has two things that make her life bearable: her secret visits to the pool and her meetings with Andrew after church. In fact, many aspects of her life and employment are considered conditions of slavery and highly illegal in Britain. The Embassy of Cambodia uses symbols such as the suburbs, surrounded by wealthy residences, national flags as a connection to Cambodia, a huge wall, and badminton. The badminton game has a similar meaning to Fatou, who does not seem to fit in and has faced hardships all alone. Fatou is deeply connected to her home country and the experiences she has made there, as seen by her flashbacks. The story highlights hidden pain and feelings as well as the Cambodian history and colonialism. Fatou will always be dependent on others as she lacks occupation and qualification, and her life is a continuous pattern of achievement and defeat. She is a player vs. opponent: society vs. Fatou, with the score always equaling zero. The story shows how problems of belonging and inclusion and exclusion continue in highly multicultural and multicolored societies. Themes in The Embassy of Cambodia include otherness, multiculturalism, racism, slavery, exploitation, powerlessness of the poor and underprivileged, and lack of solidarity. The story highlights how racism continues to be a part of daily life for powerless people in Britain, such as the Derawals as wealthy immigrants being superior to Fatou. It also shows how everyone seems to only care about themselves, such as the Derawals, and how problems of belonging and inclusion and exclusion continue in highly multicultural and multicolored societies.
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