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THE UNIVERSITY OF ALBERTA 


RELEASE FORM 


NAME OF AUTHOR .Patriciamay FIorence McBlane 
TITLE OF THESIS African Novels in English for High 

School Use 


DEGREE FOR WHICH THESIS WAS PRESENTED . H ? s ? e r ? f . E ^ u ? a f i ? n . 

YEAR THIS DEGREE GRANTED J? 7 ?. 

Permission is hereby granted to THE UNIVERSITY OF 
ALBERTA LIBRARY to reproduce single copies of this 
thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, 
scholarly or scientific research purposes only. 

The author reserves other publication rights, and 
neither the thesis nor extensive extracts from it may 
be printed or otherwise reproduced without the author's 
written permission. 











THE UNIVERSITY OF ALBERTA 


AFRICAN NOVELS IN ENGLISH FOR HIGH SCHOOL USE 



by 

PATRICIAMAY FLORENCE McBLANE 


A THESIS 

SUBMITTED TO THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES AND RESEARCH 
IN PARTIAL FULFILMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE 

OF MASTER OF EDUCATION 


DEPARTMENT OF SECONDARY EDUCATION 


EDMONTON, ALBERTA 
FALL, 1979 


Digitized by the Internet Archive 
in 2019 with funding from 
University of Alberta Libraries 


https://archive.org/details/McBlane1979 


THE UNIVERSITY OF ALBERTA 


FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES AND RESEARCH 


The undersigned certify that they have read, and 
recommend to the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research, for 
acceptance, a thesis entitled "African Novels in English for 
High School Use" submitted by Patriciamay Florence McBlane in 
partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master 


of Education. 




ABSTRACT 


This study provides information about African novels written in 
English which have possibilities for use in high school language arts 
classes. Information is organized by beginning with general statements 
concerning the need for greater literary diversity in schools and moving 
through perspectives to consider in assessing African novels. These 
perspectives are used in the overview of African novels and the analysis 
of the ten novels selected for high school use. 

The need for students to be exposed to a wider variety of literary 
materials is established through a review of the changing concept of 
English literature, educator's views about the need for the study of 
more diverse literature, and the changes perceived in recent language 
arts curriculum objectives. Oral tradition, cultural, literary and 
educational perspectives are presented to increase understanding of 
the various ways in which African novels written in English may be 
viewed while assessing their potential for use in high school class¬ 
rooms . 

The overview of eighty novels by forty-two novelists reveals 
considerable variety in literary quality, themes, and trends. The ten 
novels selected that have potential for use with high school students 
are Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart , Arrow of God , No Longer at Ease , 
and A Man of the People ; Amos Tutuola's The Palm-Wine'Drinkard ; 

Gabriel Okara's The Voice ; Ngugi wa Thiong'o's Weep Not, Child ; 

Nkem Nwankwo's Panda ; Chukwuemeka Ike's Toads For Supper ; and Legson 
Kayira's Jingala . Each novel is briefly analysed to provide textual. 


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technical and critical information for teachers. The extensive biblio¬ 
graphy identifies the wide range of books and articles regarding various 
aspects of African novels written in English available to teachers. 

The literary and cultural insights available to high school stu¬ 
dents through the study of selected African novels written in English 
make these novels an asset to the English classroom. 


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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS 


I am most appreciative of the time and patience extended to me by 
Dr. J. E. Oster. His critical and organizational insights provided 
excellent guidance throughout this study. Thanks is also expressed to 
Dr. J. Bell and Dr. N. Page for the interest they took in the study and 
for their helpful comments, criticism and advice. 

Grateful acknowledgement is further extended to Mr. Wm. Sime, 
Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction, County of 
Strathcona who exhibited patience and understanding throughout the 
months during which this thesis was written, and to Margie Lynn whose 
perseverence in typing the various drafts was undaunted. 

Special thanks is given to my husband, Rorri, whose unfailing 
support, patient encouragement and subtle cajoling kept me on track 
so this study could reach completion. 


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TABLE OF CONTENTS 


CHAPTER PAGE 

I. TEACHING THE AFRICAN NOVEL WRITTEN IN ENGLISH IN 

HIGH SCHOOL: AN INTRODUCTION . 1 

II. PERSPECTIVES TO CONSIDER IN THE ASSESSMENT OF AFRICAN 

NOVELS WRITTEN IN ENGLISH . 15 

Oral Tradition in the Cultural Environment . 17 

African Writers' Views of African Literature . 20 

Literary and Educational Considerations for the 

Selection and Analysis of African Novels Written 

in English.25 

III. OVERVIEW OF AFRICAN NOVELS WRITTEN IN ENGLISH . 36 

West African Novelists . 38 

Early West African Novelists.39 

More Recent West African Novelists . 49 

East African Novelists . 57 

South African Novelists . 66 

Trends in African Novels Written in English . 70 

Selection of Novels For High School Use.72 

IV. ANALYSIS OF SELECTED NOVELS . 76 

Achebe: Things Fall Apart , Arrow of God , No Longer 
at Ease , and A Man of the People .77 

Tutuola: The Palm-Wine Drinkard and Okara: The 

Voice .94 

Ngugi: Weep Not, Child .107 

Nwankwo: Panda , Ike: Toads For Supper and Kayira: 

Jingal a . 114 

V. SUMMARY, CONCLUSIONS, AND RECOMMENDATIONS . 133 


BIBLIOGRAPHY 


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CHAPTER I 


TEACHING THE AFRICAN NOVEL WRITTEN IN ENGLISH IN HIGH SCHOOL: 

AN INTRODUCTION 


During the 1950's English literature, that literature tradition¬ 
ally considered to be the domain of British, then British and 
American writers, began expanding to include writers from various 
areas of the world where English is the language of education, busi¬ 
ness and government. King (1974), Walsh (1973) and McLeod (1961) 
suggest that this shift in perception of English literature offers 
numerous ramifications to writers, critics and educators. With the 
contributions of writers from diverse backgrounds English literature 
offers a new richness and variety to its readers. 

In the fledgling national literature of Malaya, 

West Africa and even the West Indies there is a 
sense of urgency. . . made all the more impres¬ 
sive by the fusion of subjects of international 
importance though of national and strictly local 
origin, with the more permanent and universal 
values that men cherish. (McLeod, 1961, 6) 

McLeod (1961) recognized that these new literatures would play 

an active role in the changing concept of English literature. King 

(1974) later examined this role more closely. 

The best books of the year are as likely to be 
written by Ghanaians, West Indians or Australians 
as by Americans or Englishmen and the subject 
matter, themes and styles will often include 
characteristics that are puzzling to the foreigner. 

Since such characteristics may add to or detract 
from the qualities of a book, they are likely to 
become an increasingly important concern to readers, 
students and critics. ... (1) 

The subject matter and styles stemming from the writers' 
national backgrounds challenge the accepted techniques of the 
English tradition. McLeod (1961) referred to this possibility when 


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he indicated that writers were making a conscious effort to develop 
forms of expression that were particularly suited to their back¬ 
grounds, subject, and readership. Larson (1971) specifically refers 
to the changes in technique and the reason for it in the African 
novel when he indicates 

that the African novel is frequently different 
from its Western counterpart and that the dif¬ 
ferences can be attributed to cultural background; 
and that in spite of the lack of several typical 
unities which are generally considered to hold 
the western novel together, that is, to give it 
its structural background, the African writer 
has created new unities which give his fiction 
form and pattern. (21) 

So, variety in the writers' presentations may be reflected in 
the way language is used by the authors and their creations, in des¬ 
criptions of social and cultural aspects of societies with which 
North American and European readers are unfamiliar and in the way in 
which plot and theme are developed while portraying concerns that 
reinforce similar aspects in man's struggle for survival. 

As these newer literatures have become known and are making an 
impression on the world literary scene, educators are becoming aware 
of the possibilities of using a wider selection of literature in 
schools to reveal both the common and unique aspects of man's 
development and to increase international understanding. Rosenblatt 
(1968) stressed that the substance of literature is everything a 
man has thought, felt or created and that we have no basis for con¬ 
sidering ours the only, or best possible cultural pattern. Arnez 
(1969) pointed out that short of becoming a person of another 
culture or interacting with one daily, the best way to gain an 
understanding of people is to read the literature their culture has 


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produced. 

Golub (1975), Hippie (1966), Dietrich (1972), Hook (1972), 
Loban, Ryan and Squire (1969), Bone (1969), Stambolian (1970) and 
Povey (1976) each support the position that it is through the study 
of literature that students can best be prepared to function effec¬ 
tively as adults in a shrinking and pluralistic world. These 
educators emphasize the need for revision in present English curric- 
ulums to facilitate the enlarging of student perceptions about 
literature, language and life. Perry (1975) capsulizes the external 
knowledge to be gained from a broader literature program, 

Literature serves as a mirror by which man is 
reflected; therefore, it is through books that 
one can gain knowledge about people who live 
in another country, in another community, or 
whose ethnic, cultural, or religious background 
may be different from one's own (8) 

while Stanford (1970) comments on the internal value of a broader 

literature program for students. 

Isn't good literature an attempt to create 
meaning out of the chaos of our lives? Isn't 
literature a way of not only releasing our 
feelings, but of using them to create beauty 
and understanding? If we allow our students 
to listen to honest writers struggling to deal 
with this very frightening world, perhaps they 
will not only experience the comfort of knowing 
that others have faced these same problems and 
the insight of seeing different perspectives on 
the problems, but perhaps they will also see 
that literature can be, for them, too, a way of 
dealing with the world, a way of handling and 
using their feelings. . . . (374) 

It must be recognized that an expanded literature program 
should include non-western literatures such as those of Asia, India, 
Africa, the West Indies and South America. The aforementioned 
academic spokesmen reflect the notion that since Canada and the 
































United States are built on a multi-cultural base, educators have a 
responsibility to make available cross-cultural experiences through 
literature. F. E. Ross in the forward to Negro Literature for High 


4 


School Students presents a very basic reason for including the study 
of black literature. 

Foundations are what English teachers build. 

If they teach a literature that is markedly 
without Negro writers, they are saying implic¬ 
itly each day. Boys and girls, let's open our 
books today and read about what white people 
do and think. Some teachers do not know they 
are implying this; some white students do not 
know it; most Negro students do — a crushing 
concept of worthlessness, which must be true 
because books do not lie: only white people 
have done any thinking, feeling, achieving 
worth setting down. Is it this tragic founda¬ 
tion Enalish teachers seek to build? (Dodds, 

1968, iv) 

Guth (1973) offers a literary perspective to the need to in¬ 
clude black authors in the English program. 

One very basic thing happens inevitably when 
we take the work of authentic black writers 
into the classroom: We become more strongly 
aware of what honesty means in the use of 
language. We introduce a heightened 4e*iae. 
fizatlty into our work with literature. We 
reopen for our students the basic guestion of 
how the word relates to the world. ... We 
come to deal with the kind of bitter truth 
that is ultimately stronger than halfhearted 
lies. We learn something about ourselves, 
about the society we live in, about what people 
are capable of. (272) 

Therefore, the inclusion of black authors in the high school 
English program would provide students with a broader .base from 
which to understand how man uses language to express his concerns 
and share his experiences, how man manipulates language to enhance 
his point of view, and how man the world over faces similar strug¬ 
gles which are worked out according to the cultural environment in 








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which he finds himself. 

Three researchers. Luck (1972), Bazelak (1973) and Simson (1974), 
reflect the need for students of English to study more diverse lit¬ 
erature. Luck (1972), accepting the idea that students studying 
literature should be exposed to a wider range of writers, conducted 
an investigation into the extent to which black literary figures 
and works of black writers were included in high school literature 
anthologies. He wanted to determine and report on their availability 
and to show how the inclusion of such literature could enrich and 
improve the quality of the lives of non-black students. Luck 
concluded that recently some efforts have been made to include lit¬ 
erature by black writers, but more needs to be done. He recommended, 
among other things, that curriculum developers and teachers develop 
an awareness of what black writers have contributed to the field of 
literature so that a deeper appreciation of the worth of the indi¬ 
vidual of different cultures can be fostered and that human dignity 
can be stressed. 

Bazelak (1973) conducted a response study involving a compari¬ 
son of racial attitudes of a group reading black literature with the 
attitudes of a control group. The 140 tenth graders were of a 
racially-mixed background and came from a suburban New York State 
school. Each student in the experimental group was to read four 
short stories by Afro-Americans and give a free response to their 
reading which was then analyzed according to reading ability, racial 
attitudes and literary comprehension. The control group continued 
its regular course. However, both groups were given pre and post 
attitude tests. The results revealed that there was little 











6 


observed attitude change because of unfamiliarity with black lit¬ 
erature. It was further noted that both black and white students had 
difficulty comprehending figurative language, character and tone as 
they had been provided with no background information from which to 
draw when attempting to understand the short stories. Bazelek 
recommended that Afro-American literature and other minority litera¬ 
ture be incorporated into the regular offerings of the English 
curriculum. Such inclusions would enhance the quality of literature 
instruction in schools by providing students with opportunities to 
examine the literary achievement of diverse cultures and to enlarge 
student understanding of self and others. 

Simson (1974) examined the relationship between the theory of 
Black literature courses and what happens in practice. Students and 
instructors involved in Black literature courses in New York State 
during 1972-73 were asked to fill out questionnaires about course 
content, methods of instruction, instructor background and effective¬ 
ness, and the effect of the course on the students. Indications, 
based on a 40% questionnaire return, were that far more Afro- 
American literature was being taught than non-American Black litera¬ 
ture. Methods used were similar to those used in traditional 
literature courses and instructors prepared themselves for the 
courses through private study. The majority of students indicated 
that taking a Black literature course had been a positive experience 
for there was an increase in their understanding of the black experi¬ 
ence and in their respect for the intellectual achievement of Blacks. 

All the previously mentioned educators and researchers stress 
the need for the inclusion of a wider range of literature in high 











7 


school English courses. Killam (1973-74) of Acadia University focuses 

on the Canadian situation in his expression of need for wider literary 

selections to be offered to students. He says, 

I suppose what I am suggesting we contemplate 
is a shift in the emphasis which currently 
exists. Let us shift the periphery to the 
centre. ... I think it is true to say that 
the intrinsic worth and the development of a 
Canadian tradition can be focused and enriched 
by contrasting and comparing it with the longer 
literary tradition of England. I think it 
equally true to suggest that it can be elaborated 
and enriched by adding to our syllabuses examples 
of the literatures in English from countries 
other than those we dwell on — from Africa, the 
Caribbean, India, Australia and New Zealand — 
literature with which we have much more in 
common than might at first be supposed. (696-7) 

These recent studies into the availability of, and response to 
Black literature courses, and educators' increased awareness of the 
need to broaden the literary base of the English courses being 
offered to students have helped to center the focus of this study. 

The purposes of this study are 

1. to provide an overview of African novels written in 
English in order to identify those novels that have 
possibilities for use in the high school classroom 

2. to provide information for teachers by presenting a 
brief analysis of the selected novels. 

While educators cited previously agree that the literature 
base of English courses needs broadening because of our increasing 
awareness of the need to understand our fellow man in this ever 
shrinking world, few studies have been conducted to investigate the 
contribution which non-western literary artists could make to en¬ 
larging student perception of literature, language and life. Three 
investigations primarily related to Afro-American literature have 


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been discussed. Two further studies were found which relate to 
African literature and the high school student. 

Bostick (1971) made a case for the inclusion of Afro-French 
literature in the foreign languages program of the American school 
system. He shows teachers how the study of Afro-French literature 
provides students with greater understanding of how the French 
language can be manipulated in imaginative writing, an aspect not 
usually seen by students learning a new language. He then provides 
guidelines as to what would be suitable for inclusion at what level 
and how both the literature and the culture that goes with it can 
become an integral part of the ongoing French program. 

Hesse (1974) investigated how the teaching of the cultural back¬ 
ground affects student understanding of African literature. During 
October 1972, Hesse conducted a two-week study at the Saddle River 
Country Day School in New Jersey to determine the effectiveness of 
the "cultural approach". Forty-two students divided into an experi¬ 
mental and a control group were given Chinua Achebe's Things Fall 
Apart and Arrow of God to read. The experimental group was provided 
with cultural background information through discussion, films, 
slides, posters and music. The control group was given no back¬ 
ground. The follow-up discussions and written work revealed the 
experimental group gained a higher level of insight into the novels 
than did the students of the control group. Hesse, thus, stressed 
the importance of providing students, prior to study of the litera¬ 
ture itself, with a means of fostering an understanding of the 
culture from which the works came. 

In eastern Canada, attempts have been made in Ontario and Nova 





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Scotia to encourage the use of African literature in high schools. 

In 1970 the Ontario Council of Teachers of English initiated a 
seminar on "African Literature in Ontario Schools". Panelists in¬ 
cluded Margaret Laurence and Dr. S. 0. Mezu of Nigeria. Teacher 
response was favorable and numerous requests for further information 
were received following the sessions (Killam, 1973-74). Then, in 
1975 Saint Mary's University under the sponsorship of the Nova Scotia 
Department of Education offered a course entitled An International 
Seminar on Non-western Humanities in America . The main objective of 
the seminar was to provide training for teachers so they would be 
able to introduce into their classrooms the neglected arts of three 
non-western traditions found in North America today, namely those of 
the Amerindian, the Eskimo, and the African (Sanford, 1976, 20). 

Within Alberta, two African novels, Weep Not, Child and Things 

Fall Apart have been on the recommended list for several years as 

has been a literature module entitled Africa's Contemporary Authors . 

The purposes identified for the module are 

to help students, through literature, to 
appreciate the African, his culture, and 
his contributions to the world of today, 
and to consider the distinctive features of 
the works of modern African writers. 

(Alberta Education, 1975, 131) 

Clearly, the opportunity for the study of some non-western literature 
is available. Yet, the results shown on a questionnaire sent to all 
English teachers in Alberta in 1976 reveal that only eight teachers 
ever offered this material to students. 

Even with some African titles being added to recommended book 
lists for secondary schools across Canada, African literature 
remains little known to the Canadian reading audience. Perhaps the 
























10 


reason for the lack of interest in the African literary achievement 
is the lack of knowledge about which novels have literary merit and 
what they contain that is of interest to students and the study of 
literature. This investigation has significance because it answers 
this need by identifying novels of merit and by providing an analysis 
of each so teachers have a means of gaining the necessary background 
with which to make decisions concerning which selection would be most 
appropriate for particular groups of students. 

Recent detailing of specific Language Arts objectives for grades 
one to twelve in Alberta provides justification and increased opportu¬ 
nity for the introduction of the study of literature from different 
areas of the world. The objectives which reflect this intent are 

The program should provide opportunities for 
students to develop their understanding and 
apply their knowledge in the following dimen¬ 
sions of language: 

10. language as a dynamic system which records, 
reflects and affects cultures; 

11. use of language to explore the environment 
and ideas of others, to develop new con¬ 
cepts and to evaluate what is discovered; 

12. role of language in increasing understanding 
of self and others; 

13. use of language to stir imagination, deepen 
understanding, arouse emotion and give 
pleasure; 

.... (Alberta Education, 1978, 6) 

African novels would be an effective means through which to 
fulfill the above objectives. Many African novels reveal traditional 
aspects of life as part of plot development. The African has been 
involuntarily affected by the use of English within his homeland. 

This has caused an African English to develop and aspects of this 
use of language are presented through the characters who form a 

























major component in the African novel. Providing students with 
opportunities to explore another culture through literature allows 
his understanding of the common and unique features of man to develop 
and stimulates his imagination and emotion to respond to the unfamil¬ 
iar encounter. African novels offer innumerable ways for students to 
bring contextual information to the explication of the text, to ex- 
tract cultural information, and to apply literary terms and critical 
systems to the interpretation of the literary text. 

Hesse (1974) pointed out that because the African writer has 
had to deal with unique problems (his dual audience, the forging of 
new relationships between his mother tongue and the foreign language 
imposed on him, and the reconciling of the western literary models 
with the traditional models) his works have a richness and variety 
not as accessible in other literatures. Because of the African 
novelist's solutions to these problems, his novels offer interesting 
literary material for students who seek to learn more about them¬ 
selves, others and what each is capable of contributing to the world 
which we share. 

Hesse (1974) was aware of some of the difficulties African lit¬ 
erature can present to the non-African reader and has shown through 
his study that most of the problems stem from a lack of cultural 
background and an unwillingness or inability to approach African 
literature from an African frame of reference. He points out that 
African literature is a reflection of African tradition and since 
this tradition is different from the Western tradition, critics, 
teachers and students will have to learn about the cultural back¬ 
ground of the writers to insightfully appreciate the contributions 



















12 


of African literature. Because the author of this study has not 
grown up in Africa, some difficulties in deciding if the use of 
English and the reflection of the culture is authentic need to be 
faced. However, it should be noted that the writer has taught 
African literature in the West Indies, Papua New Guinea, and Canada 
for several years and has assisted teachers with the teaching of 
African literature in Alberta. In addition, since this study is 
intended to be useful for Canadian teachers and students, the 
Canadian investigator faced the same problems teachers and students 
will have to face and so has worked out solutions prior to the pre¬ 
sentation of the literature to students. Understanding gained 
through these experiences will, in part, help to diminish some of 
the anticipated difficulties, while the use of current secondary 
sources will clarify remaining confusions. 

Several delimitations have been placed on the study. The 
investigation focuses on African writers because of their increasing 
contribution to literary diversity, because of their greater visi¬ 
bility and growth on the world scene, because black people consider 
their roots to be grounded in African soil and because of interest 
in African achievements. It should be further noted that this in¬ 
vestigation is restricted to the presentation of novels written in 
English by Black Africans during the years 1952-77. 

The birth of novel writing in English began in Nigeria with 
Amos Tutuola's The Palm-Wine Drinkard in 1952. Since that time 
novel writing has flourished in Nigeria and other black African 
countries. The novels have emphasized the value of the African 
tradition and the African's struggle to understand and assimilate 











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change in his society. The decision to include only Black African 
authors who write in English has been influenced by the variety which 
African novels in English offer students by providing literary mate¬ 
rial through which to learn about themselves, others, the manipulation 
of language and literary techniques. In the words of Killam (1973-74) 

Great and good literature is that which pos¬ 
sesses the unique blending of matter, design 
and execution which leads a reader on to a 
new awareness of the greater potentialities 
of self. As well, and as important to the 
success of a literary work, is that it is 
created by someone exceptionally in tune with 
the historical and social circumstances of 
his time. The artist's work may therefore 
look outward and portray his society or look 
inward and portray his relationship to the 
society. (674) 

Thus, the investigation of fiction by Black African authors 
written in English is an appropriate means through which to increase 
student understanding of non-Anglo groups who express their culture 
and value system in the English language, who participate in inter¬ 
national developments and whose people we have increasing opportunities 
to meet in our travels or theirs. 

In Chapter One of this study the need for African novels to be 
considered for use in the high school English class has been estab¬ 
lished. Chapter Two provides background information concerning the 
place of the oral tradition in African society, the views African 
authors hold about the purposes of African literary material and the 
development of the literary and educational perspectives through which 
the African novels will be viewed during consideration for use with 
high school students. 

Chapter Three presents the overview of African novels written in 
English beginning with an alphabetical presentation of the West 















African writers of historical significance. Sections outlining modern 
West African, East African and South African novels follow, each indi¬ 
vidually arranged alphabetically by novelists. Within each section a 
brief summary of the influences of the time is presented followed by 
a capsulization of each novel, and a discussion of any features it may 
have in common with other African novels or any theme or trend it may 
exemplify. The chapter is concluded with a consolidation of the trends 
in African novels and the selection of novels that would be appropriate 
for use with high school students. 

Analysis of the selected novels occurs in Chapter Four where 
each novel is discussed in more detail to provide teachers with 
textual, technical and critical information concerning the works. 
Chapter Five summarizes the study, draws conclusions, and suggests 
implications and recommendations for further consideration. The 
reference section draws together the numerous primary and secondary 
sources available for teachers interested in pursuing the study of 
the African novel written in English. 



































































CHAPTER II 


PERSPECTIVES TO CONSIDER IN THE ASSESSMENT OF 
AFRICAN NOVELS WRITTEN IN ENGLISH 


Literature is a mirror of life, of life 
in its fullness. Literature is a perfect 
mirror — in the sense that it depicts not 
only the surface of man and society; lit¬ 
erature shows life in its depth, shows the 
hidden forces behind the every-day mani¬ 
festations of life. (Chidyausiku, 1966, 44) 

Broadly defined, literature is the collective written expression 

of a group, a race, a people. It is the aggregate representation of 

the culture that nurtures it. Appreciation of a piece of fiction is 

enhanced by an understanding of the background from which it comes. 

Ladu (1968) comments on this facet of literary appreciation in her 

publication, Teaching for Cross-Cultural Understanding . 

No customs, belief, or behavior can be 
understood out of its sociocultural con¬ 
text. That is, any items of behavior, 
any tradition or pattern can be evaluated 
correctly only in the light of its meaning 
to the people who practice it, its relation 
to other elements of the culture, and the 
part it plays in the adaptation of the people 
to their environment or to one another. No 
custom is 'odd' to the people who practice 
it. (5) 

Cyprian Ekwensi (1964) speaks of the problem of cultural truth 
in the home society. 

If there is one problem which the Nigerian 
writer must prepare to face it is the over¬ 
sensitiveness of his public to truth. The 
novelist must mirror society as it is if 
his work is to have any value. Unfortunately, 
this is an age of dreams and no mirror has 
yet been designed to reflect dreams. The 
result is that his work often represents a 
conflict between the image as visualized in 
the minds of the ardent nationalists and 
the true image reflected in the mirror. 


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16 


Nigeria is fortunate in having a reputation 
for honest novelists even before independence. 

It would be very unfortunate if they now 
found it necessary to compromise their artis¬ 
tic integrity. Truth must be bitter but it can 
also be beautiful. (476) 

These comments are most appropriate for beginning a presentation 
of perspectives from which to consider novels from an unfamiliar 
culture. Africa has long been considered a continent where bizarre 
customs and traditions hold sway. It is up to teachers and readers 
of African fiction to realize that, in the main, African novels deal 
with the same themes as one finds in the writings of other peoples 
of the world. Since the orientation, background and environment of 
African writers differ from writers of other cultures, it follows 
that their perception and treatment of these themes will be different. 

Taban Lo Liyong (1965) identifies the writer's struggle with 
his theme. 


A writer writes to teach, to entertain, or 
to exhibit prowess in a medium, or just to 
release emotion. As such, a writer (or any 
artist) is decidedly a selfish person — 
selfish in the sense that he is moved to write 
from within. If a writer is to write success¬ 
fully, he must write with all his heart. To 
write with all his heart, the topic, theme or 
problem must be closest to his heart. A writer 
courts an idea, it accepts him, and then it 
bosses him. When it has engrossed him, he can 
write with passion. He will write truth, . . . 
as he conceives it in his mind. To think through 
a theme, become so obsessed with it, so that it 
rules the writer and dictates to him to give it 
utterance, demands the qualities of an addict, 
or a faithful servant, or a slave. (12) 

The novelist writes of what is closest to him, in a way that 
has meaning for him and projects his internalization and interpre¬ 
tation of the idea in a manner appropriate to his surroundings. 

The Ghanaian sociologist, K. A. Busia (1969), expresses this idea 






























17 


effectively. 

When we think of a people's world-view we 
consider their concept of the supernatural, 
of nature, of man and society, and of the 
ways in which these concepts form a system 
that gives meaning to men's lives and actions. 

(146) 

Therefore, awareness of the importance of the oral tradition in 
the cultural environment and an understanding of African writers' 
views of their literature are necessary precursors to the establish¬ 
ment of initial criteria from which to assess the African novels 
written in English to be presented in the overview. 


Oral Tradition in the Cultural Environment 

The African oral tradition permeated African societies far in 
advance of written artistry. Makouta-Mboukou (1973) speaks of the 
oral tradition 

which reaches every Black African social 
level, constitutes a powerful foundation 
of thought, an inexhaustible treasury of 
ideas, a more or less renewable means of 
expression, an aggregate of values. . . . 

( 21 ) 

Its importance is reflected in virtually all aspects of life. Role 
definitions in African societies provide restrictions and hierarchi¬ 
cal status. The priest and the storyteller have particular respon¬ 
sibilities, while tribes have a group concern for the function of 
these two people. The people provide the "ear" to receive what is 
told to them from their gods and their ancestrally-bui.lt values and 
beliefs. The storyteller, as pointed out by Dathorne (1976), takes 
the position of spokesman in the tribe. 

The appropriate question must be: for whom 
is the artist creating and for what reason? 






. 




sq ov, 






The only obvious answer that can be 
given for the vast body of this lit¬ 
erature is that the artist is re¬ 
arranging traditional images of the 
group and in so doing, he becomes an 
affirmer. (x) 

The storyteller becomes a spokesman through the stories that he 
shares with children and adults alike. His stories are of five types 
myths, legends, folktales, riddles and proverbs. Taiwo (1967) com¬ 
ments on each of the story types. Myths are used to explain life and 
death, the great forces of nature and concerns related to religious 
observances. Legends present embellished fragments of history. Folk 
tales, the most popular stories, relate situations with which listen¬ 
ers are familiar or recall some ancient customs like forms of inheri¬ 
tance, birth or marriage rituals. It is during this storytelling 
time that children learn the ethics by which to live, so they are 
didactic and moralistic in nature. Riddles present embodied wisdom 
and doubts of the society, while proverbs are used to emphasize the 
words of the wise, to convey moral lessons, warnings and advice. 

Thus, the stance of storyteller as affirmer of group beliefs is con- 
firmed. 

That African authors have reverence for the mores of the group 
is more understandable when the importance of the oral tradition is 
known. It further shows why African writers felt it necessary to 
start their writing with a return to the past. The importance of 
writing about the past is twofold. Readers need to understand the 
political and social organization of traditional society from which 
the conflict in an individual or group issues. Secondly, the past 
acts as a bridge for the novelist. He has to lead his reading pub- 





















19 


lie from the known to the unknown. In the oral literature the 
cultural images were all understood and accepted. Oral literature 
existed because it was required to function in the daily events of 
life. Written literature was not required in a non-literate society, 
but with this century's emphasis on literacy, the bridge from oral 
to written literature is an essential link. The writer is part of 
the group; he has to live with the group and use the tools of the 
group — the main tool being the importance and reverance for the 
past. 

Within the artistic confines of the world of 
oral African literature, all is whole. One 
alludes here primarily to the understood and 
understandable roles of primary and secondary 
audience, to the acceptance of the arrangement 
of images in the world and to the confirmation 
of a single set of standards. The mere act of 
writing does not destroy this union of shared 
experience, but the introduction, acceptance, 
absorption, rejection and the varieties of these 
in combinations — the manner of the voluntary 
or involuntary manipulation of the foreign cul¬ 
ture — bring about the chaos of images. There 
are no longer easily identifiable, mutually 
agreeable manifestations of the culture .... 

The tension inherent in this is the precursor 
to modern African literature. (Dathorne, 1976, 
xi-xn) 

The artist in this situation is precariously balancing between 
the traditional definition of the artist as confirmer and the modern 
role of artist as reflector of change. He has not been equipped by 
traditional education for the new role, nor is he sure of any accept¬ 
ance in his role as reflector of change. He also must attend to the 
problem of writing for, and not speaking with, a local audience that 
is just learning to read and the audience who has sophisticated 
reading tastes. Thus, the novelist has to take a middle of the road 
approach which presents realistic material that probes the human con- 














20 


dition, but is acceptable to divergent audiences. 

Chinua Achebe (1966), the foremost novelist of Africa, expresses 

the challenge effectively for his fellow writers. 

We must seek the freedom to express our 
thought and feeling, even against our¬ 
selves, without the anxiety that what we 
say might be taken in evidence against 
our race. ... We have stood in the dock 
too long pleading and protesting before 
ruffians and frauds masquerading as dis¬ 
tinguished judges. (139) 

The consciousness of the African writer is more apparent after 
the examination of the cultural environment in which he lives. "His 
culture is an absorptive one, demonstrating a clear capacity for in¬ 
heritance and the assimilation of new values" (Dathorne, 1976, 66). 
Some writers show cultural accommodation; others do not. Yet all 
African writers are dedicated to the development of a myth of being. 


African Writers' Views of African Literature 

African people did not hear of culture for 
the first time from Europeans; their socie¬ 
ties were not mindless but frequently had a 
philosophy of great depth and value and 
beauty! They had poetry and above all, they 
had dignity. It is this dignity that many 
African people all but lost during the colo¬ 
nial period and it is this they must now 
regain. The worst thing that can happen to 
any people is the loss of their dignity and 
self respect. The writer's duty is to help 
them regain it by showing them in human terms 
what happened to them, what they lost. There 
is a saying in Ibo that a man who can't tell 
where the rain began to beat him cannot know 
where he dried his body. The writer can tell 
the people where the rain began to beat them.. 
After all the writer's duty is not to beat 
this morning's headline in topicality, it is 
to explore in depth the human condition. In 
Africa he cannot perform this task unless he 
has a proper sense of history. (Achebe, 1964, 8) 




















21 


Achebe has explicitly stated the role of the writer in new 
nations. He feels authors have definite responsibilities to help 
their society regain their beliefs in themselves and put away the 
complexes of the years of denigration and self-denigration. 

Ngugi wa Thiong'o (1971) supports Achebe's position. 

The novelist is haunted by the sense of the 
past. His work is often an attempt to come 
to terms with a thing that has been; has 
struggled, as it were, to sensitively regis¬ 
ter his encounter with history and the novelist 
at his best must feel himself heir to a contin¬ 
uous tradition. He must feel himself . . . swim¬ 
ming, struggling, defining himself in the main¬ 
stream of his people's historical drama. (4) 

Cyprian Ekwensi (1972) sees the duty of the fiction writers as 

seeking truth, perhaps a broader approach to creative writing than 

the views held by Achebe and Ngugi. 

It is the duty of the novelist, like a surgeon, 
to keep dissecting until he gets to the cancer, 
to the truth, to where truth is embedded. The 
novelist does not attempt to portray a govern¬ 
ment or a nation; the novelist goes into indi¬ 
vidual souls and hearts. (81) 

Others who support the view of African writers as spokesmen and 
teachers are Soyinka (1961) who stated that "the artist has always 
functioned in African society as the record of mores and experience 
of his society and as the voice of vision in his own time" (13), 
Mphahlele (1962) who commented that the writer is the sensitive point 
in his community, and Gabriel Okara who is concerned that his lit¬ 
erature mirror and explore contemporary issues while remaining 
essentially African in style and point of view (Roscoe, 1971, 113). 

African novelists have, thus, a special obligation to the soci¬ 
eties in which they function. They have determined that literature 
has a social function to interpret and educate society. Achebe 

















: 1 £ ‘ ■ " M • 



















22 


(1965) best summarizes this goal. 

I for one would not wish to be excused 
[from the responsibility of educating 
his people]. I would be quite satisfied 
if my novels (especially the ones I set 
in the past) did no more than teach my 
readers that their past —with all its im¬ 
perfections —was not one long night of 
savagery from which the first European acting 
on God's behalf delivered them. (4) 

African people have faced up to many conflicts — political, 

social, educational and cultural —which colonization produced and 

have sought solutions for them. The American psychologist Leonard 

Doob (1965) indicates that it is impossible for the African to avoid 

encountering two ways of life. 

Everywhere the traditional society meaning¬ 
fully survives. The most urbanized African 
knows that usually not far away is a village 
of his tribe where many if not most of the 
old ways are cultivated and practised. His 
native language, like that of his children, 
is an African language .... At the same 
time even the remotest area in the interior 
has experienced some contact with the West. 

Planes are visible overhead and roads are 
being built and improved. . . . The govern¬ 
ment from the capital and missionaries from 
the West are trying conspicuously to induce 
or compel the mass of Africans to improve 
their health, to wear respectable clothes, 
to increase the cultivation of a particular 
crop. . . . Under these conditions Africans, 
even if they wished to, could not accept one 
society and then pay little attention or no 
attention to the alternative; they simply 
must experience both societies. (376) 

The African writer presents these political, educational and 

cultural conflicts in imaginative form so his readers may better 

understand the turmoil within African societies and perhaps find 

directions for developing solutions. 

No single action can effect Eden; no 
single group possesses truth; no single 








. 






























23 


answer ever satisfies all who ask an 
identical question. In the hiatus be¬ 
tween village life and cosmopolitan, 
between solipsism and the extended family, 
between black culture and white cultures, 
parliamentarian government and tribal 
allegiance, modern African writers find 
themselves affected by conflicting attrac¬ 
tions and capable of providing only ironic 
observation instead of answer. (New, 1975, 

95-6) 

African writers then provide leadership through the literature 
they produce. Being aware of their own agony of soul, African writ¬ 
ers will not let the new literature of Africa become 

a slavish imitation of western mode and 
practice. Having increasingly felt the 

underlying strength and flexibility of 

their ancestral culture, and having re¬ 
valued the claims of its western counter¬ 
part, West African writers have apparently 
decided that they will enter the third 
quarter of the twentieth century with their 
own heritage largely intact and with the 
addition of only those European elements 
which it seems advantageous to absorb. . . . 

The very turbulence of the African position, 
the very storms it has blown up in African 
minds and souls, has created a situation 
fraught with the challenge and material that 
provide inspiration for the literary artist. 

(Roscoe, 1971, 3-4) 

The African writer must re-create the past so that a sense of 

dignity is regained. Achebe (1964) indicates there is a strong 

temptation to idealize the past — that is to extol the good points 

and pretend the bad never existed. 

This is where the writer's integrity comes 
in. Will he be strong enough to overcome . 
the temptation to select facts that flatter? 

If he succumbs the credibility of the world 
he is attempting to recreate will be called 
into question and he will defeat that purpose. 

The past is not one technicolor idyll. We 
have to admit that like other people's pasts 
ours had its good and bad. (9) 






























24 


The African writer in English must reveal more in his prose 
than an anthropological study of a tribe, more than a tale about the 
traditional way of life, more than an engaging story of strange lives 
and societies. 

The writer can help by exposing and 
dramatizing the problem. But he can 
only do this successfully if he can go 
to the root of the problem. Any incom¬ 
petent newspaper man reports the inci¬ 
dent. . . . But you need a writer to 
bring out the human tragedy, the crisis 
of the soul. (Achebe, 1964, 11) 

writer further needs to be aware that to write fiction of 

persistence and a great amount of effort is required. 

Above all, he has a responsibility to 
avoid shoddiness in his own work. This 
is very important today when some pub¬ 
lishers will issue any trash that comes 
out of Africa because Africa has become 
the fashion. In this situation there is 
a real danger that some writers may not 
be patient enough or disciplined enough 
to pursue excellence in their work. 

(Achebe, 1964, 12) 

African writer then must be aware that to rise beyond the 
and external difficulties of writing from a relatively new 
nation and to maintain the purposes of writer as teacher and spokes¬ 
man he has to have "minute preparation, painstaking presentation, 
the voice of persuasive reasonableness, care for consistency and 
impartiality" (Roscoe, 1971, 131). 

With the above awareness and knowledge, with the return to 
traditional sources for material and inspiration, all the elements 
are present in contemporary African fiction for the creation of a 
body of writing that is at once dynamic, original, independent and 
indigenous. 


The 

quality, 


The 
internal 


















Literary and Educational Considerations for the Selection and 
Analysis of African Novels Written in English 

The importance of cultural background and the purposes of liter¬ 
ature as perceived by a country's writers are only two aspects one 
must consider when viewing African novels written in English for use 
in high schools. The quality of the literary work must be reviewed, 
for ultimately the text itself is the tool students will use to unlock 
what is held between the book's covers. That there is a careful 
blending of insight into human nature, literary technique and appro¬ 
priate language use in each novel needs assessment. 

As T. S. Eliot, in Selected Prose postulated ,"the greatness of 
literature cannot be determined solely by literary standards though 
we must remember that whether it is literature, or not, can be deter¬ 
mined only by literary standards" (31). Adetugbo (1971), in discus¬ 
sing the form and style of the Nigerian novel, supports Eliot's 
position. 


Cultural differences notwithstanding, the 
experience that good literature affords 
can be appreciated anywhere. An understand¬ 
ing of the cultural background from which a 
work springs may help both reader and critic 
in appreciating more fully a particular work, 
but any great literary work must have an appeal 
beyond the culture in which it is rooted. (173) 

Within and outside Africa the literary quality of African 
novels has been questioned openly. Soyinka (1967), an African 
writer and critic, is harsh in his evaluation of what publishers 
and critics have apparently encouraged for the sake of an "emerging" 
1iterature. 

Publishers hovered like benevolent vultures 
on the still foetus of the African Muse. 

At a given signal they tore off bits and 



' 1 I ! 5 1 











26 


pieces, fanned up with powerful wings 
delusions of significance in commonness 
and banality. The average published 
writer in the first few years of the 
post-colonial era was the most celebrated 
skin of inconsequence ever to obscure the 
true flesh of the African dilemma. (12) 

Achebe (1962), Irele (1971), Palmer (1972), Roscoe (1971) and 
Dathorne (1976) raise the same concern. Mediocre writing should not 
be exalted, yet constructive criticism is an important means through 
which writers can identify strengths and areas needing improvement in 
their products. Achebe (1962) decries the practice of offering 
special types of criticism because the reviewer or critic has little 
knowledge of what the material is about. Irele (1971) summarizes 
the concern most effectively by pointing out that it is the new lit¬ 
erature which needs honest critical attention. This would ensure a 
healthy growth that follows established standards yet encourages 
flexibility. 

It is obvious then that standards by means of which to assess 

African novels need to be clarified. 

African fiction has been given time to 
settle; it is proliterating, and finding 
its way into the curricula of African, 

European, and American schools and univer¬ 
sities, and the time has come to establish 
certain principles of criticism, and to 
initiate discussion on the relative merits 
of the various novelists. (Palmer, 1972, ix) 

Broad parameters within which all novels operate have been 
identified by many writers, critics and educators. Although the 
wording may vary, consensus is that all novels must be viewed from 
at least two perspectives: what is said and how it is said. A 
sampling of supporters for these components follows. 






















































27 


A Handbook to Literature indicates "all novels are representations 
in fictional narratives of life or experience but the form is itself 
as protean as life and experience themselves have proved to be" 

(Holman, 1960, 319). Wright (1973) in trying to establish guide¬ 
lines for evaluating the African novel speaks of assessing matter and 
manner. Ryan (1963) says "a novel does have content and it does have 
form" (40), and Palmer (1972) stresses 

what transforms the novel from a political 
or sociological work to a work of art is 
the novelist's technique, the devices he 
uses to shape, explore, define and finally 
evaluate his material. . . . The well-made 
novel is a composite of message and tech¬ 
nique, and any work which is deficient in 
either is open to criticism, (x) 

Therefore, the effective blending of the message with the form is the 
basic expectation for any novel to be studied in high school. 

The "what" of any novel is that which provides the interest for 
reading the material. This is the portion that attends to Language 
Arts objectives such as "use of language to explore the environment 
and ideas of others, to develop new concepts and to evaluate what is 
discovered", and "use of language to stir imagination, deepen under¬ 
standing, arouse emotion and give pleasure" (Alberta Education, 1978, 
6). Message or theme is the basis of the "what"; it is the idea 
which controls the form. What are the ideas, the messages or the 
themes students can expect to explore and develop understanding of 
in African novels? In general terms Irele (1971) states 

Our writers are recognizably African in 
the sense in which they give an African 
character to their works and conversely, 
we who are African, will only accept them 
as speaking about us and for us in so far 
as they take our voice and speak with our 
accent. (15) 












28 


Palmer (1975) specifies Irele's view when he reveals 

the novelist must deal with the burning 
issues of his society, and the critic 
should concern himself with the novelist's 
treatment of these issues, whether social, 
cultural, political or religious, and show 
how relevant these novels are to the con¬ 
temporary situation. (127) 

African writers and critics have expressed concern that the oral 
tradition and cultural environment from which and in which African 
novels occur be recognized as significant elements in these works. 

The student then can expect the subject matter to be pertinent to 
issues in which African people are involved. There is perhaps a 
greater element of realism in African novels than in novels from 
countries where literature has different purposes. 

There is also consensus among African spokesmen such as Achebe, 
Soyinka and Ekwensi that African writers must reveal the truth, show¬ 
ing both the turmoil and the acceptance of conditions in the situa¬ 
tion portrayed. By revealing both the strengths and weaknesses of 
the characters and societies presented, the reader is exposed to 
man's many dimensions in the author's exploration of the human con¬ 
dition. The foundation, then, holding the work of fiction together 
is the theme — the idea behind, within and beyond the situation 
developed in the novel. 

The student can expect to find universal themes developed in 
ways that are appropriate to the cultural environment in which they 
occur. However, by viewing the theme from a fresh angle or with a 
new perspective the student has greater opportunity to expand his 
understanding of the common and unique concerns of man. 

Studying the theme of a novel is studying only part of what a 




























29 


novel offers its reader. The impact of the theme is enhanced or dim¬ 
inished according to the way an author chooses to develop it. Literary 
techniques and language used in a novel therefore are as important as 
the theme itself. Walsh (1970), Roscoe (1971), Larson (1971), and 
King (1974) have identified several areas where techniques used to 
develop the African novel differ from those of its English counter¬ 
part. The enumeration of these will assist the student in understand¬ 
ing how the African novel may be put together. 

One major difference lies in the interrelationship of plot and 
character. While there may be a vivid central character, there 
usually is less emphasis placed on character development or character 
introspection. An important aspect of characterization is how the 
character either represents the group or is in opposition to the 
group for it is really the effect of events on the tribe or group 
that is paramount. Plot development may be a loose narration of 
events, stories or tales connected by a character, or it may be the 
presentation and working out of a particular situation that affects 
both the individual and group. In either case it is not unusual 
for the events to be beyond the control of the individual. In other 
words, he appears to be caught up in a force larger than himself. 

Emphasis on events and the group further account for the use of 
local color rather than clear description to develop atmosphere and 
mood. Local color becomes important because it provides the back¬ 
ground for the complexities in the historical and social events which 
are presented or whose ramifications are felt in the situation that 
is dealt with in the novel. 

Another difference is revealed in the honesty with which 








j >| 'S 




30 


African writers are able to either lament or satirize the turning 
away from tribal values which are seen as spiritual and natural, 
towards a gross love for materialism. The use of didactic endings 
ensures that the African audience understands the implications of 
certain actions. This technique reinforces the writer's purpose as 
a teacher and reflector of change. A final technique to be high¬ 
lighted is the broader concept of time that appears in many African 
novels. Again, the reason for great leaps forward or back is often 
tied to the need to show the reader how something was or how it has 
changed. The author does not leave to chance or the reader's know¬ 
ledge information that enhances the theme. 

Each of the characteristics developed as a result of the blend¬ 
ing of an important feature from the oral tradition with modern 
literary technique. Dathorne (1976), Larson (1971) and King (1974) 
each comment on the influence of the oral and cultural background on 
the African writer who has adapted accepted literary forms to his 
own purpose. It is King (1974), however, who points out that the 
African novelist is really only doing what novelists throughout the 
history of English literature have done. He emphasizes that the 
early novel would never have changed if someone had not been crea¬ 
tive and daring enough to step out of the rigid framework and make 
a bold new presentation. The relationship between the African oral 
tradition and its modern novel is clearly seen in the comparison of 
narrator to storyteller which follows. 

The narrator often reflects the community's 
vision and in telling his story he may use 
such techniques of oral literature as proverbs, 
rhetorical questions, allusion to myth and 
didactic endings. One notices how often the 


■ 











narrator is a modern version of the tribal 
story-teller. The narrator's firm presence 
is usually felt in the opening paragraph, 
and though he does not call attention to 
himself in the way the narrator of the eight¬ 
eenth century novel would, we are aware he 
is there, making judgements, supplying infor¬ 
mation, telling a tale. (King, 1974, 13) 

The variations in literary technique, thus, add another dimen¬ 
sion to the study of literature for students who are exposed to 
African novels written in English. Language use, too, plays a large 
part in the enhancement or de-emphasis of theme in a novel. It is 
the second aspect of form that needs consideration. Earlier, the 
fact that English is not the mother tongue of most Africans was 
mentioned. Within the African novel, this fact accounts for some 
deviations from the usual patterns which the English language fol¬ 
lows. As Irele (1971) points out 

we have a literature written by Africans 
who have a distinct background as far as 
their experience is concerned and who are 
writing, or at least striving to write, 
within a specific cultural, social and 
historical framework, but who are expres¬ 
sing themselves in a language that they 
have not deliberately chosen, a language 
with its own structure and literary tradi¬ 
tion, in its nature far removed from their 
own frame of reference. (10) 

African writers have made accommodations in their language use 
so they could blend their vernacular thought and speech patterns 
with English sentence patterns. Occurrences of this nature appear 
in the novels with varying degrees of frequency depending on both 
the author's and his characters' abilities to understand and use 
English. Thus, when considering the appropriate use of language in 
the setting and for the people portrayed various presentations of 
English will have to be explored. Achebe (1965) clarifies the 
















■ 








issue when he states "the price a world language [English] must be 
prepared to pay is submission to many different kinds of use" (29). 

The question of language use brings out three further differences 
from the accepted English literary mode. The first is the one dis¬ 
cussed above. Colloquialisms, phrases and sentence patterns will 
appear that are unfamiliar to the non-African reader. The language 
style used is generally simple and straightforward, while the dia¬ 
logue may appear less convincing because it is very direct. Thus, 
appropriate use and diverse forms of language become another dimen¬ 
sion for consideration in the examination of the African novel 
written in English. 

The blending of accepted and altered literary and language tech¬ 
niques within the African novel make it a challenging study, for 
students will discover how "any new literature or literary movement 
of value is not only subject to existing critical approaches but may 
itself act as a powerful agent in modifying those approaches" 

(Wright, 1973, ix). Further, it provides the opportunity to explore 
"language as a dynamic system which records, reflects and affects 
cultures", and the "role of language in increasing understanding of 
self and others" (Alberta Education, 1978, 6). 

The importance of the cultural background and the ways by which 
to assess literary quality in the English African novel have been 
presented. The criteria established are similar to those identified 
by Bishop (1970). After reviewing criticism given African literature 
from 1947-1966 Bishop rejected the idea that there was only one 
standard by which to judge all literature. As a result Bishop 
delineated six standards against which he felt African literature 










should be measured. These standards showed some divergences be¬ 
tween Western and African literary criticism. His suggested 
standards are 

1. that the form of English used in the 
work be a reflection of that used in 
the writer's homeland and not the 
standard form of the language 

2. that African literature is written 
primarily for Africans and has not 
been distorted to project an African 
presence to the world 

3. that African writers borrow more from 
their own traditions than from the 
Western literary traditions 

4. that African literature address itself 
to the various and serious problems 
currently facing Africa 

5. that African literature not falsify 
the natural aspects of African society 
and that its presentation of such be 
in context and not presented for its 
own sake 

6. that African literature somehow remain 
African while also being literature. 

(401-402) 

Bishop's standards exemplify the African aura that the literature 
should exude. Most African writers would support Bishop's standards 
King (1974), Larson (1971), Dathorne (1976), Taiwo (1967), Palmer 
(1972), and Wright (1973) would further agree that a country's 
literature has maximum meaning when studied with an understanding of 
the people whom it represents. 

For purposes of assessing the novels presented in Chapter 
Three and for selecting those that may be appropriate for use with 
high school English students, emphasis will be placed on the message 
presented, the means used to develop theme and the language used to 
convey the presentation. Consideration will be given to the nature 














I l ' 

















of the theme in order to identify that it does relate to an African 
concern as well as having a universal impact. In the form used to 
develop theme, balance in the use of appropriate language and liter¬ 
ary techniques will be sought. 

Two further factors which will influence the selection of novels 
for use with high school students in Alberta are those of explicit 
sex and excessive use of language that would be considered inappro¬ 
priate in Canadian society. It is generally accepted that if language 
used is appropriate to the character being portrayed then it is 
possible to give consideration to the use of the material with stu¬ 
dents. However, if used excessively, graphic language could be the 
cause of a novel's rejection for classroom use. Descriptions of 
sexual acts also raise questions in material being considered for use 
in high school classrooms. In a society which refrains from discus¬ 
sion of such topics in the classroom, the fact that the description 
could be appropriate to the advancement of plot or theme is irrele¬ 
vant to the decision for a novel's inclusion in the high school 
program. Thus, in reviewing African novels of quality these two 
factors will influence decisions made related to the further study 
of some novels. 

Finally, a note concerning which writers will be assessed is 
necessary. Numerous books such as Zell and Silver's Reader's Guide 
to African Literature (1972), Dathorne's African Literature of the 
Twentieth Century (1976), Roscoe's Mother is Gold (1971) and Uhuru's 
Fire (1977), Herdeck's African Authors (1973), and Abrash's B1ack 
African Literature in English Since 1952 (1967) contain lists of the 


majority of the published African novelists. These books have been 














I 



















used as basic references to identify which novelists to include in 
the overview of African novels written in English. However, books 
such as Seymour-Smith's Funk and Wagnall's Guide to Modern World 
Literature (1973), Hayman's The Novel Today 1967-75 (1976), Stanford 
and Amin's Black Literature for High School Students (1978) and 
Vinson's Contemporary Novelists (1976) provide a more restricted list 
of novelists and novels that are recognized as having literary sig¬ 
nificance and/or literary merit. These references have been used to 
help select those novels that may be appropriate for use in high 
school. Some novels that do not appear on any of the restricted 
lists mentioned may still be selected if they offer material to the 
student that is both appealing and rich in possibilities for literary 
study. 

The various means through which to assess and select African 
novels written in English have been established. These guidelines 
will be applied in Chapter Three so that from the presentation of 
the overview of the African novels it will become clear which novels 
provide the greatest possibilities for use in high school English 


classes. 



























































CHAPTER III 


OVERVIEW OF AFRICAN NOVELS WRITTEN IN ENGLISH 

King (1974), Laurence (1968), Palmer (1972), Dathorne (1975), 
and Roscoe (1971 and 1977) each discuss the increasing interest of 
scholars and critics around the world in African literature. The 
variety in the African literary outpouring in the past twenty-five 
years has caused more than a passing stir among those whose knowledge 
of literature had confirmed the stability of various literary forms. 
Yet, tremors felt from African creative endeavors have challenged 
readers and critics to view with openness the diverse literary 
expressions of African writers. The bulk of the initial wave came 
from West Africa, Nigeria in particular, where Amos Tutuola startled 
the literary public with his linguistically distinct The Palm-Wine 
Drinkard . Chinua Achebe rose to prominence with his tragic Things 
Fall Apart and Cyprian Ekwensi gained attention because of his con¬ 
centration on producing "popular" literature for the masses in 
Nigerian urban areas. 

Novelists soon emerged all over Nigeria and West Africa, budding 
writers who frequently were unaware of the differences among journal¬ 
istic reports, social or political tracts, and literature. Conse¬ 
quently, the quality of the emerging novels varied from excellent 
portrayals of the individual struggling with a conflict that threat¬ 
ened to overwhelm him to journalistic reporting of societal and 
historical events, and personal accounts of attempts to find new 
paths in a changing society. This early literature received little 
objective criticism and so opened a deluge of self-expression with 


36 
































37 


little overt regard for or understanding of literary quality. 

East African novelists were late-comers to the creative writing 
scene. Concern over the land issue and the emphasis on the use of 
precise English caused a more functional type of prose to emerge 
that had outlets in newspapers and journals. Writing skills devel¬ 
oped as an outlet for frustration rather than from imaginative 
stimulation. It was not until the late sixties when some of the 
West African novels found their way to East African readers that 
individuals began to see the potential for imaginative writing. 

South Africa, too, has had a retarded creative growth. Since 
political issues dominate the minds of South African writers, imagi¬ 
native concerns have virtually been set aside. Most South African 
writers are forced to live in exile because they have little freedom 
of expression within the boundary of their homeland. Virtually all 
their efforts are taken up with publicizing the plight of their 
black countryman in journalistic, tract or semi-autobiographical 
format. 

Circumstances, then, have fostered the uneven and staggered 
development of fiction in English by African writers. Reed (1965) 
suggests this process of readiness also has a repetition factor 
built in. 


It [Africa] is a continent of repetitions. 
What is happening in one country now is 
likely to have happened already in another 
and will probably happen again somewhere 
else. The rise of nationalism, the process 
of decolonization, developments in new 
governments, the tensions before and after 
independence between the tribal and the 
modern, throughout the whole of Africa 
it is not a single continuous story, but 
very similar stories told over and over 
again, (i) 






38 


The overview which follows briefly summarizes the concerns that 
have affected, to some extent, the literary achievements of the novel¬ 
ists to be presented. Novelists are arranged alphabetically by 
region for convenience of discussion and the novelists of historical 
significance are presented first to indicate a cross-section of the 
literary development that occurred. Each novel is described briefly 
and connections, where appropriate, are made to other novels or 
emerging trends. The overview concludes with the identification of 
major trends that are developing in the literature and the selection 
of the novels for possible use in high school English classes. 

West African Novelists 

West African novelists were the first of Africa's contemporary 
artists who write in English to receive critical attention. Nigeria 
is considered the cradle of African novel writing in English and 
Amos Tutuola is acknowledged as the first modern African novelist in 
English after the publication of The Palm-Wine Drinkard in 1952. 

Factors that influenced the rapid rise of creative writing in 
Nigeria and neighboring Ghana are many. Laurence (1968), King (1974), 
and Izevbaye (1974) have suggested that the main influence for a 
solid literary development in West Africa is the inner strength and 
confidence of the people. The tradition from which many writers 
come is an absorptive one. When the colonizers arrived attempts 
were made to include the new technology and modes of behavior in 
the existing framework. The colonial period was viewed as a time 
that did separate several generations from their past, but is being 



































assessed by writers as a period where social, cultural and reli¬ 
gious changes were made and not a time of racial affront. Further, 
there was no separation from the land during the colonial period, so 
traditional practices were continued. 

The early learning of English as the language of the educated 
and the development of West African English by putting vernacular 
concepts and ideas into English sentence patterns allowed for greater 
understanding among tribes and between literate and non-literate 
people. The rise of universities, literary journals like Black 
Orpheus and the influence of men such as Beier, Janz, and Dathorne 
all effected the rapid rise of interest in and outlets for imagina¬ 
tive writing. Lastly, the willingness to look at one's weaknesses 
and criticize both self and society played an enormous part in caus¬ 
ing readers and writers to look at the existing situation and move 
towards change. Each of these factors has aided the rapid develop¬ 
ment of quality literature from West Africa. 

Most early writing in West Africa centered on a detailed ex¬ 
amination of culture and its effect on individuals. The purposes of 
the early novels appeared to be the construction of bridges from the 
wealth of traditional life, through the consideration of the confused 
components of the present, into a future that would meld the appro¬ 
priate components of each. These spokesmen challenged themselves to 
take the input from diverse experiences and blend them into artistic 
outpourings that would show their readers how valuable tradition is. 

Early West African Novelists 

Chinua Achebe has dual aims as a writer: to instruct his 
people and to expose and attack injustice. His first three novels 




B 




40 


present problems faced by man with conflicting values and expectations 
between the past and present. By implication, his major audience is 
assumed to be African as he is attempting to re-establish belief in 
the past. Achebe portrays changes in terms of an intensely powerful 
individual character who is also a representative of his people in 
his traditional attitudes. His fourth novel attends to Achebe's 
second purpose, to expose and attack injustice. Achebe presents a 
situation where the injustices of the colonizers are now being cyni¬ 
cally carried on by the newly independent leaders. 

Things Fall Apart , Achebe's first novel, published in 1958, 
centres on Okonkwo, a man whose driving force pushes him to attain 
as much recognition as possible through physical means, the achieve¬ 
ment of titles and self-denial. Behind this relentless pursuit of 
advancement is the disrespect he had for his father, Unoka and the 
fear he had that his tribe might consider him like his father. Sur¬ 
rounding the struggle that focuses on Okonkwo is the coming of the 
European government officials and missionaries who attempt to insti¬ 
tute change in Okonkwo's tribe. 

Achebe creates a hero of fiction, a con¬ 
vincing man with strange old world qualities. 

Because Achebe imaginatively brings his 
world to life, one can believe in Okonkwo's 
values and because the values matter the 
message of the novel becomes important, rele¬ 
vant and convincing. (Dathorne, 1976, 68) 

No Longer At Ease (1963), Achebe's second novel, is essentially 
an extension of Things Fall Apart. Obi, Okonkwo's grandson, returns 


to Nigeria after attending university in England. He is full of new 
ideas and wants to see his country free of corruption. His troubles 



















begin when the Umofia Progressive Union, the group who funded his 
overseas education, demand repayment of his loan and expect that he 
will continue to live up to the standard expected of a government man. 
Obi tries to be both tribesman and individual, and succeeds at neither. 

Arrow of God (1964) returns to a setting in the past where 
Ezeulu, a village priest, battles with his god and seeping modernity. 

He sends his son to a mission school to learn the secrets of the 
strangers who had invaded his land. Yet, when a messenger comes from 
Winterbottom, the European district officer, and does not treat 
Ezeulu with the expected respect, Ezeulu ignores a summons and becomes 
imprisoned. Ezeulu retaliates by delaying the harvest. He does not 
foresee the ramifications of his lack of tolerance and is unable to 
cope with the disasters that strike his family and tribe. Achebe, 
again, remains detached in the presentation of the conflicting situa¬ 
tion. He probes more deeply into the mind of his main character, 
Ezeulu, and the reader sees the disintegration of a man whose god 
upholds the clan rather than the individual. 

Achebe's fourth novel, A Man of the People (1966), takes a dif¬ 
ferent approach to the events occurring around him. Now, Achebe 
attacks corruption and greed in places of authority. Chief Nanga, 
a corrupt politician, invites Odili, the principal character, to 
visit him in Lagos. Odili accepts and becomes embroiled in the 
tangled events surrounding Chief Nanga ! s political party, his girl 
friend and a fixed election. Odili*s obsession with reversing the 
misuse of power allows Chief Nanga to come across as the more reason¬ 
able character and the victor. 

The novels of Chinua Achebe each deal with the conflicting pat- 



































Mu 




42 


tern of cultures. They imply a certain unnatural ness in man's 
supposed ease in moving between two cultures. The author builds 
the myth of the man of two worlds suffering from excruciating inner 
stress and liable to abandon his learning and modernity in a crisis 
situation. Achebe's strength lies in the ability to call up a credi¬ 
ble world, stand away from it, and leave the reader to draw his own 
conclusions. 

Tibbie's (1965) assessment of Achebe is most apt. 

He does not try to offer any larger-than- 
life or any over-simple solution to the 
mortal conflict among human values. The 
sifting of these issues, his packed and 
dramatic stories seem to suggest, forms part 
of life's perpetual challenge to our race. 

OH) 

T. M. Aluko, an engineer by profession, brings a sense of humor 
to his fiction. Aluko degrades the conflicts that are part of 
society's attempt to come to terms with outside forces. One Man, One 
Wife (1959) focuses on the struggle in a village between traditional 
religion and Christianity. The Reverends David and Royasin, the 
novel's main characters, are caricatures: one laughable, the other 
too solemn. The action centres on numerous incredible incidents; 
characters are irrationally killed off and there is no centrality to 
the plot. 

One Man, One Matchet (1964) makes a clearer statement. This 
novel presents a picture of the difficulties of government officials 
during the transfer of power from colonial to an independent state. 

A young agricultural officer orders the destruction of some diseased 
cocoa trees. The farmers, who feel the government is against them 
and working with some traditional enemies, oppose the destruction 







t 

















43 


plan. The new Nigerian officer sides with the agricultural officer. 
This results in violence and chaos before calm is restored. There 
are fewer characters and fewer episodes than in One Man, One Wife , 
but little depth of perception. 

Kinsman and Foreman (1966) describes a personal situation, a 
clash between a new engineer and the foreman of the Public Works 
Department who is both a corrupt relation and a prominent member of 
the community. The autobiographical nature of the story makes it 
superficial and lacking in literary quality. 

In 1970 Chief, The Honorable Minister appeared. This novel 
focuses its satire upon government officials and highlights the 
meaninglessness of government. The ministers are stereotypic and 
the titles they possess are their only identity. Aluko is well- 
known for his support of the ordinary man. He constantly satirizes 
traditional patterns of living, bad politics and individuals who use 
their positions for personal gain while the ordinary citizen is mis¬ 
led and taken advantage of. His journalistic style is full of action, 
but leaves little to be inferred or interpreted by the reader. If 
light, rambling, and episodic farces are appealing, Aluko's novels 
provide easy reading. 

Cyprian Ekwensi is considered the popular novelist of Nigeria. 
"Readers of Nigerian writing —Nigerian creative writing —must be 
those who are willing to read simply for pleasure and entertainment 
first, and for education and knowledge incidentally" (Ekwensi, 1965, 
217). Ekwensi views himself as an entertainer. He started his 
writing career as a pamphleteer near Onitsha, an eastern Nigerian 
town. He tried to reach the man in the street by writing about the 










1 


■ 





































concerns of the masses. Much of the material centered on love 
relationships which had complications such as raping, pregnancies, 
unsupportive fathers and abortions before the unfulfilled ending to 
the relationship occurred. 

Ekwensi appears to intentionally distort customs and steep them 
in sex, adventure and mystery so they will make popular reading. Of 
his five adult novels: People of the City (1954), Oagua Nana (1961), 
Burning Grass (1 962), Beautiful Feathers (1 963) and I ska (1966), 

Jagua Nana is his best known. It depicts an aging prostitute who 
befriends Freddie, a young teacher. She promises to send him to 
England, but disaster intervenes and she loses her lover. Later, 
she returns to Lagos and winsJf50,000. The values presented are 
superficial; the tone and style are urbane and the popular theme is 
written for the masses with little concern for.literary quality. 

Ekwensi's other novels are equally lacking in credibility, show 
superficial relationships and are devoid of successful plot develop¬ 
ment. However, these techniques used by Ekwensi are intentional. 

His stated purpose is to depict aspects of African cities under¬ 
going the tremors of transition. If the city is a corrupting 
influence, it will be shown at the lowest level — that level which 
catches the unaware who come to the city innocent of what to expect. 
To ensure that his readers understand the subject area about which 
he writes is Ekwensi's first concern. Whether it has an African 
aura or African authenticity is irrelevant to sharing the situation 
and its effects with the widest possible group of readers. Thus, 
Ekwensi achieves his purpose as an effective author of popular lit- 

















erature and deserves his place in the historical treatment of the 
development of African novels written in English. 

Onuora Nzekwu is also among the first wave of novelists. His 
novels are concerned with the adjustment between two civilizations 
as were those of Achebe and Ekwensi. However, Nzekwu does not seem 
to be able to get beyond the sensationalism of Ekwensi or the anthro 
pological and sociological concerns of traditional society. 

Wand of Noble Wood (1961) concerns itself with tribal marriage 
customs and traditions. The main character has saved the bride 
price, but cannot take a wife until his elder brothers do. When he 
does find a woman of whom his family approves, she is found dead on 
the morning of the wedding. Nzekwu appears more concerned with docu 
menting tradition than with creating a situation in which an indivi¬ 
dual character must face the realities of a curse that has been 
tampered with. The author uses the main character as a mouthpiece 
through which to present his position on various issues. Hence, 
there is little plausibility. 

Blade Among the Boys (1962) continues the theme of conflicting 
cultures. Patrick Ikenga, the central character, has been educated 
by Europeans and intends to become a priest. The decision horrifies 
the family for celibacy is a curse. Patrick vacillates, but ends 
up conforming to tradition after a love potion causes him to succumb 
to Nkiru who becomes pregnant. Nzekwu has recorded the kernel of an 
issue important to the African family, but rather than create a 
story, he simply tells the events in disjointed fashion using 
unimaginative language. 














(- 

' 











46 


High!ife for Lizards (1965) is Nzekwu's most ambitious novel. 

The events centre on Agom and her desire to fulfil her obligations 
as a wife. When she continues to be barren, Udezue, her husband, 
marries a second wife. Antagonisms develop and after both wives 
bear children, the second is driven from the household. The remain¬ 
der of the novel describes events in which business prospers and 
titles are acquired. Again, the ritual of childbearing is the 
important feature of the novel. After success in this dimension is 
assured, all other aspects of life blossom. Conversations are flat 
and reader interest is not held through this novel, but Nzekwu does 
manage to consistently develop the character of Agom throughout for 
her position in the husband-wife relationship alters in the various 
sections of the novel. 

Gabriel Okara, best known as a poet, has explored the contem¬ 
porary scene with The Voice (1964). This piece of experimental prose 
reveals the hero, Okolo, as a modern dissenter searching after it. 

His formal education completed, Okolo returns home with visions of 
how his nearly independent society can be reborn. His lofty vision 
is shattered when he views the bankruptcy of his village which has 
replaced its traditionally humanistic values for those of material¬ 
ism learned from the white man. 

Following the pattern of the quest, the novel depicts the ex¬ 
pulsion of Okolo from his village, his search and later return. 
Essentially universal in nature, Okara's theme challenges the 
modern African to set aside the materialism he has grasped from the 
colonizers and to develop a way of life that has real meaning. The 
elusive it which Okolo is after, is that which will provide some 






47 


meaning for him. Okara draws on the oral tradition through the 
presentation of the journay. Images of light and dark reflect 
the struggle of past and present providing a pessemistic picture of 
life. Although short. The Voice is powerful and bold in its devia¬ 
tion from the usual pattern of West African novels. 

Amos Tutuola, the novelist mentioned earlier as the first to 
publish a modern African novel in English, links the oral storytel¬ 
ling tradition with the imaginative translation of those oral stories 
into written form. Tutuola‘s characters are not on the threshold 
of a cultural dilemma as the characters of Achebe or Nzekwu are. 
Rather Tutuola's characters move between life and death, bush and 
town, superstition and materialism with a dexterity that could leave 
the unaware mind in confusion. 

The Palm-Wine Drinkard (1952) depicts a man who is addicted to 
drinking palm-wine. He goes in search of his friend, a dead palm- 
wine tapper. During his search he encounters Death, the Skull, Drum, 
Song, and Dance. He marries, has a child, changes himself into a 
canoe and with his wife operates a ferry to obtain money with which 
to continue his travels. They experience more adventures before 
they reach "Deads Town" where the dead palm-wine tapper is. After 
a visit the tapper gives the couple an "egg" and they start the 
return journey. Numerous adventures are again encountered, but they 
arrive home in time to save the man's town from famine with the help 
of the magic egg. 

Tutuola's writing represents an intentional attempt to blend 
folklore and mythology with modern life. The adventures presented 
allow the protagonist to grow as a person and allow Tutuola to 
























48 


integrate folklore into the novel. The novelist expands, distorts 
and summarizes as he feels necessary to advance the novel's plot. 

Part of Tutuola's success lies in the use of language which is neither 
standard English nor raw Pidgin. The broken English used reflects 
the level of understanding of the English language by the characters. 
It is neither "quaint" as suggested by some early non-African critics 
noted in Moore (1962) nor a point for embarrassment as seen by fel¬ 
low Nigerians. 

The quest aspect portrayed in The Palm-Wine Drinkard is remini¬ 
scent of everyman's search for his past, for his fantasies, for 
meaning in his life. Other searches run through Tutuola's later 
novels: My Life in the Bush of Ghosts (1954), Simbi and the Satyr 
of the Dark Jungle (1955), The Brave African Huntress (1958), and 
Feather Woman of the Jungle (1962). 

My Life in the Bush of Ghosts and Simbi and the Satyr of the 
Dark Jungle pose ethical problems. The boy in the former searches 
for the meaning of "good" while a spoiled rich girl in the latter 
discovers the meaning of poverty. Both novels illustrate the process 
of growing up or the transition from innocence to awareness of life's 
turbulence. 

The Brave African Huntress and Feather Woman of the Jungle deal 
with sensational adventure. In the first, a girl develops a tremen¬ 
dous ability to hunt and rescues her brothers from the Jungle of the 
Pygmies. The latter novel recounts stories told by an'old chief to 
his people for ten nights. These four novels use folkloric and myth¬ 
ological elements and the narration of the African storyteller, but 
lack the coherence and force of The Palm-Wine Drinkard. 














: ' 

I 













































The six novelists surveyed are the early writers of African fic¬ 
tion in English. All are from Nigeria and have led creative artists 
in building the awareness of the value of tradition and of the turmoil 
within the transitional period in which they live. More recent 
African novelists continue the tradition of documenting village life, 
expressing the sensational, elaborating on the theme of the divided 
man and experimenting with language use. 

More Recent West African Novelists 

More Than One (1967), a novel by Clement Agunwa, centres on a 
businessman who fails to obtain an education because he wants to 
be immersed in the traditional aspects of village life and fears 
teachers. Nwakor becomes a respected trader who is able to purchase 
titles for his parents, and amasses relative wealth, but has to have 
others read to him, write for him and keep his accounts. The result 
is obvious and Nwakor blames his troubles on a lack of education. 

The rise and fall of a respected community man, the description of 
village life and the search for education have all been more success¬ 
fully attempted by others. 

Elechi Amadi derives some of his subject matter from folklore. 
Concubine (1966) reveals the story of a woman destined for unhappi¬ 
ness. Ihuoma is controlled by the spirits, a water-spirit in 
particular, so everything she attempts is prejudged and the outcome 
decided before the actions are carried through. The insignificance 
of man is definitely felt through the cardboard-like caricatures who 
are presented like robots. Ihuoma brings suffering and death to all 
her lovers; for although she is a beautiful and virtuous woman, she 















50 


is the wife of the sea god. 

Great Ponds (1969), Amadi's second novel, is a more successful 
detailing of a war between two tribes who both want the right to fish 
Wangaba Pond. The gods are called in to settle the tribal conflict 
after men are killed. Olumba, a warrior, becomes the personification 
of the conflict. If he lives for six months one tribe claims the 
pond, if not the other gains the fishing rights. Attempts on his 
life follow. Eventually he drowns himself in Wangaba Pond contami¬ 
nating it for all time. The surprise ending and the use of folktale 
to point out the necessity for cooperation and to highlight the evils 
of greed make this novel readable. 

Ayi Kwei Armah represents a change of direction in West African 
novelists. The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born (1968) is Armah's 
presentation of corruption, greed and hypocrisy in the civil service 
of Ghana. The Man is different. His refusal to be drawn into the 
accepted way of life draws the anger of his wife and mother-in-law 
and the disgust of his co-workers. Graft and indebtness are the means 
to apparent success. Armah reveals the corruption through powerful 
and nauseating images. Symbols which bind the novel together are 
filth and excrement. 

Journeys to and from various latrines or the dwelling on an 
excessive filth symbolizes the various attempts to draw the Man in, 
to show the Man's own wavering in his chosen stance or to portray 
the depth to which a person such as Koomson is willing to go to main¬ 
tain a facade of success. Koomson, a former fellow student and a 
politician who is the embodiment of corruption, is defeated, together 
with his political party, late in the novel. Koomson comes to the 





■ 
















51 


Man for help and escape is made through a latrine hole. When Koomson 
is ruined by his own corruption, the Man feels vindicated. 

Armah's continual references to urine, faeces, and nasal mucus 
are intended to shock his readers into realizing the repulsive quali¬ 
ty of corruption. Overt description of bodily functions portray the 
level of the marks left by government on society. The control effect¬ 
ed by the imagery is complete. There is no relief. Armah's descrip¬ 
tive ability is evident. His use of style and language is individual, 
somewhat radical and frank. 

Fragments (1970) and Why Are We So Blest? (1970) are also realis¬ 
tic. Fragments concerns itself with a student who returns to his 
village after several years in America, only to find his people 
eagerly adopting Western ways and values while ignoring the spiritual 
wealth in their traditional background. In the third novel, Why Are 
We So Blest? , the subject is freedom fighting, but the difference 
between what is emphasized in theory and what happens in practice in 
the revolution causes discord. In both novels defeat occurs because 
of the differences in outlook of the groups of people involved. 

Bediako Asare's Rebel (1969) and Kofi Awooner's This Earth, My 
Brother (1971) lack probability. In Rebel a group of people in an 
isolated village fight their village priest's authority to retain the 
traditional rites and rituals. After the priest is killed, Shabani 
arrives and changes all of the village practices to those of "civi¬ 
lized" society. On the other hand. This Earth, My Brother portrays 
the return from England of a Ghanaian lawyer who finds Africa so 
drastically changed that after he wallows in nostalgia for sometime, 
he drowns himself. The portrayal of individuals and groups that 














' 1 . 

.. 

■ 










cannot cope with change in each novel negates the very characteristics 
which have made West Africans a resilient people. 

Mbella Dipoko is an oddity among West African novelists who write 
in English. He appears to be an outsider, a French outsider who enjoys 
laughing at events. His two novels, A Few Nights and Days (1966) and 
Because of Women (1969) focus on relationships between men and women. 
The nature of interracial love and sexual promiscuity permeate the 
first while the second revolves around a man who wants a large family, 
but who beats his wife while pregnant on the assumption that to feel 
beauty one must have tragedy. Again lack of probability and the por¬ 
trayal of a very selective world gives the novels limited appeal. 

Amu Djoleto's The Strange Man (1967) and Cameron Duodu's The Gab 
Boys (1967) are interesting and enjoyable depictions of young boys 
growing up. The Strange Nan is an account of one man's reminiscence 
of his boyhood pranks, youthful adventures and mature responsibilities. 
The Gab Boys reveals the experiences of a group of half-educated 
teenage boys who idle their time away. When the hero gets a job he 
starts passing judgements on the greed, hypocrisy and crudity of his 
superiors. Although portions of both novels are humorous, a lack of 
depth and inappropriate shifts in language use leave the novels open 
to substantial criticism. 

Chukwuemeka Ike's writing is both satirical and humorous. He 
has no particular issue to fight about, but in his portrayal of 
individuals becoming educated he satirizes religion, education, poli¬ 
tics and the "nouveau riche". Toads For Supper (1965) is a comedy 
about Amadi, a university student, who becomes entangled with three 
women. The events cover three years of his university life while 










V : 








Amadi searches out his place in the changing society. The university 
life created by Ike reveals a microcosm through which to examine the 
foibles and failings of the larger African world. Yoruba and Ibo 
customs are presented as the characters move from one tribal area to 
another while attempting to sort out the possibilities of intertribal 
marriage. A light novel which provides insights in an engaging manner. 
Toads For Supper is a successful satire. 

The Naked Gods (1970) and The Potter's Wheel (1973) continue the 
humorous accounts of student life. British and American educators 
wage battle over what type of education is suitable for Songhai 
University in The Naked Gods while a small boy's educational involve¬ 
ments after he is sent to a "boarding" school to salvage his character 
are detailed in The Potter 1 s Wheel . While very readable, neither The 
Naked Gods nor The Potter's Wheel reveal issues of major concern to 
Africans. 

Samuel Konadu, another popular writer, much like Ekwensi, is 
concerned with urban situations and traditional ritual. In his novels 
he is concerned about his "home" audience and presents events and 
rituals with little plot development. Ordained by the Oracle (1968) 
describes funeral ceremonies; Shadow of Wealth (1966) exposes corrup¬ 
tion in the city; Night Watchers of Korlebu (1968) deals with dead 
spirits and their interaction with the living; A Woman in Her Prime 
(1967) is concerned with the question of the childless woman and what 
she can do with a barren life. 

John Munonye writes with religion in mind. Only Son (1966) 
depicts the divergent viewpoints held by mother and son because of 
religious differences. The conflict which deals with the familiar 












































54 


attempt to cope with two cultures is attributed to the son's education. 
Obi (1969), a more successful novel by Munonye focuses on Joe and Anna 
and their experiences in a changing society. The main characters are 
Christians who return to village life to continue the homestead. The 
members of the extended family and the church play significant parts 
in the book. Change in the African society is embedded in the conflict 
between Christian and traditional religious worship and incorporated 
into daily life. Oil Man of O b ange (1971) portrays a man who abandons 
the ways of his tribe and joins the Christian church. Jeremiah is 
determined to provide an education for all his children, but tragedy 
begins to plague him with the death of his wife. 

Mununye uses direct, descriptive language through his novels. 

His characters are highly principled and believable but there is a 
one-sided reliance on the virtues of Christianity to solve all 
difficulties. 

Nkem Nwankwo's Panda (1964) is a comic presentation of character 

and situation. The theme is serious, but the manner of presentation 

reflects the character who is wayward, clown-like and enjoys the good 

life. Danda is reminiscent of Ukoka in Achebe's Things Fall Apart , 

an engaging misfit. As Margaret Laurence (1968) comments 

Danda is, in fact, the classic rebel of 
comedy. His battles against the rigid and 
stolid establishment are fought with the 
weapons of impudence, not anger, and libera¬ 
tion is achieved through laughter rather 
than painful struggle. (185) 

The narrative mode in Danda reflects Danda's character. It is 


conversational and easy. The dance-like rhythm in the writing 
parallels the uninhibited movement and quality in Danda's progress 
















55 


through life. The clash between cultures is taken for granted and 
both Danda's father and the home society accept Danda's paradoxical 
nature. He dislikes the rituals attached to marriage and taking 
titles, so Danda runs away breaking the traditional social codes. 

When his father dies Danda returns to lead life in his own way. The 
lively presentation of character marks the reason for Danda's success. 

My Mercedes Is Bigger Than Yours (1975), Nwankwo's second 
novel, presents the downfall of Onuma. Onuma, a man who has amassed 
considerable wealth, returns to his village after an absence of fif¬ 
teen years, in a Jaguar. His money quickly dissipates and dependence 
on materialism causes him to play political candidates against each 
other in an approaching election as a means to replenish his supply 
of money. As a result of this behavior Onuma is beaten and eventually 
shoots his cousin, then drives away in a Mercedes. 

Nwankwo's wit and humor viewed in Danda has turned to bitter 
satire. My Mercedes Is Bigger Than Yours is as readable as Danda , 
but is not as amusing. Character portrayal and language use are 
less effective in this second novel. 

Flora Nwapa's Efuru (1966) and Idu (1970) deal with women in 
difficult situations. The barren woman is unimaginatively presented 
in Efuru . Like Ihuoma in Amadi's The Concubine Efuru is controlled 
by the spirits of the deep and cannot marry or bear children. There¬ 
fore, her tragedy is expected. Idu revolves around the birth, 
marriage and death rituals with the woman passively accepting her 
expected position in relationships. The women portrayed in the 
novels are good women, but they do nothing to alter events. The 
novels reveal much about everyday life among the Ibos, but provide 












. 


56 


no action or excitement. 

Isidore Okpewho, Lenrie Peter, and Adaora Ulasi write about 
the achievement of balance in society. Each has limited strengths 
and exemplifies a trait similar to the earlier West African novelists. 
Okpewho*s Victims (1970) explores "the theory of the harmonious" 
(Dathorne, 1976, 117) using language flavored with proverbs and 
local translations. His approach is reminiscent of Achebe, although 
more solemn and melodramatic. Dr. Kawa, the main character in Peter's 
Second Round (1965), has everything a person could desire, yet is a 
lonely man. He participates in the world through his mother and mis¬ 
tress, but essentially does not understand society. Dr. Kawa's 
poetic inclination helps the exploration of his feelings as a balance 
is established between the tragedies and joys of life. Peter's work 
is reminiscent of Okara, who is essentially a poet. Many Things You 
No Understand (1970) is a humorous portrayal of African magic and 
the restrictions of the British administration. Ulasi imitates 
Ekwensi in her desire to amuse, both in Many Things You No Under¬ 
stand and Many Things Begin For Change (1972). Ulasi, who builds 
humor through contrived dialogue and situation, produces material 
that is very readable and appealing to the popular audience. 

The novelists of West Africa have not remained static. They 
appear to be building on the strengths of the early writers and are 
developing greater control in their use of language. This explora¬ 
tory period has been characterized by aspiring novelists who have 
tried many approaches, topics and points of view through which to 
portray what is occurring in Africa. Although the quality of the 
novels vary greatly, more recent West African novelists are to be 






































57 


credited for their persistence to find appropriate ways to express 
their concerns. 


East African Novelists 

Killam (1974), King (1974), and Rubadiri (1971) each mention the 
recent development of writing in East Africa. Until very recently 
Ngugi wa Thiong'o was thought by many writers and critics to be a 
West African because African novelists all seem to come from West 
Africa. Reasons for the later development of creative writing in 
English in East Africa are several. East Africans had both an admin¬ 
istrative and a land upheaval. When the British administration came, 
it came with settlers who expropriated land that belonged to family 
and tribal groups. As a result of the East African separation from 
the land, the writers are concerned with championing a revival of the 
spirit of the inner man and with advocating freedom in their creative 
endeavors. Strong condemnation is heaped on European accoutrements 
for they are regarded as vehicles for suggesting superiority. The 
East African, therefore, has had a wider separation from his tradi¬ 
tional culture to bridge than the West African. Rubadiri (1971) 
points to the acquiring of English as the language of communication 
as being another drawback. 

For instance, if one passed through a 
secondary school in East Africa, the 
best one came out with was an ability 
to be able to write a composition or a 
letter in the best basic English and the 
best grammar that was demanded of one. 

If you wanted to publish something there 
were no publishing facilities. ... So 
that as the struggle for independence came, 
people began to get frustrated and instead 
of writing creatively as we know it now, 
they started to write — mainly using news¬ 
papers. (149) 








* 











58 


It was only after independence that the oral tradition began to 
be taken seriously again and precision in writing "standard" English 
relaxed so that an East African English began to develop. However, 
the African flavor in the language used in East African writing is 
not as apparent as that which permeates West African writing because 
there has been a definite attempt to use Swahili as the language of 
governmental and intertribal communication. Only in the late 1960s 
did scripts and texts from West Africa arrive in East African coun¬ 
tries causing the rekindling of excitement for imaginative writing. 

East African novelists learned from the early West African novel¬ 
ists as did the newer West African authors. This has resulted in less 
emphasis on the presentation of the value of tradition and more keying 
in on issues which expose injustices. The appearance of numerous 
novels in the last few years gives substance to Rubadiri's (1971) 
claim that East African writing would produce in the next decade 
something as exciting as that which has developed in West Africa. 

Khadamki Asalache's A Calabash of Life (1967) is the story of a 
warrior who is attempting to repossess the chieftaincy which was 
stolen from his family. The author builds the reader's belief in 
the warrior and his extended family through incidents that enhance 
the conflict and make the victorious resolution believable. The 
novel develops epic character qualities in the warrior and implies 
the enemy lacks the heroic qualities, so is bound to be defeated. 

Legson Kayira, a Malawian, writes with detachment. His prose 
takes us close to scenes and characters, but causes little involve¬ 
ment in the issues presented. The non-political tone in his novels 
make them a refreshing change in their lighter depiction of people 























and events. The Looming Shadow (1967) shows an attempt at compromise 
when Musyani, one of the main characters, is charged with practicing 
witchcraft. The village headman undertakes the task of trying to 
balance the traditional method of punishing witches with the skeptical 
approach of the outside administrators. 

Jingala (1969) further attends to the question of traditional and 
modern practices when Gregory, Jingala's son, decides he would rather 
be a priest than marry. The son's decision causes Jingala great con¬ 
sternation, just as a similar decision caused the same reaction in 
Nzekwu's Blade Among the Boys . According to his father, Gregory 
should come home as a living monument to his father's status in the 
village, when he completes his education. Celibacy is also considered 
unacceptable, for a man must ensure the continuation of the family 
line. Jingala's antics, including a march on the seminary dressed in 
loin cloth and carrying an axe, are the central focus of the book. 
Kayira's skill in dialogue, characterization, description and por¬ 
trayal of conflict bring the old man to life. Unlike other African 
comic figures, Jingala revels in revealing the complex mixture of 
strengths and weaknesses that make up real human beings. The reso¬ 
lution seems unsatisfactory, but perhaps appropriate in a time when 
uncertainties about the future of tradition abound. 

With The Civil Servant (1972), Kayira moves to an urban setting. 
George and his clerk, Demero, are modern, western-trained employees 
of the government who want some excitement while desiring few respon¬ 
sibilities. The plot centres on Isabella, George's lover. The 
portrayal of rural poverty as compared to city life and the extent 














60 


to which Isabella goes to achieve a more satisfying life provide a 
disillusioning picture of how people are coping with societal change. 

Leonard Kibera's Voices in the Dark (1970) is a novel of hope and 
despair. Gerald Timundu who is disillusioned with university life 
turns to playwriting as a means through which to attack the society 
which surrounds him. The portrayal of an angry old Mama Njeri who 
represents the older generation and the continued struggle for recov¬ 
ery of the land by the freedom fighters suggest that all hope is not 
lost. Kibera's few characters are effectively developed and symbols 
are used to exemplify the extreme positions taken by Timundu. Kibura 
has attempted a new type of novel in Voices in the Dark by combining 
techniques from the short story, poetry and drama. It is an interest¬ 
ing, but stylistically complex novel. 

Bonnie Lubega, Charles Mangua and Stephen Ngubiah use unusual 
means by which to unify their novels. Outcasts (1971) by Lubega is 
about Karekyezi, a peasant who systematically steals newborn calves 
from the villages because he wants to set his family free. The 
villagers look upon Karekyezi as an uncivilized savage because he 
tends their cattle. When he is dismissed by the villagers, he is 
a totally frustrated, rich outcast. Although scant on plot, the 
storyline is held together with images of dung, urine, and other 
stinking odors. Faintly reminiscent of Armah's The Beautyful Ones 
Are Not Yet Born , Outcasts lacks the control and force of Armah's 
novel. 

Mangua's Son of Woman (1970) portrays the amoral side of life. 
Dodge Kuineju, the son of a whore, seduces a young girl, is sent to 
a mission school, loses several jobs and winds up in prison. Faintly 














61 


reminiscent of Nwankwo's Danda, Dodge enjoys his socially inappropriate 
behavior. Mangua uses obsenities which are part of Dodge's vocabulary 
and lifestyle as the means to integrate subject matter and style. 

Ngubiah's A Curse From God (1971) depicts a man who has broken 
from the Christian church while in the throes of deciding to take a 
second wife. Karuga's first wife violently disagrees with the proposal, 
but loses the battle. The second wife exemplifies the opposite char¬ 
acteristics of the first (who is presented as the epitomy of goodness) 
and causes numerous problems to erupt. Since Ngubiah's purpose is to 
stress that Christianity is superior to African beliefs, most events 
in the novel are linked to a Christian precept. 

Next to Achebe, James Ngugi (or Ngugi wa Thiong'o, his tradi¬ 
tional name by which he prefers to be known), is most widely accepted 
as a writer who has mastered the novelist's art. His writing is far 
different than that of his West African counterparts. Ngugi is 
totally immersed in the struggle for freedom in Kenya and portrays 
the destructive effects that outside dominance has had on the East 
African way of life. 

Weep Not, Child (1964) presents the anguish of family breakup 
during the Kenyan struggle for independence. The novel's events are 
presented through the eyes of Njoroge, the youngest son of Ngotho. 

Ngotho and Mr. Howlands are vying for the same land. Njoroge attends 
school as this is considered the way to gain status. Through his 
schooling and his friendship withMwihaki, the daughter of Jacobo, 
a rich landowner, he becomes aware of the independence movement. As 
strikes begin, Njoroge realizes he is involved in the crisis since 
his family is directly affected. Through a series of incidents part 




V : * h 



of the family is arrested, part imprisoned, part goes into hiding and 
eventually Ngotho confesses to murder to save his son's life. Even¬ 
tually, Njoroge must look after the family, but the responsibility is 
almost too much to bear. 

In Weep Not, Child Ngugi dramatizes the human dilemma of ordinary 
people consumed by the Kenyan struggle for independence. There are no 
heroes, only pain-bearers. His language is simple, direct and empa- 
thetic. 

The River Between was written before Weep Not, Child but pub¬ 
lished in 1965. The clash between two cultures is described through 
the conflict of two tribes who face each other across a river valley. 
One tribe, the Makuya, participates in Christianity, while the Kameno 
tribe rejects the new religion. The mission school refuses to accept 
non-Christians, so the leader of the Kameno, Waiyaki, becomes the 
champion of tradition and attempts to build western schools for 
children in his tribe. Waiyaki, however, becomes involved with the 
deacon's daughter and the clear lines separating the tribes and their 
beliefs become clouded. Confusion develops as a result of lack of 
understanding about what is happening within the societies. 

Ngugi returns to the independence issue with A Grain of Wheat 
(1968). Many characters are introduced and Ngugi shows, through 
various episodes, how their pasts have influenced each other and how 
their present is a facade. The variety of apparently independent 
episodes form a complex frame from which the central theme is devel¬ 
oped. Ngugi shows how tribal distrust exists, how corruption is 
setting in with graft, yet implies that honesty will help the tribe 
free itself. With exceptional warmth and penetration Ngugi reveals 



















a people who are caring and about whom he is deeply concerned. 


Ngugi's recent novel. Petals of Bloo d (1977), extends beyond the 
post-independence issues of A Grain of Wheat , but retains the same 
complex structure of character portrayal. The theme is developed 
through the flashback technique and the actions of Munira, Karega, 
Abdulla and Wanja who, in various ways, are striving to establish a 
new order for their country. The interweaving of various tenets of 
Christianity, Capitalism and Socialism make this novel Ngugi's most 
obvious political statement. Petals of Blood reveals the anger of a 
people who have lost their land, their innocence, and for many, their 
hope. It is a strong denunciation of the Western World. 

Okello Oculi's Prostitute (1968) is a nameless representation of 
all such women. A variety of incidents are presented: relationships 
with clients, attitude toward abortion, attempts to communicate with 
her mother, recollections of a childhood friend. All the scenes lead 
the reader through the squalid life and destiny of the prostitute. 

Grace Ogot's concern for the African woman is revealed in The 
Promised Land (1967) which explores the duties a woman must perform 
for her husband in a married relationship. Nyapol, the central char¬ 
acter, is well developed and saves the story from being an utter 
failure due to a scant plot. Although the portrayal of the passive 
role of women in African society is recurring, the theme is not 
effectively treated by Amadi, Nwapa or Ogot. 

Peter Palangyo, a Tanzanian, writes with the poverty-stricken 
in mind. His strength as a writer seems to lie in his tragic vision. 
Dying in the Sun (1969) is a novel of alienation and loneliness. 
Everyone is either ill or dying in the novel, dying because the 









* 

>< 







64 


people don't belong, dying because they are misfits. The plot centres 
on Ntanya's father, a man whose illness is unclear, but who is plaguing 
everything around him. Eventually he dies and Ntanya meets Teresa in 
a bar where he is attempting to understand his father's death. Life 
begins again and the novel ends on a euphoric note. Palangyo's abrupt 
change of pace breaks the tone and theme of the novel. 

No Bride Price (1967) by David Rubadari focuses on Lombe's love 
for Miria, a village girl, who is pregnant with his child, and the 
consequences of continuing such a relationship for he is a civil 
servant. Eventually Lombe marries Sandra, but encounters Miria sev¬ 
eral times when he goes to his village. Melodrama follows when Lombe 
realized Miria is his half-sister. The intent of this novel is never 
really clear. 

Gabriel Ruhumbika, a Tanzanian, deals with the problem of not 
belonging in Village in Uhuru (1969). The novel dramatizes the move 
away from tradition and the lack of a place in which to feel comfort¬ 
able when that decision is made. Balindi is expelled from teacher's 
college, cannot settle down to farming, so wanders for sometime. 
Eventually he realizes the poverty of his people and dedicates him¬ 
self to developing a better life for them. He is, however, alienated 
from his village and they regard his attempts at improvement as inter¬ 
ference. The pain of transition permeates the novel and Ruhumbiki 
offers no easy solutions. 

Eneriko Seruma presents Miti, a schoolboy who is awakened to 
what racism is about, in Experience (1970). When Miti leaves his 
country he becomes involved with drugs, sex and perversion. After 
deportation and a return home, Miti attempts to sort out the prejudice 





’ ^ 

















he encountered. Prejudice is downplayed in the novel, though, because 
of the emphasis on sexual matters. 

Return to the Shadows (1969) by Robert Serumaga is an account of 
Joe Musizi, a lawyer-economist who appears to have assimilated two 
cultures. He feels it is his responsibility to rid his country of 
coups. Joe is indecisive, though, and cannot follow his plan to any 
successful end. Everytime a coup occurs he leaves town or hides. The 
story deteriorates from this point to its conclusion. Its attempt to 
deal with social ills is reasonable, but the choppy incidents do not 
allow for continuity of theme development. 

Ordeal in the Forest (1968) is Godwin Wachira's attempt to de¬ 
scribe the hardships endured during the Kenyan independence struggle 
by the freedom fighters. It centres on Nundo who learns of the strug¬ 
gle in school, through a club and then as an active participant in 
the conflict. The story is more of a tract than a novel in that it 
does not explore the human condition, but reports events with little 
regard for literary quality. 

The East African writers express intense feelings and pursue 
individual concerns related to and extending from their independence. 
Most of these writers had read Tutuola and Achebe before embarking 
on their own creative efforts, so had rid themselves of the need to 
document traditional practices or to be spokesmen for the group. 
However, in their desire to quickly develop individual concerns and 
styles many East African writers have not shown sufficient concern 
for balance between subject matter and literary technique in their 


novels. 








4 

i 






















South African Novelists 


South African novelists are again different from either West or 
East African writers for they are concerned daily with white domina¬ 
tion. Most of the black South African writers live in exile for they 
are not permitted any freedom of expression in their home country. 
Therefore, the South African writes mainly about race — the problems 
of everyday life where the Black man is undermined by the racial cir¬ 
cumstances in which he finds himself. 

Povey (1974) notes that many South Africans have used autobio¬ 
graphical forms. This is perhaps a means through which to express 
the internal and external torment that black South Africans experience. 
However, self-penetration and scathing political comment are not 
enough to give South African writing recognition in the literary 
arena. Ezekiel Mphahlele (1971) observes, "I'm sick of protest 
creative writing and our South African situation has become a terrible 
cliche as literary material" (199). This eminent South African writer 
and critic's comment is itself an indication of the flavor and quality 
of the novels to be considered. 

Peter Abrahams is the most prolific author in Africa. However, 
Abrahams did not receive recognition when his first novels appeared 
in the mid 1940s, so Amos Tutuola retains the honor of being recog¬ 
nized as the author of the first modern African novel written in 
English, The Palm-Wine Drinkard (1952). Abrahams greatest concerns 
are the social predicaments of black people and the documentation of 
man's cruelty to man. Mine Boy (1946) is the study of a boy, Xuma, 
who comes from the country to town. Xuma is isolated, knowing no 
one in whose society he lives. His work in the mine is frustrating 



















67 


until he gains confidence and the white overseers come to depend on 
him. Xuma grows up in time and recognizes with the aid of Paddy, his 
boss, that he must think in terms of people — not black people and 
white people. 

Song of the City (1945) and Path of Thunder (1948) deal with the 
need to come to terms with the new South Africa. In the first novel 
a boy comes to the city, is drawn into the political world, is arrested 
and returns to the village. Path of Thunder is more concerned with 
attempting to find ways for a new fusion of all people. By maintain¬ 
ing apartness Lanny Swartz, the central character, asserts the gap 
widens and divergent strata are encouraged. Interracial love emerges 
with devastating results. In all his novels Abrahams uses characters 
as mouthpieces to put across his viewpoint. A Night of Their Own 
(1965) describes the uneasy conflict which encompassed the Indian 
liberation movement in South Africa. 

Two of Abrahams' novels are set outside South Africa. This 
Island Now (1966) is about Jamaica and A Wreath For Udomo (1956) 
takes place in Pan Africa where freedom is an expectation. Pan 
Africa symbolizes the unity South Africans within, and in exile from, 
their homeland are working towards. Udoma achieves freedom for his 
people, yet won't let them experience that freedom, so he is de¬ 
stroyed . 

Even a brief survey of some of Abrahams' writing reveals his 
concern for the ordinary man. He expresses his idealism and hope, 
while not pretending to have any answers. His continuing thrust 
has been to reveal the Black South African predicament and document 
men's cruelty to man. 











| ! 






















Alex La Guma, who was forced out of his country, recounts situa¬ 


tions in his novels as if he were a participant not an observer. A 
Walk in the Night (1962) is concerned about the problems of violence, 
crime and the means of retribution. Adonis lives in a decrepit 
tenement. After drinking one night he encounters an old friend and 
accidentally kills him. White policemen shoot another friend thinking 
he is the murderer. No concern is shown as a result of the killing of 
an innocent man. 

And a Threefold Cord (1964) and The Stone Country (1967) reveal 
the suffering of the lonely whether that isolation occurs in a shanty 
town outside Cape Town or in prison. In And a Threefold Cord Charlie 
Pauls, the main character, realizes that people cannot go through 
hardships alone after he suffers when his girl friend is accused of 
being a prostitute and his family experiences numerous difficulties. 
Only through a common togetherness can life be endured. The political 
overtones are obvious. 

The Stone Country shows the inhumanity of prison life. Evidence 
of suffering and frustration appear through graffiti on prison walls. 
Prison life is a microcosm of the larger prison without. Frequently 
the prisoners are seen as nonhumans and the identification card, a 
panacea. Rather hopelessly the reader watches the cruel environment 
annihilate human endeavour. If La Guma has one key weakness, it is 
that he cannot let the reader infer from situations; he must spell 
out with passion his position. 

Andreya Masiye's Before Dawn (1971) picks up a West African 
trait in the documentation of the customs of people who live in a 
village in the Ciparamba Valley during the 1930s and 1940s. Tradi- 















' 











tional customs are portrayed through the life of Kavumba. While 
B efore Dawn may be of documentary interest, there is little concentra¬ 
tion on plot or character. 

Ezekiel Mphahlele is a well-known South African literary critic. 
His only novel The Wanderers (1971) recounts the life of Timi, a man 
who had to flee from South Africa after writing a document unaccept¬ 
able to officials. The anguish this situation produces is evident 
for Timi has no place to call home. 

Dominic Mulaisho, a Zambian, wrote The Tongue of the Dumb (1971) 
in which there is a power conflict in a village setting. Lubinda 
desires to oust Chief Npona, but his schemes fail and he dies. The 
interesting feature of this novel is its attempt to present conflict 
within the group. 

Within South African novels concern about the plight of the black 
South African living under the domination of the white overseer is 
evident. However, the novelists are so aware of the situation, they 
have difficulty removing themselves from the situation presented so 
the reader can infer for himself. This practice of telling rather 
than showing is unfortunate for it lessens the literary impact, but 
in view of the existing conditions in South Africa, the practice is 
understandable. 

Differences are thus visible among the novels of East, West and 
South Africa. Each area's writers concern themselves with the issues 
pertinent and pressing for their society. One thing which emerges 
very clearly is that for the most part, African novelists are all 
spokesmen, spokesmen for tribe, group and race. 





H 










Trends in African Novels Written in English 

Definite trends emerge in an overview of African novels written 
in English. Initially, African novels written in English reflected 
aspects of oral folk tales. The pattern of early novels which is 
borrowed from the design of oral literature — the quest or journey: 
departure, initiation and the return, is reflected in The Palm-Wine 
Drinkard , Things Fall Apart , Arrow of God , Jagua Nana and The Voice . 
Walsh (1973) substantiates this position. "West African literature 
in English should not be seen as lacking a history but as a natural 
result of a rich native inheritance in conjunction with an imported 
literary tradition" (38). Tutuola, Achebe and Nzekwu further link 
themselves with oral literature through their portrayal of characters 
who reflect the oral literature sterotype. The family is considered 
a controlling unit with father honored and feared, and mother revered. 
The hierarchical positions of tribal organization are recognized. 

The priest is to be respected as the voice of wisdom and the Council 
of Elders to be obeyed. Tucker (1967), Golub (1975), Taiwo (1967), 
Beier (1967), and Larson (1972) agree the initial focus of develop¬ 
ment in African novels is 

tribal African society, the way of life un¬ 
touched by European hands. Novels in this 
category do not glorify, but show respect 
for the ordered way of life that has past. . . . 

A literary salute to Africa's achievement 
before European influence. (Tucker, 1967, 67) 

The following stage identified is that of preliminary contact 

with Europeans. Larson (1972) calls it "a direct confrontation with 

Western education and urbanization" (279); Tucker (1967) views it as 

"'Pure 1 Africa at its point of contact with European custom where 
















. 





































the weakening of African culture and tribal way of life is the central 
issue" (67) and Taiwo (1967) considers this the anthropological period. 
Writers are focusing on the disruptive effect of Western culture on 
African social, political and religious tradition. Things Fall Apart , 
Arrow of God , Jingala , and Obi centre on these issues. 

Later stages of writing portray life at the point of independence 
and after. Weep Not, Child , Man of the People , A Grain of Wheat , 

Chief, the Honorable Minister and The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born 
are representative of this era. Issues in these novels centre on the 
increasing problems of political and economic stability. They attempt 
to implant a harsh warning in the minds of their readers concerning 
the potential for defeat in their countries by their own people. They 
cry out against the adoption of the residue of British occupation — 
that of greed, corruption, bureaucratic ineptitude, lack of strong 
family ties or sense of purpose. Satire is often the vehicle used 
in this and the following stages of writing. 

Eventually, increasing concern is observed in the novels for the 
individual —where and how he fits into these altering societies. 

There is an attempt to cope with ways to combine the technical know¬ 
ledge provided by Europeans with the spirit of humanity and love that 
emerges from traditional sources. Panda , No Longer at Ease , The Gab 
Boys , A Woman in Her Prime , Second Round , Toads For Supper , A Son of 
Kabira , and And a Threefold Cord reveal beginning attempts to explore 
these issues. 

The African writer has, indeed, been the 
historian of his continents' increasingly 
widened outlook on life, moving from a 
limited, virtually closed-off societal 
view of the village and the clan to an 













































ever-widening world view. (Larson, 

1972, 280) 

African novelists have compressed into less than two generations 
what the Western novel took several hundred years to develop. Tucker 
(1967) and Larson (1972) conclude that it is this level of achievement 
by African writers that has focused world attention on African, par¬ 
ticularly Nigerian, literature. The trend to diversity in themes 
and methods of presentation and the ability to continually startle, 
to constantly remain fresh and alive are characteristics that most 
typically identify African fiction. Not all novelists or novels ex¬ 
emplify the identified stages of development nor a high level of 
achievement. However, the very fact that some have moved from the 
situational to individual concerns, from the traditional to modern 
issues, from adherence to oral language tradition to language experi¬ 
mentation, from explicit to implicit resolutions in their portrayal 
of the human dilemma, demands our attention. 

Selection of Novels For High School Use 

Most of the novels outlined contain interesting thematic presen¬ 
tations or unusual approaches through which to unify the situations 
depicted. However, several novels stand out as representative of 
the African literary trend which they exemplify and of the issues 
that are prevalent in the area from which they come. These considera¬ 
tions, together with a recognizable attempt on the part .of the 
novelist to balance the design and execution of the novel with the 
subject matter, constitute the basis for the selection of novels 
that may profitably be used for literary study in high school 

English classes. 


i 













73 


No study of African novels written in English would be reasonable 
without the inclusion of the works of Chinua Achebe. Achebe has 
gained world-wide recognition for his portrayal of characters strug¬ 
gling to make sense of the changes in the African society in which the 
character participates. Okonkwo in Things Fall Apart , Obi in No 
Longer at Ease , Ezeulu in Arrow of God and Odili in Man of the People 
show Achebe's conscientious attempt to reveal the plight of the indi¬ 
vidual in a world characterized by uncertainty, pain and violence. 

All four novels are political and social in nature. If Things Fall 
Apart and Arrow of God are grouped together they describe the encoun¬ 
ters of the traditional Ibo way of life (the rural setting) with the 
colonizers: the church, the government and trade. The remaining two. 
No Longer at Ease and Man of the People portray and reflect upon the 
after effects of these conflicts in the modern state (the urban situa¬ 
tion). Achebe's contribution to the development of the African novel 
cannot be denied. 

His characters have that vital relationship 
with their social and economic landscape. 

We can see and feel how his characters, their 
whole view, their aspirations, have been 
shaped by a particular environment, in a par¬ 
ticular historical phase. ... By so doing, 

Achebe has succeeded in giving human dignity 
to his African characters. (Ngugi, 1971, 7) 

Two novelists who exemplify the careful blending of components 
from oral literature with those of written literature, of mythical 
concepts with modern concerns are Amos Tutuola and Gabriel Okara. 
Tutuola, in The Palm-Wine Drinkard , retains the flavor of tradition 
as much as possible, while Okara's The Voice is a piece of experimen¬ 


tal prose which draws its disturbing aura from many sources. Both 



















* 





























journeys are also in tune with universal themes depicted by other 
novelists. 

One feature which links the other novels selected for high school 
study is the centrality of a figure who is in the throes of preparing 
for the responsibilities of adult living. Each novel is developed in 
a different manner and with a different purpose. Ngugi wa Thiong'o's 
portrayal of a boy's struggle to become educated while his family 
becomes further embroiled in the land struggle during the years of the 
Mau Mau in Weep Not, Child is a stark presentation of the crushing of 
the innocent and ordinary citizen. 

Kayira's Jingala centres on the struggle between the traditional 
and the modern, between father and son, and between the value of educa¬ 
tion and the value of traditional status. However, the lighter treat¬ 
ment of issues and humorous character portrayal offer an engaging 
introduction to African writing. 

Satire and comedy are major techniques in the final two novels 
selected for possible use in high schools. Ike's Toads For Supper 
and Nwankwo's Panda depict young men, one a university student and 
the other an entertaining loafer, trying to find an appropriate 
place for themselves in a changing society. The ten novels selected 
all blend subject matter and literary technique with some effective¬ 
ness. They are also representative of the trends and themes found 
in African novels written in English. 

Two novels that have not been selected, but which have definite 
literary merit, are Ngugi's A Grain of Wheat and Armah's The Beautyful 
Ones Are Not Yet Born. The complex plot structure and interwoven 


aspects of the characters' lives make A Grain of Wheat too difficult 














75 


for the high school reader unfamiliar with African literature and 
the tribal way of life. The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born is also 
recognized as being both powerful in its thematic intent and in the 
controlled use of language to emphasize the theme. However, the 
constant references to excrement and bodily functions (a deliberately 
sustained image) make the novel unacceptable for general class study 
at the high school level. 

The choice, then, of African novels written in English to receive 
analytical attention in Chapter Four is as follows: Achebe's Things 
Fall Apart , No Longer at Ease , Arrow of God , A Man of the People , 
Ngugi's Weep Not, Child , Tutuola's The Palm-Wine Drinkard , Okara's 
The Voice , Nwankwo's Panda , Ike's Toads For Supper and Kayira's 
Jingala . 














4 



















CHAPTER IV 


ANALYSIS OF SELECTED NOVELS 


Through books, the reader may explore his 
own nature, become aware of potentialities 
for thought and feeling within himself, 
acquire clearer perspectives, develop aims 
and a sense of direction. He may explore 
the outer world, other personalities, other 
ways of life. Liberated from the insularity 
of time and space, he may range through the 
wide gamut of social and temperamental alter¬ 
natives that men have created or imagined. 

(Rosenblatt, 1968, x-xi) 

The numerous explorations possible through literature have been 
enumerated by Rosenblatt. Readers, whatever their purpose in picking 
up a book, have ample opportunity to find something which satisfies 
or challenges them. Within the African novels written in English 
selected for high school study these avenues of exploration await 
both teacher and student. 

Killam (1973-74) focuses this exploration for the teacher by 

discussing the function of the writer and teacher in facilitating 

student growth towards new or deeper understandings to be gained from 

their study of literature. 

Literature can make a contribution to the 
human factor in social development and this 
involves two notions of the function of the 
writer and teacher, a relationship which is 
mutually supporting. The first is the edu¬ 
cative role in which each is involved. The 
second role is perhaps the more important. 

The writer (and ideally and by implication 
the teacher through his discussion of the 
writer's work) is especially equipped to know 
in a sensitive way what is prominent in the 
minds, what are the most pressing concerns of 
the people of and for whom he writes. He 
takes as his responsibility the synthesizing 


76 




r 















77 


of these values and interprets them both 
to students and to a general readership. 

( 686 ) 

Discussion of each of the selected novels focuses on textual, 
technical and critical information. Textual analysis shows the 
theme's development through the novel, reinforces its portrayal of 
African issues and elaborates on the trend which the novel exemplifies. 
Evidence which highlights the blending of design and execution with 
subject matter is also presented. Teachers, thus, have the oppor¬ 
tunity to consider the needs of their students together with some of 
the possible insights to be gained from the study of an African novel 
written in English. Such comparisons permit teachers to ascertain 
each novel's potential for use with their students. 

Chinua Achebe: Things Fall Apart , Arrow of God , No Longer at Ease , 
and A Man of theHPeople 

Chinua Achebe's four novels Things Fall Apart , No Longer at Ease , 
Arrow of God and A Man of the People reveal conscientious attempts 
to portray Nigeria how it was, how it changed and where it is heading. 
Although the legacy of colonial rule is a central core of each novel, 
it is the plight of the individual in a world characterized by un¬ 
certainty, pain and violence that grips the reader as the individuals 
respond to the circumstances in which they find themselves. While 
the reader contemplates Achebe's characters who are grappling with 
changes within and without, Achebe's (1964) view of values should be 
kept in mind. 

I believe that the writer should be con¬ 
cerned with the question of human values. 

One of the most distressing ills which 
afflict new nations is a confusion of 










L 


























78 


values. We sometimes make the mistake 
of talking about values as though they 
were fixed and eternal .... Of course 
values are relative and in a constant 
state of flux. (10) 

Achebe's consistency of vision allows for the development of 
parallel concerns within his novels. Considered as a whole the novels 
give an artist's interpretation of the history of his people. They 
show the movement from late last century ( Things Fall Apart ) through 
the 1920s ( Arrow of God ) and the 1950s ( No Longer at Ease ) to 1966 
( A Man of the People ). Further movement is seen from country to town, 
but the country and traditional society continue to dominate events 
and individuals. 

Walsh (1970), in commenting on the achievements of Achebe, iden¬ 
tified a characteristic pattern among Achebe's novels. Each novel has 
a vivid central figure, a setting that is clearly defined and densely 
occupied, a background from which the confused mutter of social and 

historic complexities are heard, and a narrative method that is plain 
and direct while reflecting the commonplace (55). Presumably this 
four-fold pattern allows African people to see clearly the strength 
of their past and the confusions that have followed encounters with 
the colonizers in a simple, yet engaging way. Roscoe (1971) supports 
Walsh's view of Achebe's framework when he says that Achebe's audi¬ 
ence must be taught by lessons that have a strong central line and 
little sidetracking; a narrative with one central figure and few 

degressions; a species of language that is clear and familiar, 
which stirs the emotions and drops anchor in the memory (123). This 
literary framework provides a useful means through which to present 
each novel, to identify if the pattern exists throughout Achebe's 












79 


works, and to consider its effectiveness for the purpose he has for 
his novels. 

Things Fall Apart centres on Okonkwo, a sullen, ambitious and 

physically overpowering leader who has a fatal flaw — fear. 

But his whole life was dominated by fear, 
the fear of failure and of weakness. . . 

Okonkwo's fear was greater than these. 

It was the fear of himself, lest he should 
be found to resemble his father. (12-13) 

This fear dominates all his actions. It explains the restlessness, 

overabundance of nervous energy, vile temper, fierce emotionalism 

and a predisposition to violence. 

Okonkwo never showed any emotion openly, 
unless it be the emotion of anger. To 
show affection was a sign of weakness, 
the only thing worth demonstrating was 
strength. . . . 

When he walked, his heels hardly 
touched the ground and he seemed to 
walk on springs, as if he was going to 
pounce on somebody, and he did pounce 
on people quite often. He had a slight 
stammer and whenever he was angry and 
could not get his words out quickly enough, 
he would use his fists. He had no patience 
with unsuccessful men. (3-4) 

Okonkwo rules his household with a heavy hand, bullying his 
wives, intimidating his sons, and ill-treating Ikemefuna, the young 
boy from a neighboring tribe who lived with Okonkwo's family. Since 
anger is the only emotion he will show, Okonkwo becomes a cold de¬ 
humanized person, always itching for activity and work as an outlet 
for his restless energy. This predisposition to violence causes him 
to beat his wife during the Week of Peace, deliberately share in the 
killing of Ikemefuna, and accidentally kill Ezeudu's son. This final 
act reduces Okonkwo from an exalted leader to a nonentity who is 











* 




80 


banished. 

Okonkwo's rigidity is partially a product of the society in which 
he lives. This society respects age, but reveres achievement. Hence 
Okonkwo's desire to produce the largest crop of yams, be the best 
wrestler, have a large number of wives and acquire as many titles as 
possible is understandable. Another influence on Okonkwo's life is 
his father, Unoka, who was nothing, had nothing and wanted nothing. 
This caused Okonkwo shame, so he would have no part of idleness and 
worked relentlessly to amass respect. He did not see what was going 
on around him if it differed from the stance he supported. 

Okonkwo's grandson. Obi Okonkwo, is portrayed in No Longer at 
Ease . Obi is an appealing, if limited, modern creation, a blend of 
self-confidence and self-ignorance, of sophistication in taste and 
moral simplicity. Initially, he has the highest principles and 
states these bluntly whenever the opportunity arises. 

"The Civil Service is corrupt because 
of these so-called experienced men at the 
top," said Obi. 

"You don't believe in experience? You 
think that a chap straight from the university 
should be made a permanent secretary?" 

"I didn't say Afri&lghX from the university, 
but even that would be better than filling our 
top posts with old men who have no intellectual 
foundations to support their experience." (20) 

He is genuinely against bribery, corruption, incompetence, and 
nepotism. 


To most of them bribery is no problem. 
They come straight to the top without bribing 
anyone. It's not that they're necessarily 
better than others, it's simply that they 
can afford to be virtuous. But even that kind 
of virtue can become a habit. (21) 




























Obi learns quickly that his ideas are much too theoretical. He 
must cope with what he has, where he is. He is caught up in a situa¬ 
tion which demands that an individual create order out of the flux of 
values in the world in which he lives. This demands exceptionally 
moral and intellectual initiative. Obi has the intellectual insight, 
but he is lacking in moral strength. 

His weakness of character is reflected in his inept handling of 
his human relationships and of his material problems; he is an indi¬ 
vidual with no sense of order. Perhaps this is too strong an indict¬ 
ment, but Obi gives the impression of never being really prepared to 
engage in any sort of sustained effort, with the result that he 
flounders through all he does. This is most easily viewed in the 
disagreement with his family over Clara, an osu, as his choice for a 
wife. This incident should cause him to take a firm stand against 
the old order which condemned any relationship with the family desig¬ 
nated to serve the gods, but Obi offers nothing. He becomes resentful, 
angry, and for a minute even glimpses his own indecisiveness. "His 
mind was troubled not only by what had happened, but by the discovery 
that there was nothing in him with which to challenge it honestly" 
(137). 

Obi knows he is right, but he is unable to stand up for it. He 
is ripe then for the groping fingers of corruption to grasp him. 

Achebe makes it clear Obi is a man torn between two sets of values — 
those gained through his Western education and those of his home, 
Umuofia. 

A direct contrast is presented in Arrow of God . Ezeulu, the 
chief priest of Ulu, is an impressive and noble man who has the 








capacity of understanding. He lives after the time of Okonkwo and 
before Obi, when the colonizers are pressing indirect rule. Ezeulu, 
in his position of authority, grapples with the traditional and modern 
influences. He sends his son, Odouche, to school. 

I want one of my sons to join these 
people and be my eyes there. If there is 
nothing in it you will come back. But, if 
there is something there you will bring 
home my share. The world is like a mask 
dancing. If you want to see it well you do 
not stand in one place. My spirit tells me 
that those who do not befriend the white man 
today will be saying had we. known tomorrow. 

(55) 

Ezeulu is a homey man. He is seen seated among his family, 
friends and clan, a part of all that is traditional, yet above it 
because of his priestly vocation. During one minute he is shouting 
to two quarrelling wives to be quiet as they prepare bitterleaf tea; 
the next minute he is engaged in an impressively solemn rite in hon¬ 
our of the god, Ulu. On another occasion he is cruel because he 
halts the yam harvest for two months bringing famine to his village, 
Umuaro, and his own family. Yet, his authority is unchallenged in 
the village. 

Ezeulu thinks about why things happen. He is a priest and his 
office requires a clear understanding of events, so he goes to the 
roots of situations and appears ready to accept change intellectually. 
He sees the value of change. When the colonial government decides 
in favour of Okperi's land claim against Umuaro, Ezeulu-sides with 
the government against his village because he thinks this is right. 

In another situation he willingly stays in jail while waiting to see 
Winterbottom although his village feels this is demeaning for their 


























high priest. But Ezeulu wants to see what is going on and attempts 
to understand it. Thus, he is ready to come to terms with change, to 
a point. Loss of dignity Ezeulu cannot accept; he is very proud. 

When his son, Obiki, dies, Ezeulu cannot cope and breaks down. The 
people of the area see this as an unmistakable portent: Ulu, their 
god, has turned against his chosen priest. The villagers abandon 
Ezeulu and Ulu and offer yams to the Christian church. Ezeulu is 
distraught. 

At any other time Ezeulu would have 
been more than equal to any grief not com¬ 
pounded with humiliation. What, he asked 
himself again and again, why had Ulu chosen 
to deal thus with him, to strike him down 
and cover him with mud? (286-7) 

Perhaps this act was merciful, for it allowed Ezeulu to live his 
last days in isolated splendor as a demented priest unaware of the 
final outcome — that no man, however great, is greater than his 
people. Ezeulu's god, Ulu, is defeated, too, for the villagers of 
Umuaro continue to follow Christianity after the year of the unneces¬ 
sary famine. 

In Achebe's latest novel A Man of the People he moves to the 
time of independence when Nigerians are learning what it means to 
rule their own country. Two characters. Chief Nanga, the Minister of 
Culture, and Odili, a young school teacher, are pitted against each 
other, but it is Odili who stands out as the central character. 

Events are seen through his eyes as the narrator. Odili condemns 
corrupt society while becoming involved in what he rejects. Odili 
begins, as did Obi, having a theoretical view of public morality 
derived from his European type of education and he is thoroughly 



































84 


disillusioned with the political affairs of his own country. He 
condemns corruption and remains aloof. Odili's position is clearly 
seen during the minister's visit to Anata Grammar School where Odili 
teaches. 


As I stood in one corner of that vast 
tumult waiting for the arrival of the Minis¬ 
ter I felt intense bitterness welling up in 
my mouth. Here were silly, ignorant villagers 
dancing themselves lame and waiting to blow 
off their gun powder in honour of one of those 
who had started the country off down the slopes 
of inflation. I wished for a miracle, for a 
voice of thunder, to hush this ridiculous 
festival and tell the poor contemptible people 
one or two truths. But of course it would be 
quite useless. They were not only ignorant 
but cynical. Tell them that this man has used 
his position to enrich himself and they would 
ask you — as my father did — if you thought 
that a sensible man would spit out the juicy 
morsel that good fortune placed in his mouth. 

( 2 ) 

Odili further shows himself to be unemotional, highly-principled, 
and alienated. 

For a person like me who simply couldn't stoop 
to lick any Big Man's boots it created a big 
problem. In fact one reason why I took this 
teaching job in a bush, private school instead 
of a smart civil service job in the city with 
car, free housing, etc. was to give myself a 
certain amount of autonomy. (17) 

He also reveals his ego-centricity and selfishness in his 

with his girl friend, Elsie. She is his proudest trophy, 

gest boost to his self-esteem and he does not hesitate to 

with his involvements with her. There is no understanding about any 

private nature to their relationship. 

Despite Odili's criticisms of politics and politicians he 
accepts Nanga's invitation to spend a few days in the minister's 


relations 
the big- 
regale all 




' • 





household. 


Sitting at Chief Nanga's feet I received 
enlightenment; many things begin to crys¬ 
tal ize out of the mist — some of the 
emergent forms were not nearly as ugly as 
I had suspected but many seemed much worse. 

(39) 

Odili has begun to fall under the influence of Nanga's charisma and 
his clear-cut views become blurred. He tries to explain to himself 
the temptations of the men in power. 

A man who has just come in from the 
rain and dried his body and put on dry 
clothes is more reluctant to go out again 
than another who has been indoors all the 
time. The trouble with our new nation — 
as I saw it then lying on that bed — was 
that none of us had been indoors long enough 
to be able to say 'To hell with it'. We 
had all been in the rain together until 
yesterday. Then a handful of us — the 
smart and the lucky and hardly ever the 
best — had scrambled for the one shelter 
our former rulers left, and had taken it 
over and barricaded themselves in. (37) 

Odili's growing sympathy for Nanga and uncertainty about his own 
loyalties end abruptly when he takes Elsie to stay at Nanga's house 
only to have Nanga move in and usurp Odili's position with her. This 
blow to Odili's pride forces him to become detached and causes him 
later to act in revenge by taking Nanga's 'parlour-wife', Edna, and 
to contest Nanga's seat in government, acts that involve him in what 
he says he deplores. 

He gets fired by his headmaster, abused by Mrs. Nanga and intimi¬ 
dated by Nanga's supporters. He has trouble keeping his image 
untarnished. After he is beaten and hospitalized, Odili ends his 
attempt to enforce his ideals in society. 

Characters as vivid as Okonkwo, Obi, Ezeulu and Odili must be 




































86 


presented in settings and with backgrounds that reveal some of the 
causes of their behaviors since all people are influenced by their 
surroundings and the background of the times in which they live. 
Okonkwo and Ezeulu live in the rural areas of Umuofia and Umuaro 
following a traditional way of life. In Okonkwo's area the clan 
hierarchy and rules are all important. Stability is considered para¬ 
mount and people who try to achieve respect through goods and physical 
stature like Okonkwo are lauded. 

During the seven years Okonkwo is banished the missionaries come 
and begin to exert an influence. This potent outside force causes 
turmoil within Umuofian society. When the missionaries live in the 
Evil Forest, a place that is taboo to the villagers, and are not 
destroyed by the village spirits, the villagers realize some type of 
compromise may have to be sought for peaceful co-existence. They 
become watchful and cautious in their dealings with these outsiders. 
Okonkwo only knows that his son, Nwoye, has joined this outside group, 
but he is not prepared for the change in attitude his clan has devel¬ 
oped. Thus, he is the only rigid individual solidly in support of 
strict traditional life when he returns. Obierika's anguish over the 
limits to which his friend, Okonkwo, has been pushed is very clearly 
understood after Okonkwo commits suicide. 

Obierika, who had been gazing steadily 
at his friend's dangling body, turned suddenly 
to the District Commissioner and said fero¬ 
ciously, "that man was one of the greatest 
men in Umuofia. You drove him to kill himself, 
and now he will be buried like a dog. . ." 

He could not say more. His voice trembled 
and choked his words. (187) 

Obierika further indicates that Umuofian society has suffered as 


' 





























87 


much as Okonkwo. 

The whiteman is very clever. He 
came quietly and peaceably with his reli¬ 
gion. We were amused at his foolishness 
and allowed him to stay. Now he has won 
our brothers, and our clan can no longer 
act like one. He has put a knife on the 
things that held us together and we have 
fallen apart. (160) 

Ezeulu, too, is a product of traditional society, but traditional 
with a difference. For Ezeulu the white colonizers have always been 
there, just over the hill exerting indirect influence from a neighbor¬ 
ing district. Umuaro, where Ezeulu rules as high priest, is a coalition 
of six villages who work and otherwise interact together. Since the 
colonial administration arrived it allowed the Umuaro's society to 
function as it always had, intruding only in small ways such as offer¬ 
ing items for sale that were not available previously. During the 
time of Arrow of God the administration became concerned with finding 
a man to be Paramount Chief of several districts. Winterbottom, the 
District Officer, wants to consider Ezeulu whom he remembers from the 
land issue, but both Ezeulu and Winterbottom misunderstand and mis¬ 
interpret each other's actions. Winterbottom sees Ezeulu as an 
impressive-looking fetish priest who performs rites of darkness and 
not as a man of intelligence and understanding. Ezeulu, on the other 
hand, is willing to interact with the foreigners and consider their 
offerings if it is to his advantage, while still powerfully manipu¬ 
lating his own people at will. Ezeulu's attempts at compromise, 
sending Oduche to school and agreeing with the government's settle¬ 
ment of land in Okperi's favour, backfire for Oduche aligns himself 
with the mission and tries to kill his father's sacred python while 



: h 

















88 


the people of Umuaro do not understand Ezeulu's support of the enemy. 
This misinterpretation of events and authority figures causes friction 
between the two factions and Ezeulu is caught in the middle. Thus, 
when his son, Obika, dies while performing a ritual dance Ezeulu 
collapses and the village turns to the colonizers. 

A transition from the rural to the urban setting occurs in No 
Longer at Ease and A Man of the People . Both are set primarily in 
Lagos and centre on people involved in government circles and those 
associated with them. No Longer at Ease is set before independence 
but after the colonizers have been in Nigeria for a considerable 
time. A Man of the People deals with the situation of Nigerians 
ruling themselves after independence. 

In the former setting. Obi has to function in an unsettled 
and uneasy atmosphere where money has brought together people 
desiring selfish materialistic gain and high stature rather than a 
better life for the people or country as a whole. This is contrasted 
with the traditional society that still has its roots, though weak¬ 
ening, in the villages. Since Obi has a "European post" with a good 
salary, fine clothes, an apartment, and a car, demands for money are 
made on him by his aging father, dying mother, a brother who wants 
to go to high school, and the Umuofia Progressive Union. Certainly 
his riches will not cover all these demands and allow him to live as 
well as he is expected to. Most people in Lagos in these positions 
cope through accepting bribes, a practice Obi initially is against. 

Contemporary and traditional views come into conflict over Obi's 
relationship with Clara, his girl friend. Even some of his educated 
friends, like Christopher and Joseph, are appalled at his association 












* 







89 


with an osu, a person who was an outcast in traditional society, as 
is the Umuofia Progressive Union and his family. Thus Obi's predica¬ 
ment has developed as a result of external influences — residual 
values of the past and a naivety about the value and power of money. 
So Obi succumbs to corruption because of his confused state in an 
inconsistent system — one which has not succeeded in keeping its 
connections with the past straight and its route forward open. 

After the era of the colonizers, Nigerians take over managing 
their own affairs. Achebe points out in A Man of the People just how 
far the corruption and bribery only glimpsed in No Longer at Ease 
has gone. He now portrays a situation where power is all important 
no matter how it is attained and maintained. The story of Chiefs 
Nanga and Koko, as seen through the eyes of the initially uninvolved 
Odili, is one of political intrigue, large scale bribery, public 
apostasy and of self-interest masquerading as integrity (Ravenscroft, 
1973, 187). Odili comments after his own involvement, "you died a 
good death if your life had inspired someone to come toward and 
shoot your murderer in the chest — without asking to be paid" (167). 
This is quite a contrast to the peaceful coexistence in the tradi- . 
tional life of the early part of Things Fall Apart . Through Odili's 
examination of and involvement in various questionable situations 
A Man of the People portrays the predicament modern Nigeria faces. 
Odili struggles 9 as far as he is able, to act up to the ideals he 
proposes, but despite his intentions he is betrayed time and time 
again into self-deception and hypocrisy. The double standard under 
which he operates is obvious when he judges his own actions and 


those of others. 






















90 


Achebe's characters, settings and backgrounds are well established, 
yet these are inadequate to convey his message unless the language used 
is one that his people can both identify and understand. In his first 
three novels Achebe uses an omniscient narrator to present his message. 
In No Longer at Ease at Obi's return Achebe narrates: 

He spoke about the wonderful welcome 
they had given him on his return. If a man 
returns from a long journey and no one says 
'nno' to him he feels like one who has not 
arrived. He tried to improvise a joke about 
beer and palm-wine but it did not come off, 
and he hurried to the next point. He thanked 
them for the sacrifices they had made to send 
him to England. He would try his best to 
justify their confidence. The speech which 
had started off one hundred per cent in Ibo 
was now fifty-fifty. But his audience seemed 
highly impressed. (81) 

With such narration the language is kept simple and direct. 
Frequently proverbs, which are a natural expression of the people's 
thoughts, are used to clarify actions or behaviors. In Things Fall 
Apart Achebe uses proverbs as vivid analogies. "An old woman is 
always uneasy when dry bones are mentioned in a proverb" (19) empha¬ 
sizes Okonkwo's discomfort at the mention of anything related to his 
father, Unoka. The proverb is used because it allows a speaker to 
make his point tactfully and concisely. This aspect of Achebe's 
prose gives it a poetic quality. 

Proverbs play an equally important part in No Longer at Ease 

and Arrow of God . When Obi is leaving to study in England he is 

admonished by his community. 

We are sending you to learn book. Enjoyment 
can wait. Do not be in a hurry to rush into 
the pleasures of the world like the young 
antelope who danced herself lame when the 
main dance was yet to come. (10) 































































91 


Later, when Obi is caught and sentenced for bribery, a Umuofia 
Progressive Union member comments 

The President said it was a thing of 
shame for a man in the senior service to 
go to prison for twenty pounds. He repeated 
twenty pounds, spitting it out. I am against 
people reaping where they have not sown. But 
we have a saying that if you want to eat a 
toad you should look for a fat and juicy one. 

( 6 ) 

In Arrow of God the best use of proverbs is seen when Ezeulu 
agonizes over his son's death. 

When was it ever heard that a child was 
scalded by the piece of yam its own mother 
put into its palm? What man would send his 
son with a potsherd to bring fire from a 
neighbourer 1 s hut and then unleash rain? 

Whoever sent his son up the palm to gather 
nuts and then took an axe and felled the 
tree? ... If the rat cannot flee fast 
enough let him make way for the tortiose! 

( 229 ) 

With the exception of the proverbs that are interwoven through 
the prose, Achebe normally uses idiomatic English. He departs from 
this standard only for Ibo statements that would look odd in standard 
English. Achebe could not be expected to translate the egwugwu's 
words 'Uzowulu's body, I salute you' into something like 'Good after¬ 
noon, Uzowulu' for this would leave out the traditionally strong 
relationship between Uzowulu and the ancestral spirit. Similarly, 
when Ekwefi, one of Okonkwo's wives, replies to a question about 
Okonkwo's attempt to murder her, says, 'I cannot yet find a mouth 
with which to tell the story', her sense of horror is transferred 
more forcefully than with something like, 'I cannot find words to 


describe it.' 



* 


I 

























92 


A Man of the People is something of a departure from the omniscient 
narrator who intervenes, explains and to some extent directs, to a 
story told through the eyes of Odili. Odili tells the story of the 
rotten state of society through his own involvement in it, as if half 
aware of his plight and the plight of society. Odili, also, has to 
use a wide range of language for he must present what he hears, unlike 
the reporter narrator of the earlier novels who can take the oppor¬ 
tunity to comment. Odili comes into contact with a whole range of 
speech from literary European English to untranslated Ibo phrase. 

This range of language use is outlined when Odili tries to get a close 
picture of the Nanga household. 

A small thing, but it struck me even 
as early as this: Mr. Nanga always spoke 
English or pidgin; his children, whom I 
discovered went to expensive private schools 
run by European ladies spoke impeccable 
English, but Mrs. Nanga stuck to our lan¬ 
guage —with the odd English word thrown 
in now and again. (32) 

Since Odili tells the story from within, he has to be prepared for 
language shifts. When Chief Nanga speaks to Odili he says 

If you come as soon as you close, you 
can stay in my guestroom with everything 
complete — bedroom, parlour, bathroom, 
latrine, everything — self-contained. 

You can live by yourself and do anything 
you like there; it's all yours. (18) 

but when Chief Nanga speaks to a cook in Odili's presence a shift 

occurs. 


"Wetin you fit cook?" asked Chief 
Nanga as he perused the young man's sheaf 
of testimonials, probably not one of them 
genuine. 

"I fit cook every European chop like 
steak and kidney pie, chicken puri, misk 
grill, cake omelette. . . 




. 

n 













93 


"You no sabi cook African chop?" 

"Ahn that one I no sabi am-o." (46) 

Thus, Odili's descriptions and recording of events gives quite a dif¬ 
ferent picture of contemporary Nigerian society than did Achebe's 
earlier representations. 

Achebe sets out to instruct. He has shown the values and beauty 
of traditional life. Achebe has also exposed and attacked injustice. 
He has shown how the changes affected individuals and societies; he 
has shown how the current predicament in Nigeria stems from his own 
people committing the same mistakes and desiring the same goods and 
status as the colonizers. 

In all four novels, however, Achebe gives no answers. He pre¬ 
sents situations where characters become embroiled in the turmoil 
that is raging around them. His characters either have a rigid or 
a fluid set of values, neither capable of harnessing the confused 
environment in which the characters must function. Achebe refrains 
from solving the dilemmas, implying that these two forces — the old 
and the new —will continue to exert a pull on his people and they 
will need all their individual resources to come through with a 
balanced order of traditional and contemporary in which all can 
function peacefully. 

Achebe (1972) in commenting on his country and his work, is 
realistic. 


Unfortunately when two cultures meet, some 
of the worst elements of the old are retained 
and some of the worst of the new are added on 
to them. So if it were for me to order society 
I would be very unhappy about the way things 
have turned out. But again, I see this as the 
way life is. Every society has to grow up, 
every society has to learn its own lesson, so 








































I don't despair. A Man of the People is 
a rather serious indictment — if you 
like — of post independence Africa. But 
I don't give up because I think it is a 
necessary stage in our growth. (13) 

Abiola Irele (1967) reveals succinctly the relevance and effec¬ 
tiveness of Achebe's writing. 

... a novelist deals not only with 
situations but also, and above all, with 
individuals. And it is precisely the cycle 
created by the responses of men to the 
pressure of events, their evolutions at 
significant levels of feeling and thought, 
that makes the real world of the novel. 

The importance of Chinua Achebe's novels 
derive not simply from his theme, but from 
his complete presentation of men in action 
in living reaction to their fate, as well 
as from his own perception that underlies 
his imaginative world and confers upon it 
relevance and truth. (167) 

Achebe's novels offer a vision of life, which is essentially 
tragic, compounded by success and failure, embued with an awareness 
of human suffering and with the human capacity to endure. Achebe 
has fulfilled his purpose to instruct, to portray a credible world, 
and through it all the spirit of man and the belief in the strength 
of his people endures. 


Amos Tutuola: The Palm-Wine Drinkard and Gabriel Okara: The Voice 
Although Chinua Achebe, Amos Tutuola and Gabriel Okara are of 
the same generation and share recognition as early African novelists 
writing in English who have made a significant contribution to the 
literary world, their novels reveal different purposes, designs and 
manners of execution. Achebe has presented, through a sociological 
base, his belief in the importance of tradition and tribal norms. 







I , ll 

Mlj 3 















Tutuola, for the most part, puts social and political issues aside to 
delve into the world of superstition, the supernatural and its rela¬ 
tionship and relevance to the everyday world of man. Okara focuses 
on the inner man and his search to find meaning in life while harassed 
by members of society who do not want the status quo to alter. 

Tutuola and Okara use the quest superstructure for their novels, 
The Palm-Wine Drinkard and The Voice . This foundation together with 
identification of similarities and differences in the authors' design 
and execution of the quests undertaken by the Drinkard and Okolo 
furnish the basis for comparative analysis. 

Taiwo (1976), Awooner (1975), Moore (1967), Laurence (1968), 
Roscoe (1971) and Palmer (1972) indicate The Palm-Wine Drinkard and 
The Voice reveal many of the components of the quest motif found in 
the literature of most countries. The novels take the well-known 
form of departure, initiation and return. Taiwo (1976) describes 
the hero as being 

highly motivated by the object of his 
search and conviction of enormous advan¬ 
tages which will be derived from a mission 
successfully accomplished. This is what 
gives meaning and purpose to his journey 
and for this he is usually willing to take 
risks and forgo every kind of convenience. 

( 88 ) 

Plot structure within the novels begin with the presentation 
of the heroes in settings and situations which cause them to depart. 
The journeys are interspersed with difficult tasks or involvements 
which make the goals of the heroes almost impossible to attain. 
However, the heroes persevere because of desire to attain their 
goals. Personal enlightenment and growth gained throughout the 





























96 


journeys give the heroes confidence to return and take a different 
approach to the situations left. 

In The Palm-Wine Drinkard , the Drinkard is an indolent hero who 
has an indulgent father. The Drinkard takes no responsibility for 
fulfilling the needs of his family or community; his sole interest is 
drinking palm-wine. His concentration on the pleasures of life are 
reminiscent of Unoka in Things Fall Apart . The Drinkard's palm-wine 
tapper falls out of a tree one day and is killed. This misfortune 
affects the community by disrupting the Drinkard's pattern of inter¬ 
personal relationships (he no longer has palm-wine to share). 

Because of alienation from the community and his sense of per¬ 
sonal loss the Drinkard sets out to find his Tapster who has gone to 
Deads Town. The search takes the Drinkard from the world of the 
living to the world of the dead and results in his encountering 
numerous dangers. Moore (1967) suggests these encounters allow for 
the presentation of the familiar figures of heroic myth: the task¬ 
masters who impose certain labours in return for information, the 
helpful female companion and the devouring monsters (179). 

The Drinkard immediately encounters a taskmaster who wants 
Death captured in return for information about the whereabouts of 
Deads Town. Next the Drinkard searches for a man's daughter who 
has become entranced by Skull and follows him. As a reward the 
Drinkard is given the woman for his wife. Throughout the journey 
numerous dangerous situations, including the eradication of the Red 
Fish, develop and are solved through hard work, the use of juju 
(magical power) or the intervention of the supernatural. The abnormal 
birth of their child via the wife's thumb and the child's monsterous 





















97 


characteristics cause the couple hardship. The child is very demanding; 
he eats all the food within reach, alienates the village people and 
causes the family's ejection from their home and land. Two periods 
of respite are provided at Wraith Island and with Faithful-Mother in 
the White Tree. 

Eventually the Drinkard and his wife find the Tapster in Deads 
Town only to realize that he cannot return with them to the land of 
the living. However, the Tapster gives the Drinkard a magic egg 
which, if used wisely, will supply whatever the couple desires. The 
return trip is much shorter though still fraught with difficulties. 
Harmony is restored in community relations when the Drinkard feeds 
the starving populous whose situation has been caused by a famine. 
Through the loosely-linked events in The Palm-Wine Drinkard , many 
myths, legends and folktales are embedded. These provide the basis 
for the learning and growth experienced by the Drinkard and his wife. 

While the Drinkard initiated his journey on a whim, Okolo in 
The Voice has an inner rationale for his search. Also unlike the 
Drinkard, Okolo belongs to the modern world and is subject to its 
tensions and conflicts. Okolo is a young educated man who returns 
to his village, Amatu, to discover that the drive for material gain 
and moral decadence are the all-consuming passions of Chief Izongo, 
his Elders and most of the village people. Okolo is appalled and 
wonders where honesty and integrity have gone. He believes a spirit¬ 
ual base and purpose for life are necessary in everyone's life and 
begins to search for these values. The search is identified as it 
and provides the basis for the inner and outer conflicts that are 
revealed. Asking questions about the meaning of life puts Okolo in 




* 




a threatening position. Thus, the problem in the novel can be defined 
as the problem of a man unable to fit into an expected social frame¬ 
work where the individual is required to lose his identity in the 
interests of social cohesion. 

Chief Izongo, motivated by fear, banished Okolo. 

It was a great task I performed, my people. 

A great task in sending him away. A danger¬ 
ous task, but it had to be done for the good 
of us all. We did it with our eyes on our 
occiputs, for it is a strong thing be to send 
away one who is looking for it. Only a madman 
looks for it in this turned world. Let him 
look for it in this wide world if he can find 
it. But we don't want him to stay here asking, 

"Have you it? Have you it? Have you it?" 

Even in our sleep we hear him asking. We know 
not what it is. We do not want to know. Let 
us be as we are. We do not want to be troubled 
by one whose inside is filled with water. (48-49) 

Izongo's fear and hypocrisy are further evidenced when he bribes the 

villagers with palm-wine so they will turn in Okolo should he dare 

to return. 

Okolo, meanwhile, takes a canoe across the river to Sologa, a 
nearby town. During the crossing it rains and Okolo protects from 
the elements Ebiere, a young woman who is seated beside him. Ebiere's 
mother-in-law and other passengers on the boat accuse Okolo of an 
ulterior motive in covering the girl and take him to court for 
violating Ebiere. Okolo realizes that what he thought was lacking 
only in Amatu is absent elsewhere as well. In Sologa, Okolo is 
humiliated, persecuted, and overwhelmed by his surroundings. Even 
his encounter with the white police officer is disillusioning for 
the officer is more concerned with political expediency than with 
honesty and integrity. 


* 















"Look, my son, life isn't that way," 
the whiteman stated with a quiet teaching 
voice. "Life's like playing checkers. If 
you make the wrong move you are finished. 

There are some to whom you can tell the 
truth, however unpleasant, about them to 
their faces and you get away with it. But 
the same won't be true of others. They 
may make things very, very unpleasant for 
you. See?" 

"You don't believe in truth and honesty, 
then?" 

"Look, my lad, these things simply don't 
exist in real life, if you want to get any¬ 
where, if you want to make good. But mind you, 

I am not saying I do not believe in them. All 
I am saying is, you have to be judicious. ..." 

(62) 

Okolo decides it does not exist in the present world, so he will 
return to Amatu and encourage its creation in the minds of the people 
The return canoe trip serves as a microcosm of society where Okolo is 
isolated because he is aware of how different he is and the other pas 
sengers reflect the lethargy and complacency of general society. On 
his return to Amatu he walks into an orgy sponsored by Chief Izongo, 
eludes custody through the intervention of Tuere, a supposed witch, 
and learns that changes are beginning in Amatu. Ukule, the cripple, 
informs Okolo who is tied to Tuere and pushed into the river, in a 
canoe which is drawn into a whirlpool and disappears, "Your spoken 
words will not die" (96). 

The quest form lends itself to episodic treatment for the author 
is free to introduce any number of encounters with taskmasters or 
devouring monsters as long as each provides a learning-experience for 
the searching hero. Tutuola has been criticized for using too many 
episodes in The Palm-Wine Drinkard , yet each provides insight into 


the traditional working of the mind in its confrontation with super- 



















stitions and supernatural beliefs. Laurence (1968) summarizes the 

importance of Tutuola's numerous and diverse episodes. 

Tutuola writes best when most intuitively 
and most intensely inward. His forests are 
certainly and in detail the outer ones but 
they are, as well, the forests of the mind, 
where the individual meets and grapples with 
the creatures of his own imagination. These 
creatures are aspects of himself, aspects of 
his response to the world into which he was 
born, the world to which he must continue to 
return if he is to live as a man. (147) 

Okara, too, puts Okolo into several different situations so that 
he might affirm his inner belief and gain understanding of what he 
sees around him. Okolo's first observation of the streets of Sologa, 
his experience in the eating house and the final orgy at Amatu each 
offer the opportunity for greater growth. 

Tutuola and Okara use techniques from the oral tradition to en¬ 
hance the development of the quest. One is the use of dilemma to 
involve the reader in what is transpiring. Okolo's dilemma is built 
on the boat after he is confronted by the mother-in-law and the reade 
is forced to wonder if Okolo's innocence will be believed. In the 
case of the Drinkard, dilemma is brought to the reader by direct 
comment as in the situation where the Drinkard is asked in Mixed 
Town to judge two cases. 

So I shall be very much grateful if anyone 
who reads this story-book can judge one 
or both cases and send the judgement to me 
as early as possible, because the whole 
people in the "mixed town" want me very 
urgently to come and judge the two cases. 

(115) 

A second technique from the oral tradition is the use of charac¬ 
ters which are representational rather than real. Palmer (1972), 






l. 


Larson (1972), and Armstrong (1971) discuss the characters as one 

dimensional for the most part, playing a symbolic role by representing 

forces and ideas larger than themselves and having vague names so as 

to emphasize their allegorical qualities. In The Voice Okolo means 

'the voice' and he appears to be a Christ-like figure devoid of a 

past, specific habits or defined appearance. The portrayal of Okolo 

crying out against the spiritual sterility, inhumanity and materialism 

offers a prophet-like impression. 

If you put a black paint over a white paint, 
does it mean there is no white paint? Under 
the black paint the white paint is still there 
and it will show when the black paint is rubbed 
off. That's the thing I am doing — trying to 
rub off the black paint. Our father's insides 
always contained things straight. They did 
straight things. Our insides were also clean 
and we did the straight things until the new 
time came. We can still sweep the dirt out 
of our houses every morning. (29-30) 

Other characters in The Voice named with larger meaning in mind 
are Izongo who is called the leopard and various Elders who are named 
lightning, he-who-keeps-my-head-under-water, fire, pepper and ant 
(71-72). Characters within The Palm-Wine Drinkard reflect the same 
utilitarian features. The reader encounters Death, Skull, Drum, 

Dance, Song, Greedy Bush, Hungry Creature, Red People, Faithful- 
Mother, and Spirit of Prey. 

A final technique of the oral tradition to be highlighted is 
the use of description that is functional in that it helps build 
tension. The mother-in-law scene in the canoe, the encounter with 
the police officer, the mob scenes with Chief Izongo all raise the 
level of tension in The Voice. Descriptions of the Red Fish, the 


environment within White Tree and Red Town, and the attempted escape 




























of the lady from the Skulls reveal in The Palm-Wine Drinkard another 

means of obtaining reader involvement. 

But one day, the lady attempted to escape 
from the hole, and at the same time that 
the Skull who was watching her whistled 
to the rest of the Skulls that were in 
the backyard, the whole of them rushed 
out to the place where the lady sat on 
the bull frog, so they caught her, but 
as all of them were rushing out, they were 
rolling on the ground as if a thousand 
petrol drums were pushing along a hard 
road. (22) 

Okara and Tutuola differ in the development of their quests, too. 
Tutuola makes extensive use of the first person narrator and folktale 
while Okara emphasizes symbolism and other imagery from his poetic 
background. Since Tutuola is primarily a storyteller (Larsen, 1972), 
it is not surprising that he uses the first person point of view in 
The Palm-Wine Drinkard . This provides a means of direct communica¬ 
tion with listener or reader and allows warmth to be transferred. 

I was a palm-wine drinkard since I was a boy 
of ten years of age. I had no other work 
more than to drink palm-wine in my life. In 
those days we did not know other money, except 
COWRIES, so that everything was cheap, and my 
father was the richest man in our town. (7) 

Taiwo (1976), Dathorne (1971), Laurence (1968), Lindfors (1973), 

and Moore (1967) comment on Tutuola's extensive use of folktales in 

his work. Dathorne (1971) indicates that Tutuola was "the first to 

see possibilities of imaginative translation of mythology into 

English" (64). Lindfors (1973) furthers Dathorne's view by stating 

The journey to the land of the dead, the 
abnormal conception, the monstrous child, 
the enormous drinking capacity, the al1 - 
providing magical object, the tree spirits, 
the personifications, the fabulous monsters — 




























































these are standard materials of oral 
tradition, the stuff folktales are made 
of all over the world. (53) 

The special feature of Tutuola's folktales, however, is the way 
he amends them to suit his artistic purpose, to make his point more 
clearly. His 'half-bodied baby speaks with a lower voice like a 
telephone 1 (35), his Drinkard becomes 'a big bird like an aeroplane 1 
(40), and his woman who approaches the Drinkard and his wife after 
leaving Faithful-Mother has on 'high-heel shoes which resemble 
aluminum in color' (73). Each incorporate features of Western civili¬ 
zation. The result of such blending is an unusual combination of 
spirit world and real world, of traditional belief and modern experi¬ 
ence . 

Okara's poetic background offers him the same opportunity for 

individual treatment of material that Tutuola's involvement with 

the oral tradition of the folktale does for him. Okara's frequent 

use of it and "inside" emphasize the importance of such repetitions 

to the working out of the theme of the novel. "Inside" occurs in 

many contexts, as is portrayed in the following examples. 

His [Okolo's] inside then smellest bad for 
the town's people (14). 

Okolo . . . talked to his inside (47). 

I [Okolo's father] have a sweet inside and 
clean as the eye of the sky (77). 

The meaning of it gradually unfolds, too, through the variety of 
situations in which it is used. The reader learns wha-t it is not. 
"You have your M.A., Ph. D., but you have not got it " (24). Activi¬ 
ties and utterances of Okolo's associates offer further insight into 
ttt meaning. Tuere comments to Okolo, "How do you expect to find tt 

















* 


















when everybody has locked up his inside?" (16) 

Okara's poetic background has influenced his use of multi-level 
symbols and images. 

Through the black black night Okolo 
walked, stumbled, walked. His inside was 
a room with chairs, cushions, papers scat¬ 
tered all over the floor by thieves. Okolo 
walked, stumbled, walked. His eyes shut 
and opened, shut and opened, expecting to 
see a light in each opening, but none he saw 
in the black black night. 

At last the black black night like the 
back of a cooking pot entered his inside and 
grabbed his thoughts, threw them out into the 
blacker than black night. And Okolo walked, 
stumbled, walked with an inside empty of 
thoughts except the black black night. (3132) 

In this passage Okolo's agony is revealed. His "inside" becomes 
a living room invaded by thieves; his helplessness is emphasized by 
the use of repetitions "walked, stumbled, walked"; his confusion is 
symbolized by the untidy state of the room and his disappointment 
in his inability to replace the darkness with light. The repetition 
of "black" emphasizes Okolo's growing disillusionment and desolation. 

The blending of literary technique and language use portrayed 
throughout the novels of Tutuola and Okara, reveals the interwoven 
designs developed by these two novelists. Further observations 
reveal the measures taken by each of Okara and Tutuola to provide a 
balanced presentation which reflects their indigenous language and 
English. Okara uses the Ijaw features of repetition for emphasis 
and the inverted command in the dialogue among the messengers coming 
to Okolo's place. 

Third Messenger: "Your nonsense words stop. 

These things have meaning no more. . . ." 

First Messenger: "Me know nothing? Me know 
nothing? Because I went not to school I have 




























































105 


no bile, I have no head? Me know nothing? 

Then answer me this. Your hair was black 
black be, then it became white like white 
cloth and now it is black black be more 
than blackness." (8-9) 

Poetic rhythms, the Ijaw sentence pattern: subject, object, 
verb, and a poet's precise description are glimpsed as Okolo awaits 
the messengers. 

It was the day's ending and Okolo by a window 
stood. Okolo stood looking at the sun behind 
a tree tops falling. The river was flowing, 
reflecting the finishing sun, like a dying away 
memory. It was like an idol's face, no one 
knowing what is behind. Okolo at the palm trees 
looked. They were like women with hair hanging 
down, dancing, possessed. Egrets, like white 
flower petals strung slackly across the river, 
swaying up and down, were returning home. And, 
on the river, canoes were crawling home with 
bent backs and tired hands, paddling. (9) 

Finally, Okara uses standard English if he wants to concisely and with 

speed move the action forward. 

When day broke the following day it broke on a 
canoe aimlessly floating down the river. And 
in the canoe tied together back to back with 
their feet tied to the seats of the canoe, were 
Okolo and Tuere. Down they floated from one 
bank of the river to the other like debris, 
carried by the current. Then the canoe was 
drawn into a whirlpool. It spun around and 
round and was slowly drawn into the core and 
finally disappeared. And the water rolled over 
the top and the river flowed smoothly over it 
as if nothing had happened. (96) 

Tutuola's style reveals a more consistent portrayal of indigenous 
language influence for he is more steeped in the Yoruba tradition than 
the modern world and his Drinkard is totally a traditional man unlike 
Okolo. Smith (1959) comments that the reader delights in Tutuola's 
use of language because it is "constantly invented, constantly unex¬ 
pected" (30), yet if Yoruba speech patterns and ideas are understood. 


















106 


Tutuola writes as one would expect. Lindors (1973) emphasizes that 
Yoruba speakers relish using humorous and bizarre effects as well as 
fantasy and comic exaggeration. Therefore, Tutuola's tendency to 
push the reader's sense of credibility beyond reasonable expectation 
is more understandable. 

The Yoruba speaker or writer also reiterates an idea several 
times enhancing the idea or varying it slightly for effect. Hence, 
Tutuola's apparently excessive use of episodes which contain many of 
the same components become necessary. The use of the rhetorical 
question, "Ah! how could we escape from this half-bodied baby?" (57), 
the use of description rather than dialogue or enactment and the use 
of direct statement rather than implication also reflect Tutuola's 
Yoruba background. 

Okara and Tutuola, cognizant of their particular traditional 
backgrounds, have endeavored to use patterns of language which are 
appropriate to the characters and situations they have developed. 
Dathorne (1971) effectively summarizes the use of language appropriate 
to character. 

Part of Tutuola's success at this imaginative 
re-ordering of folklore is due to his use of 
language. Those who argue that he writes 
'wrong' English do not take two factors into 
consideration. One is that they forget that 
the story is written in first person and is 
about a palm-wine drinker. Were he to speak 
standard English this would be ludicrous to 
anyone acquainted with the realities of West 
African speech. Secondly, Tutuola's English'is 
a sensible compromise, between raw pidgin (which 
would not be intelligible to European readers) 
and standard English. (72) 

The local and universal meaning of both novels centres on the 
need for individuals and societies to be in harmony with their gods. 
















107 


Within The Voice and The Palm-Wine Drinkard is seen the contemporary 
and timeless struggle between darkness and light. Both novels present 
the dramatization of the individual who experiences misfortune so that 
his community or race may somehow benefit from the experience. The 
drinkard's loss affected the community, disrupted relationships, yet 
on his return as a wiser man he is able to bring about a reconciliation 
between Earth and Heaven which allows his race to live harmoniously. 

Conversely, Okolo's ejection from his community allows him to see 
that "evil" has engulfed the whole society. His determination to 
teach people to become aware of the "light" asserts the resilience of 
human integrity in an otherwise disillusioning portrayal of man. 

These novels challenge the reader to question basic assumptions and 
relate inner truth to outer reality. 

Finally, it should be noted the unique executions of theme 
presented by Tutuola and Okara have not been duplicated. They are 
one-of-a-kind novelists, masters without apprentices. 

Ngugi wa Thiong'o: Weep Not, Child 

West African novelists such as Achebe, Tutuola and Okara were 
read by many East Africans before any lengthy fiction emerged from 
writers in East African countries. Ngugi wa Thiong'o, a Kenyan 
respected among African writers, has learned much from these West 
African novelists whose works appeared in the decade before Ngugi 
began serious writing. Most of the anthropological detail seen in 
West African literature is absent in Ngugi's writing for the concerns 
of the East African centres on the present. 

Ngugi is very close to the protest tradition because his consum- 



















I . 







108 


ing interest is in the struggle for freedom in Kenya and its des¬ 
tructive effects on the African way of life. Two issues which emerge 
with this concern are the question of land ownership and the importance 
of education. The influence of these issues permeates Ngugi's novels 
and directs, to some extent, his methods of character development and 
language use. Weep Not, Child , Ngugi's second novel, exemplifies 
concerns central to Kenyans and uses literary techniques and language 
in ways which are different from the novelists in West Africa. 

Ngugi (1966) has indicated that in Weep Not, Child he was prima¬ 
rily interested in evoking what a simple village community felt, 
caught between forces which they could not quite understand. As 
Awooner (1975) points out land and freedom have been synonymous terms 
to Kenyans ever since the British colonial policy at the turn of the 
century encouraged white European settlers to establish farms in the 
"white highlands", the heart of Gikuyu country. The land ownership 
issue erupted into violence with the Mau Mau rebellion of the 1950s, 
the time-frame and setting of Weep Not, Child . 

Themes in Weep Not, Child are developed through the framework 
of a situational novel, the presentation of an experience or situa¬ 
tion out of which certain implications become obvious. This situa¬ 
tional novel, like Things Fall Apart , portrays a group-felt experience 
while focusing on one or two characters. Njoroge's family becomes 
the microcosm through which the shattering of hopes and aspirations 
of a whole people is mirrored. 

Part One establishes a composite overview of Gikuyu society. 
Introduction to Njoroge and his mother, Nyokabi, opens the novel. 



















■ 




. 







109 


Nyokabi called him. . . . 

'Would you like to go to school?' 

'0, mother!' Njoroge gasped. He half 
feared that the woman might withdraw her words. 

There was a little silence till she said, 

'We are poor. You know that.' 

'Yes, mother.' His heart pounded against 
his ribs slightly. His voice was shaky. 

'So you won't be getting a mid-day 
meal like other children.' 

'I understand.' 

'You won't bring shame to me one day by 
refusing to attend school?' (3) 

The importance of being given the opportunity to attend school is 
apparent immediately. Kamau, an older brother, accepts the decision 
as a necessary part of life. 

'No, brother. You know I am being trained 
as a carpenter. I cannot drop the apprenticeship. 

But I am glad you're going to school.' 

'I am, oh, so glad. But I wish you too would 
come.' 

'Don't you worry about me. Everything will be 
all right. Get education. I'll get carpentry. Then 
we shall, in the future, be able to have a new and 
better home for the whole family.' (4) 

Dozens of short staccato-like scenes such as these presented reveal 

the relationships among family members; between Ngotho and his boss, 

Mr. Howlands, a white farmer; between Njoroge and Mwihaki, Jacobi's 

daughter; and portray the hub of village life in the barber shop. 

The land issue is brought into focus one evening as the family 

gathers around Ngotho who tells the story of how Mukuyu, their god, 

had given the land to their ancestors and said 

"This land I hand over to you. 0 Man and Woman 
It's yours to rule and till in serenity sacrificing 
Only to me, your God, under my sacred tree. . ." (28) 

This story revealed that the land on which Mr. Howlands farms is 

really their land, a surprising relevation to the younger boys. 
























* 









p - L ii 


























no 


Boro, one of the older sons, however, is aware he hadn't been able to 
obtain land on which to settle. This new understanding makes him 
angry and he questions how his people could let the white man occupy 
his land without acting. 

Conflict is initiated. As time passes Ngotho tries to encourage 
Njoroge's schooling, while becoming preoccupied with the importance of 
land. ' 


'Education is everything', Ngotho said. 

Yet he doubted this because he knew deep inside 
his heart that land was everything. Education 
was good only because it would lead to the 
recovery of the lost lands. 

'You must learn to escape the conditions 
under which we live. It is a hard way. It is 
not much that a man can do without a piece of 
land.' (43-44) 

However, a strike looms. Ngotho becomes indecisive about whether he 
should join the youth who want action now rather than waiting for 
release through the fulfilment of prophecy. As the tone changes, 
Part One ends on the brink of violence. 

Part Two depicts the violence and frustration which follow the 
strike. It reveals how members of Njoroge's family are tortured, 
imprisoned and humiliated because they support the Mau Mau. Njoroge 
continues his schooling until he is forcefully removed to answer 
questions about his family. Eventually, realizing all his dreams 
have been shattered Njoroge contemplates suicide. 

Since Ngugi is trying to show the effect of conflict on indivi¬ 
duals, he develops some characters to a much greater extent than do 
the early West African novelists. Ngotho, Njoroge's father, is por¬ 
trayed as a tragic figure, one who is a traditionalist, who loves 















Ill 


the land and who desires peace for all. 

Ngotho bought four pounds of meat. But they 
were bound into two bundles each of two pounds. 

One bundle was for his first wife, Njeri, and 
the other for Nyokabi, his second wife. A 
husband had to be wise in these affairs other¬ 
wise a small flaw or apparent bias could easily 
generate a civil war in the family. Not that 
Ngotho feared this very much. He knew that his 
two wives liked each other and were good com¬ 
panions and friends. But you could not quite 
trust women. They were fickle and very jealous. 

When a woman was angry no amount of beating 
would pacify her. Ngotho did not beat his wives 
much. On the contrary, his home was well known 
for being a place of peace. (12) 

After joining the strike, Ngotho becomes a focal point for the abuse 
of both Mr. Howlands, Ngotho's former boss and the newly appointed 
District Officer, and Jacobo, a Kenyan who has attained wealth and 
position by supporting the colonial government. Ngotho is humiliated 
through the loss of his job, the loss of his house, his son. Boro's 
disagreement with him over how to repossess the land and the arrest 
of his wife, Njeri and son, Kori. Some restoration of dignity occurs 
when he turns himself in as Jacobo's murderer to save his son. As a 
result of this sacrifice, he is castrated by Mr. Howlands and Boro 
seeks reconciliation at Ngotho*s deathbed. 

The change in Mr. Howland's character has been called cheap 
melodrama (Awooner, 1975). Initially Howlands had as great a love 
for the land as Ngotho. They shared a common history — both were 
alienated from Britain, both had lost a son in the war, yet after 
the strike Howlands becomes a child beater and torturer while upholding 
the office given him by the colonial powers. 

It is in Njoroge, though, that a very sensitive picture is drawn. 





































112 


Weep Not, Child is told from his point of view, s„o in the passing of 
thirteen years Njoroge is involved in many experiences which initiate 
gradual maturation. Initially, Njoroge is seen a sensitive, intro¬ 
verted child who depends heavily on his family. As he becomes involved 
in school, education becomes his whole life. He sees himself as a 
savior, one to lead his people out of their troubles. 

He knew that for him education would be the 
fulfilment of a wider and more significant 
vision — a vision that embraced the demand 
made on him, not only by his father, but also 
by his mother, his brothers and even the 
village. He saw himself destined for some¬ 
thing big, and this made his heart glow. (44) 

Later, Njoroge withdraws into himself and his studies reacting passively 

to events and trying to avoid any involvement. He even asks Mwihaki, 

Jacobo's daughter, to leave the country with him. 

'Yes, we go to Uganda and live —' 


'Don't you see that what you suggest is 
too easy a way out? We are no longer children,' 
she said between her sobs. 

'That's why we must go away. Kenya is no 
place for us. It is not childish to remain in 
a hole when you can take yourself out?' 


'Yes. But we have a duty. Our duty to 
other people is our biggest responsibility as 
grown men and women.' 


The sun was sinking down. Njoroge's last hope 
had vanished. For the first time he knew that 
he was in the world all alone without a soul on 
whom he could lean. (150-1) 

Finally, Njoroge makes the decision to commit suicide, but is 
stopped from carrying out the action by his two mothers. Through 
Njoroge's growth towards manhood, the unrest and frustration of East 
Africans has been expressed. But it is in the portrait of the two 
mothers following their son that hope for a peaceful future is 





















■ 



' 





113 


glimpsed, a future where, through the best from two worlds, troubles 
ease and a new society will flourish. 

Much of what is revealed about characters and events is told 
the reader through author comment and the use of a collective con¬ 
science who draws the reader in with the use of 'you' (Larson, 1972). 
This technique becomes important because Njoroge, as a small boy, 
lacks the maturity to explain the motivation for events or to inter¬ 
pret what is evolving around him. Yet, to avoid turning the novel 
into a political tract Ngugi presents the struggle from Njoroge's 
point of view using supplementary comments to ensure readers can see 
what is occurring within, around, and beyond the characters. 

Ngugi's language is simple and contains Biblical overtones. The 
Biblical aura is most appropriate for the description of the suffer¬ 
ings of people in bondage. It is also fitting for Ngotho who sacri¬ 
fices his life for his sons and for Njoroge who essentially is 
searching out his place in the confused world around him. Criticism 
focusing on the extreme simplicity and naivety of Ngugi‘s language 
(Palmer, 1972) is lacking substantiation. East Africans were tutored 
in the use of precise and correct English. With this background 
Ngugi needed to use sentences lacking complexity as he was portraying 
a very young boy and a group of villagers who have experienced no 
formal education. 

Ngugi has captured the inner torment of individuals caught in a 
situation that affects them directly, yet has ramifications beyond 
their understanding. He has portrayed their disorientation within 
the family and community structure as a result of the experience. 


t 

' 


His achievement as summarized by Roscoe (1977) is 

to have analyzed sharply a people's agony 
at a particular moment in their history and 
to have given us a powerfully honest reading 
of human nature. (190) 

Nkem Nwankwo: Panda , Chukwuemeka Ike: Toads For Supper , and 
Legson Kayira: Jingala 

Nkem Nwankwo, Chukwuemeka Ike and Legson Kayira have had the 
benefit of exposure to the early West African novelists before they 
began their own writing. Nwankwo and Ike, both Nigerians from the 
Ibo tribe, have been influenced by Chinua Achebe whose use of Ibo 
proverb and elements of the traditional life are reflected in Panda 
and Toads For Supper . Kayira, a Malawian, is of East African back¬ 
ground where most writing reflects the importance of education. 
However, Kayira, unlike other East African writers, includes numerous 
elements of traditional life, a technique more used by the early 
West African writers. 

The main characters in each of Panda , Toads For Supper and 

Jinqala are used to present a society undergoing change. Inevitably 

conflicts arise which compound the problems of an individual who is 

trying to find his place in a society experiencing change. Taiwo's 

(1976) comment about Panda could apply equally to these three novels. 

Nwankwo dramatizes the individual's struggle 
to break through the narrow confines of tradi¬ 
tional society and achieve self-expression. (62) 

Panda, if viewed through conventional eyes, is not a productive 
character. He is not thrifty or hard working, nor is he interested 
in attaining wealth. He does not respect his elders and is neither 
aggressive nor ambitious. Panda simply does what he wants. Perhaps 































t. 














115 


he also does what others would like to do, but will not out of fear 
or status consciousness. Early in the novel Danda enters a car which 
has just arrived in the village. 

Danda thought for a moment and then 
said: 'You think you can turn me out of 
this land-boat?' 

'Yes. ' 

'You are not fit to. ' 

'Danda is right,' murmured the old 
woman. 'Does the law say now that when a 
man has a land-boat he should forget his 
kindred!' 

Ndulue was beaten. He had made his 
mark in the world and like most Aniocha 
arrivers he was now cultivating the good¬ 
will of his neighbors. The last thing he 
wanted was for it to get about that he had 
refused a member of his kindred hospitality. 

So, smiling, he nodded to the driver, got 
in himself, and sat beside Danda. 

The crowd clapped their hands. 

'Thank you,' said Danda. 'And farewell. 

Stay on the ground and eat sand. Danda is 
flying to the land of the spirits on the 
wings of the eagle.' (8) 

Danda makes a conscious attempt to be different. He makes him¬ 
self an ozo staff (ngwu agelaga), the symbol of a recognized village 
leader, and uses it in public. This is a breach of accepted social 
code in Aniocha. 


‘When I spoke to him he said that the 
ngwu agelega was his father's.' 

'No man can hold on to what Danda says. 

What Danda says has neither head nor tail.' 

There was laughter. 

'It does not amuse me!' roared the Ikolo 
man. 'It is long since Danda began pouring 
sand in our eyes. ' 

'But is the ngwu agelega his or his father's? 
We want to know.' 


Araba stirred and said calmly: 'This is a 
question for Danda himself. I haven't been home 
to know whether the ngwu agelega he carried is 
mine or his? 

'Why should he have one? Is he an ozo man?' (23-24) 











' 











- 












116 


Yet, Danda gets away with it because "Whatever concerns Danda is 
different." (148). The village elders, Araba, Danda's father, and 
the villagers reconcile themselves to Danda's antics and by not punish¬ 
ing his abuse of tradition they begin adjusting to change. 

Through Danda*s life in society, glimpses are presented of what 
is valuable to that society. A measure of a man's wealth and impor¬ 
tance are 


a long barn, ten women, an obi of which 
much noise was made. Araba was known to 
have always been a fighter for Aniocha and 
Uwadiegwu. Finally, and most important of 
all, he had taken the ozo [title which 
enhances status] before anybody alive. (35) 

Although nobody enjoys an excruciating experience, another measure of 

a man's status is his ability to withstand pain. 

The great point of the ici is that it 
is a test of fortitude. The ogbu rips off 
pelts of flesh in a traditional pattern that 
stretches from ear to ear. The operation is 
excruciating. But the victim is to bear the 
pain if not with a smile at least without any 
visible show of sorrow. If he winces or cries 
out, he breaks the magic of the ritual and lets 
down himself and his kindred. (149) 

Values of this nature Danda not only rejects, but tries to undermine 

throughout the novel. 

Change in Jingala comes more from outside the village of Chimaliro, 
than from within. Gregory, Jingala's son, has been away at school 
for three years and has become less and less inclined to return to 
his village for holidays or to visit his relatives and- friends. He 
has grown away from village life and his father. When Jingala visits 
him at school 

Gregory remained speechless, almost as if 
transfixed to the spot by some invisible 



. 

'<■ 


117 


force. He was, generally speaking, a proud 
young man, vocal and forthright in his 
dealings with other students, especially if 
he had reason to consider them inferior to 
himself in any way. He had seldom spoken of 
his background, even more seldom of his 
immediate relatives, for both in speech and in 
manner, he had always been at great pain to 
impress on the others that he was high in 
society. His father's previous appearance 
at the school had been both unwelcome and 
humiliating and, in his opinion, had helped 
reduce his standing in the eyes of the other 
boys. The other boys knew about Gregory's 
preoccupation with his own importance and 
they often made fun of him in his absence. 

(17-18) 

Gregory's declarations that he will not return home again this 
holiday because he needs to study Latin to become a priest riles his 
father to a virtually uncontrollable level. 

'I'm going to be a priest and so I will 
need a working knowledge of Latin.' 

'You are going to be what?' Jingala said 
in a slow but firm and loud voice. Gregory 
knew at once that his father was angry. 

'Repeat what you have just said.' he commanded. 

• • • 

'I decided on it myself,' Gregory said. 

'Nobody decided for me.' 

'That changes everything,' Jingala announced, 
now preparing to lie down on his mat again. 'You 
are not digging your garden tomorrow because we 
are going home first thing in the morning.' 

'I am not going home.' 

'You are coming with me, Greg,' he said with 
finality as he lay down. 'I have not been paying 
my money here to train a priest! Huh!' 

'But I'm not coming home with you tomorrow or 
at any time,' Gregory said rebel 1iously. 

'Sleep!' Jingala said in a very commanding 
voice. 'We are leaving this place first thing in 
the morning. Remember, my boy, it's me your -father 
speaking, and I don't want to hear any more nonsense 
from you. I may be old and uneducated, but I am 
still your father. Always remember that.' (24-25) 

The second influence to cause change is the return to the village 
of miners from the South African mines. The returning miners have 






' 






















| ■ i ' ' 

















118 


both money and stories to share. Liz, who is betrothed to Jingala, 

is taken in by stories of life in the towns near the South African 

mines, told to her by Muchona, a returned miner. 

Liz remained as silent as a rock. She had 
finished rinsing her pot and was filling it 
with water. But her silence only encouraged 
him to stretch his imagination even further 
so that he started dishing out to her even 
more lies about his own importance. 

'In the town, I ride my bicycle to and 
from my office every day,' he said, emphasizing 
the word 'office'. She will never guess, he 
thought, the difference between an office and 
a mine. 'I go to the cinema every evening. 

Have you ever been to a cinema? Obviously you 
haven't.‘ 


He might have gone mad with excitement at 
this point if he had known that Liz had suddenly 
become rather fascinated with his report about 
the town. (105-6) 

The outside influences causing a move towards possible change are 
contrasted with the traditional view of life. Jingala tells Father 
Edwards what is expected of a person in the village. 

'I should say, in fact, that his stupid 
education has already made him unhappy to some 
extent by taking him away from his own people. 

He no longer likes to go home and see his people. 

. . . Any person who doesn't know his own people 
is lost and useless, never mind his education. 


'As a man,' Jingala said with grave emphasis 
but rather restlessly, 'the purpose of my life is 
to provide for my family, to be true and unsever¬ 
ing to it, and to observe what has been handed to 
me by my fathers. It is also my duty, as I imagine 
it would be in your country, to pass this on to my 
children. If I fail in this, there is no meaning 
in my life, is there? I become no better than a 
wild beast.' (34-35) 

Tradition and change clash throughout the novel as Jingala at¬ 
tempts to force Gregory into the expected mold. Through their inter¬ 
action glimpses of daily life are revealed as are the traditional 










, 










■ 


119 


rituals which make up Chimalirian society. 

In contrast to Panda and Jingala , the struggle between tradition 
and change in Toads For Supper is centered in Amadi, a university 
student who resides on the campus of the University of Southern 
Nigeria. While the setting is very different, the anguish of the 
individual sorting out the appropriate changes is similar. Although 
Amadi's prime concern should be his studies, Ike portrays change 
through Amadi's relationship with three girls: Aduke, Sweetie, and 
Nwakaego. 

Aduke, a fellow student of Yoruba background, arouses Amadi's 
interest on first encounter. He is warned against pursuing a relation¬ 
ship by Chima, a second-year student and fellow Ibo, who reminds him 
that such a relationship has never been successful. Amadi cannot put 
the girl out of mind even though he has a girl at home. 

Feeling of achievement. Could that be his 
reason for wanting Aduke? Nwakaego, his 
bride-to-be, had been won for him by his 
parents, and not through his proficiency in 
the technique of courtship. Aduke provided 
the opportunity. (13) 

Interwoven with his pursuit of Aduke are flashes of the expecta¬ 
tions of the university and the community from which Amadi comes. 

When Amadi registers at the university he wants to take Honors English 
although his community urges him to take Medicine for they have no 
local doctor in Ezinkwo. 

And so, in spite of his excellent performances 
in Physics, Chemistry and Biology, Amadi arrived 
at the University determined to study English 
like his hero, Mr. Ola. 

The shock came when he failed the selection 
examination set by the Department of English. (16) 





* 











































120 


The Academic Registrar indicates he needs a formal application for a 
change of course to which a sponsorship agreement from Amadi's village 
leaders must be attached before the appropriate committee can consider 
it. Amadi travels home to attain the required permission, a trip 
that takes four days. Then, the Committee of Deans refuses to enter¬ 
tain Amadi's request for transfer to Medicine. Instead, he was told 
to revert to the Honors History course. 

And so Amadi became a History Honors student 
.... He had not applied to read History, 
neither did he sit the qualifying test. He 
did not know who told the Committee of Deans 
that he had been admitted to the course, and 
he had no intention of finding out. When at 
the end of the first term the History Depart¬ 
ment discovered that he should not have been 
in the Honors class, it was difficult to know 
where to lay the blame. (22) 

After his first year at University, Amadi returns to Ezinkwo 
where he revels in the villager's response to his educational attain¬ 
ment. 


There were many other questions. Mazi Onuzulike 
Chukwuka smiled happily and proudly as he watched 
his son answer every question. He was the lucky 
man in town, with a son in the University. (37) 

However, Amadi is not so positive about having to continue his arranged 

relationship with Nwakaego. 

Doubts which had begun to trickle into his 
mind following his first few meetings with 
Nwakaego, and which he had struggled to sup¬ 
press, were now returning with redoubled 
vigour. What would his friends and colleagues 
at the University say if they heard of his • 
attachment to a girl who had no mind of her 
own and who could not look her fiancee in the 
face? 


A voice spoke to him: 'You can't back out now. 
Remember you have all the time given your sup¬ 
port. However long you may wait, Nwakaego will 



* 







i. 



















turn out to be what you make of her. Give 
her a fair chance. Show that you appreciate 
her problems. Don't compare her with Aduke, . . 1 
(78-79) 

During Amadi's second year at University, Sweetie complicates the 

situation by accusing Amadi of being the father of her unborn child, 

causing Amadi to be dismissed from university, disowned by his family 

and turned out of Ezinkwo. 

... If there is anything the University is 
expected to teach you, it is to accept respon¬ 
sibility for your actions. I have listened 
carefully to both sides of the story. Essentially, 
both of you agree that something transpired. You 
differ on the details, which I consider immaterial. 

Well, madam, you can go with him and he will give 
you the note. (112) 

Amadi refuses, so 

was asked to leave the University within twenty- 
four hours, and to stay away for the rest of the 
term for failing to carry out 'the lawful commands' 
of an officer of the University. (112) 

Caught between the expectations of various individuals and communities, 
Amadi must learn to deal with his actions and find an avenue to take 
that will provide him a satisfying future. 

The need for social change, then, is presented in Panda, Jingala , 
and Toa ds For S upper by three individuals impatient with the con¬ 
straints placed on them. Danda, a comic character and palpably human, 
loves to dance, gossip, drink palm-wine and make love. His fondness 
for playing the flute is also reminiscent of Unoka, Ononkwo's father 
in Things Fall Apart . Although Danda appears shiftless and irrespon¬ 
sible, it is through his actions that he makes up for his defects 
and inconveniences by entertaining others with his antics and jokes. 

Danda was one of the last to come and he 
greeted the unumma with typical ebullience: 










. 


















































122 


1 K1iklikli! 1 

1 Yiii!' 

*K1iklikli!' 

'Rain!’ 

'If there is anyone to whom what is good 
is not good let him embrace the thorn tree and 
see how he 1 ikes it.' 

The feeling of animation which he had helped 
to create persisted until Nwokeki rose to speak. 

(42) 

Danda's quips and vitality, though, prevent the villagers from notic¬ 
ing the strains and tensions already disturbing the smooth surface of 
communal life. 


'The world is bad nowadays,' said Danda. 

'Let the world be good. Let this oji cleanse 
the world. Let it make us friends. May each 
man have what is due to him. The hawk shall 
perch and the eagle shall perch. Whichever 
bird says to the other don't perch let its wings 
break.' And Danda tossed the drink into his 
mouth and sighed gustily. (11) 

Danda's listeners endorse his toast, but miss the intended meaning. 
Danda is good and they are bad so to cleanse the world would be to 
destroy what they hold dear. Reference to the hawk and the eagle 
are pleas for friendship and accommodation to be developed between 
traditional religion and Christianity. 

Danda is aware of the hypocritical attitude of the villagers and 
of the hollowness of Christianity so he is attempting exposure through 
his playfulness. 

'I know,' said Danda. 'They smile in my 
face but as soon as my back is turned they 
say: "Do not take notice of Danda. He is no 
good." But I will not tell you a lie, son of 
our fathers. I cannot run away from the smile 
of a woman. Let us go for palm-wine.' (92) 

In direct contrast to Danda, Gregory in Jingala goes his own way 


too, but without the slightest concern for his father or community. 










123 


He is presented as an objectionable teenager, who is totally selfish 
and without redeeming features. Roscoe (1979) comments that Gregory 
is not priestly material despite his espousal of wanting to work for 
God, disinterest in Belita, the village girl he is supposed to marry, 
and sacrificing of holidays to learn Latin. Initially, Gregory appears 
openly disobedient, scornful of village life, lazy, and reluctant to 
dirty his hands in the field. 

Jingala ignored his son's uncalled for 
remarks. Instead he said, 'I asked you to 
milk the cows for me today because I have other 
work to do. I can milk one of them myself this 
morning before I go to the forest, but I want 
you to milk the other three in the afternoon 
for me.' 

'Oh, yes,' Gregory said, 'But I can't.' 

'Why can 1 1 you?' 

'You know that I always get scabies every 
time I touch those animals of yours.' Gregory 
said. 'That's why. 1 

Jingala felt a sudden tremor of anger 
running down his spine, a burning desire to 
give his son a thorough beating. . . . 

'Since when,' he demanded, 'have you caught 
scabies as a result of milking cows?' 

'Since long ago.' 

'When?' 

'I can't remember exactly when,' Gregory 
said. 'Besides, I am tired and I want to lie 
here all day. Leave me alone, will you?' (40-41) 

The effect of change in character in Jingala is really presented 
through Gregory's father, Jingala. He is a complex man who reveals 
his strengths and frustrations in uninhibited fashion. When excited 
he does a strange little dance to express joy and when upset he 
unleashes his powerful temper. Jingala takes tradition seriously 
and is respected among his community. 

He was 55, small but very strong for his 
age. He had a high forehead, a pair of shrewd 
little eyes, a more than average size nose, and 









y 

■ 

- 






124 


a very fine set of tribal marks on his cheeks 
which were now lightly covered by a short, 
thin grey beard. He laughed easily, often 
throwing his head back and showing the complete 
absence of his front teeth. . . . 

As far as his fellow villagers were con¬ 
cerned, Jingala had become a precious antique. 

They treated him with profound respect and awe, 
regarding him as some sort of demi-god, a sacred 
thing, one who knew the whole of the past and 
half the future. (1-2) 

While Gregory in Jingala is revealed as bull-headed and selfish, 
while Danda in Panda is portrayed as comical and different, but very 
concerned about what is happening in his village, real anguish is seen 
in Amadi of Toads For Supper as he tries to sort out his responsibili¬ 
ties to the university and his community, to Aduke, Sweetie and 
Nwakaego, and to himself. Ike does little to describe him, so Amadi's 
character is mainly revealed through action and thought. At the out¬ 
set he seems to be both naive and overly-confident in his ability to 
tackle anybody or any problem and encounter success. After his 
failure to gain admittance to the English program and to overwhelm 
the girls on campus, Amadi develops in a more realistic manner. He 
experiences difficulties, grapples with them and after a period of 
time finds his way again. Growth is seen in his ability to handle 
responsibility when Amadi and Aduke discuss their relationship and 
the Sweetie affair at the beginning of their third year at university. 

'Each time I spoke of inter-tribal marriages 
you ran through a long list of the problems which 
would make such marriages unsuccessful — language 
difficulties, the long distance between your-home 
and mine, cultural differences, political problems 
and so on. D'you remember once telling me that 
your grandmother threatened to die if you married 
a 'Kobokobo'? To crown it all, the Sweetie affair 
dropped from nowhere. Nobody was prepared to be¬ 
lieve my story, not even you. I thought everything 
over during my stay at Uwhuvbe and I decided that 















































125 


the only honourable thing to do was to 
marry Sweetie.' (142) 

The centrality of individual characters is one way the need for 
social change is pointed out in Panda , Jingala and Toads For Supper . 
Other techniques used by the novelists are those of humor and satire. 
Within each novel is a gentle prodding at the foibles and incongruities 
of life. Nwankwo points out in Panda the inability of the Council of 
Elders to hear Panda's father's plea for pardon and come to a 
conclusion. 


'My voice is low. The proverb says that 
the word biko (please) never leads to a quarrel.' 

‘True! True!' 

'If I have wronged you, my knees are on the 
ground. After all, I am your son and a father 
doesn't bear ill-will against his own son for 
long.' 

'No! No!' 

'If a man cooks for the community, the 
community will eat it all. But if the community 
cooks for a single person he cannot eat the 
cooking. ' 

'Say no more!' roared the umunna, scrambling 
for their cups. 

'You have come like a man,' said Nwafo Ugo. 

The matter of the ofo was again shelved in the 
moment of thirst and reconciliation. (123) 

Food and drink were more important than reaching agreement over a 

disputed issue. Another incongruity is the inconsistency in mission 

doctrine. It denied the traditional past, then offered fines instead 

of new norms by which to live. 

The new converts, faced with all these 
perplexities, usually drifted back to spirit 
worship which was a more satisfying experience 
with its awe taboos and appeal to piety. The 
steps the church leaders took to prevent this 
backsliding were prompt and downright. A 
militant group visited the house of the back¬ 
slider and carried away his utensils and brought 
them into the church and kept them there until 
















f*. 










w 
































the owner redeemed them with a fine, 
and promised to be more diligent in 
the future. (56) 

Humor appears in various ways — through the herbalist's poster 
which portrays his incompetency, through the use of a strange word 
and through deliberate affectation in speech. 

Jingala , too, provides several humorous encounters. Jingala is 
the source of most of the comedy for he ignores the question of appro 
priateness in his behavior. He reacts excitedly and like a playful 
child when Liz, his bride-to-be, comes into view; he delights in mani 
pulating Gregory while they are at the Chief's home, much to Gregory' 

consternation, and he initiates a yelling session in Gregory's dormi¬ 
tory at school. 

Then, in a voice that rang across the walls to 
the big room he called, 'Gregory! Where are 
you?' 

The boys in the big rooms were already up 
and making their beds. He could hear them 
screaming and laughing. They heard him too. 

One of them, apparently for the benefit of 
Jingala's ears, came and stationed himself at 
Gregory's door and deliberately shouted. . . . 

(27) 

Gentle poking at inappropriate behavior continues when Gregory 

repeatedly makes reference to the rat that keeps reappearing in his 

father's house unaware that he is the rat. Gregory ridicules his 

father's insistence that deference be shown the Chief. 

'Don't worry about that,' Gregory said. 'I 
don't think I am going to see him this after¬ 
noon anyway. 1 

'You must.' 

'All right,' Gregory said. 'If I must, I 
will just keep saying, "That's right. Your 
Majesty", and that will keep him happy.' 

'As long as you don't make it sound 
artificial and sarcastic.' Jingala said. 'He's 






















































very clever. He will realize if you are 
making fun of him, and that will make him 
very nasty to you,' 

'Yes, Your Majesty.' (86) 

Satire becomes much more pointed in Toads For Supper . The 
University and its personnel come under fire several times. A typical 
charge is 


'That Academic Registrar is a big diplomat, 
you know,' remarked Amadi. 'When he sees black 
he turns black and when he sees white he turns 
white, and all the time he gives the impression 
he is on your side.' (94) 

Religion and its abuses also are exposed. 

He had gone to church only once in his life, 
because he heard that a white missionary was 
to talk to the congregation in Ibo and he did 
not want to miss the fun. He knew that if he 
became a Christian, he would be called upon to 
pay all the innumerable church dues and levies. 

The Mission fund at Ezinkwo at that time was 
known as 'the bag that was open at both ends'; 
no matter how many dues and levies were paid 
there was always an appeal to members for more 
money. In addition to the monetary collections, 
each church member was often asked to supply, 
at his own expense, mats and bamboos for repair¬ 
ing the church building and to help in carrying 
out the repairs without payment for his labour. 

Nwankwo felt he was not wealthy enough to be a 
Christian, and there was no point in enrolling, 
only to be suspended the next day for failure 
to pay his dues. (59-60) 

Ike further satirizes Amadi's desire to be the first to conquer a 
Yoruba girl, Chima's underhanded way of trying to become engaged to 
Amadi's intented, Nwakaego, and the misuse of official university 
channels through which one must go to obtain satisfaction for a 
request or complaint. 

Humor, satire and presentation of character together reveal the 
effects of various influences on character and society. They stress 

















128 


the need for continued change, so individuals and communities can learn 
to live peacefully in co-existence having adjusted to and accommodated 
aspects of both traditional and newer influences. 

Language used by Nwankwo, Ike and Kayira reveals the effect of 
traditional and modern influences on the novelists. Kayira has lived 
away from Malawi for several years so his language shows a certain dis¬ 
tance or detachment from what he presents. The language is correctly 
used for the most part, but events are generally told rather than re¬ 
vealed to the reader. Jingala is described as being a master story 
teller, but nowhere in the novel is this shown. 

To the children, however, he was always the 
same delightful old man, the master story 
teller who seemed to have been created for 
the precise purpose of amusing or frightening 
them with the strangest of tales. In this 
appraisal of him, the children were not entirely 
wrong, as Jingala himself often confessed that 
the one thing that delighted him most in life 
was being able to make up all kinds of stories, 
most of them in the form of parables, in order, 
as he put it, to prepare young people for a 
better understanding of their various roles in 
life. (2) 

Although Kayira's use of language is uneven, he presents through his 
descriptions a pastoral scene which reveals a realistic account of 
the victims of a fading past. 

Nwankwo and Ike follow the example of Achebe by embedding pro¬ 
verbs in their dialogues so as to present characters who reflect the 

Ibo background. Ike reveals in his use of proverbs that their signi¬ 
ficance is lessening as the younger generation becomes less familiar 
with their meaning. 

'My ears are itching,' remarked his father, 
in an attempt to break the silence. 






i 











129 


'Sir?* 

'A proverb has a significance when it falls 
into the ears of the man who understands; when 
the good-for-nothing hears it he merely shakes 
the head till he staggers into the bush. To use 
proverbs on you young people of nowadays is as 
futile as running after an antelope. What I said 
was that I am anxious to hear what you have to 
say.' (81-82) 

Perhaps the most vital proverb in Toads For Supper is the one which 
gives rise to the title: "When a child eats a toad, it kills his 
appetite for meat." (120) 

Proverbs usually provide a means through which to give instruction 
or warning in very few words. Danda and the village elders use many 
in this manner in Danda . After Danda has been told not to appear in 
the village square for six months, he immediately indicates he will 
attend the next dance. His father's only comment is, "It is when a 
dog hungers for death that it begins to eat sand." (29) 

Ike and Nwankwo both include a set of notes in their novels so 
they may use untranslated phrases and avoid having to put explanations 
in the text of their work. Unlike Nwankwo, Ike uses a wide variety 
of language for he has Amadi exchange dialogue with villagers, porters, 
fellow students and professors. Each encounter is presented in 
language appropriate to the characters between whom the exchange is 
occurring. Conversely, Nwankwo deals entirely with village people 
so the Ibo speech patterns are most often seen through his writing. 

The scorch season was dying. The happiest 
time of the year, the season for feasts, when men 
and women laughing with all their teeth and little 
boys, their mouths oily, oily, ran about the lanes 
blowing the crops of chicken to make balloons. In 
a few days the rain season would come and bring with 
it the ceaseless sound of labour. And men would 
leave their homes with the first cry of the cock 
and would not return until the chicken came back 






' 




























to roost. Already the bushes were on fire 
and the acrid smell of burning permeated the 
earth. (64) 

Within this paragraph is seen the poetic 'scorch season dying', the 
transliteration of 'men and women with all their teeth', the use of 
repetition for emphasis in 'litle boys, their mouths oily, oily' and 
an ordering of sentences which shows the flow of activities at the 
end of a season. 

Protagonists in Toads For Supper , Panda and Jingala depict many 
of the characteristics of anti-heroes in the individual's struggle to 
find his place, to have some measure of self-expression without being 
hampered by tradition. The endings provide no definite answers; the 
reader is left uneasily wondering what will happen next. However, the 
individual has asserted himself, and the focus has shifted towards a 
new struggle — the struggle between the importance of the group and 
the importance of the individual. These novels have no axe to grind; 
they are non-political; they are light. Each provides an easy intro¬ 
duction to various aspects of African life. 

The ten novels selected and analyzed reveal insights and tech¬ 
niques which would be of interest to students. Chinua Achebe's novels 
Things Fall Apart , No Longer at Ease , Arrow of God , and A Man of the 
People together present an historical perspective for they reveal the 
change in society over a period of seventy-five years. If viewed 
from the rural-urban perspective. Things Fall Apart and Arrow of God 
align themselves against No Longer at Ease and A Nan of the People . 

The novels studied separately offer interesting variety. Things Fall 
Apart depicts the individual caught between the traditional way of 
life in which he believes and the society in flux where the society's 
















’ 


iV, 





























131 


lack of a definite stand causes the individual to sacrifice himself. 
Arrow of God presents a psychological study of Ezeulu, a man unable to 
decide if he should obey the dictates of his god or the needs of his 
society. No Longer at Ease reveals the newly educated man unable to 
fit into the expectations of traditional or modern society and A Man 
of the People satirizes the Africans' rush to mimic the behavior and 
amass the material wealth their colonizers exhibited. 

Amos Tutuola's The Palm-Wine D r inkard , besides portraying the 
quest motif, offers insights about African myth and legend, and pro¬ 
vides an opportunity to examine language use by characters closely 
tied to the oral tradition and unfamiliar with standard English. 

Another novel depicting the quest motif is Gabriel Okara's The Voice . 
This novel, too, may be studied in a variety of ways. A comparison 
of characters in The Voice and Things Fall Apart reveals how characters 
who begin at opposite points, like Okolo, an outsider, and Okonkwo, 
an insider, can both be destroyed because of their respective society's 
stand. Contrasting with the above comparison would be a study of 
Okolo and Danda, both outsiders at the beginning of their novels The 
Voice and Danda . Danda, however, eventually becomes a leader as his 
society adjusts to change, while Okolo's society does not and Okolo is 
destroyed. 

Ngugi wa Thiong'o's Weep Not, Child , Nkem Nwankwo's Danda , 

Legson Kayira's Jingala and Chukwuemeka Ike's Toads For Supper each 
portray boys or young men struggling to make sense out of the confu¬ 
sion in the societies in which they live and to find a direction for 
themselves that will allow them to develop freely. Weep Not, Child 


if viewed historically, reveals an important part of the Kenyan 































132 


revolt. If viewed biographically, it takes into account some of 
Ngugi's youth. Toads For Supper , Jingala and No Longer at Ease offer 
possibilities for concurrent study as each portrays an individual who 
goes against what is expected of him. 

Each novel selected and analyzed thus has several ways in which it 
could be viewed by students. The brief analysis of each novel and the 
suggestions for use are only a beginning. Teachers will be able to 
find various methods and approaches to enhance the teaching of African 
novels written in English as an integral part of the English program. 







t 






















CHAPTER V 


SUMMARY, CONCLUSIONS, AND RECOMMENDATIONS 

What better way is there to create viable and 
more positive human relationships than through 
the study of literature, for it is through 
literature that one gains insights into those 
universal verities of life: pain, love, hope 
and dreams as they touch the lives of all men? 

(Perry, 1971 , 1061 ) 

The purposes of this study have been to present an overview of 
African novels written in English in order to identify those novels 
that have possibilities for use in the high school classroom and to 
provide a brief analysis of the selected novels. The study high¬ 
lights the enriched knowledge and understanding that will accrue to 
students and teachers who study one or more African novels written in 
English. Considerable information organized in four steps has been 
presented to aid the teacher in assessing selected African novels 
for high school use. These steps are the establishment of the need 
for such study by students, the perspectives necessary to make the 
study meaningful, the overview of eighty novels by forty-two novelists, 
and the analysis of ten novels which have possibilities for classroom 
use. 

The need to study the fictional offerings of African novelists 
writing in English has been established through discussion of the 
few studies undertaken in the area of Black literature and students' 
response to its use, the increasing concern about the lack of a 
wide range of literary material offered students (being voiced 
by numerous educators) and the changing curricular objectives for 
language arts programs. This review of the literature has emphasized 


133 








































1*1 




that within a study of the literature of diverse countries students 
have the opportunity to develop an appreciation of the worth of indi¬ 
viduals from different cultural environments, to become aware of 
various people's contribution to today's world, and to study the 
distinctive features of works by authors from those countries. 

Two perspectives with which teachers and students need to become 
familiar in order to more fully appreciate the writing of African 
novelists are the role of the oral tradition in African life and the 
purposes for literature identified by African writers. Just as in 
teaching any literature the conscientious teacher, as well as having 
a thorough knowledge of the literature to be taught, must learn the 
significant facts about the history and culture of the writers and 
make an effort to understand their national or racial experience in 
order to comprehend the significance of their writings. 

Out of the particular background of the African novelists has 
come the need to modify the accepted characteristics of the novel. 
These modifications — the character as representative of the group 
or in opposition to the group, the plot as a loose narration of events 
or the presentation of a particular situation which affects both indi¬ 
vidual and group, the use of local color to develop atmosphere and 
mood, the use of African sentence patterns, phrases, and proverbs to 
enhance the African character and environment — are examples of the 
African novelists' attempt to meld those techniques that provide 
greatest meaning in the African context with western genre expecta¬ 
tions. These essential characteristics have been woven into the 
framework which was used in the assessment of novels described in 


♦ 




r 

' 



135 


the overview. 

The overview of African novels written in English since 1952 re¬ 
vealed considerable variation in the quality of the novels. Novels 
which reveal deep insights into the African's struggle stand along¬ 
side works which do little more than recount traditional customs or 
reflect personal experience. Several trends also emerged during the 
overview. Early novels presented a way of life untouched by out¬ 
siders. Later novels moved through the stages of depicting confronta¬ 
tions between traditional and western ways to the presentation of 
problems which arose prior to, during, and after Independence. Recent 
novels have shown greater concern for the individual and his struggle 
to find his place in these changing societies. 

Finally, ten novels* Things Fall Apart , No Longer at Ease , Arrow 
of God , A Man of the People , Weep Not, Child , The Palm-Wine Drinkard , 
The Voice , Panda , Jingala and Toads For Supper , were selected and 
analyzed to identify some of the insights and techniques they revealed 
which would be of interest to high school students and their study of 
1iterature. 

Based on the research completed during the preparation of this 
study, the following conclusions were reached. 

1. The study of African novels written in English has 
relevance for today's high school students. 

2. The African background of the novelists and their 
purposes for writing literature provide students 
with a different viewpoint through which to respond 


to literature. 


































t 



















3. The overview of African novels written in English 
reveals that a considerable amount of writing of 
varying quality has been published. 

4. African writing of quality which has possible use 
in high schools offers 

a. insights which reveal the common concerns of 
all men developed in relation to the unique 
background of each character, 

b. literary characteristics which have been modi¬ 
fied to suit the background and needs of the 
African characters, 

c. language variations that reflect the background 
of the character and his understanding of the 
English language. 

5. African novels written in English and related secondary 
source materials are becoming more readily available to 
those interested in attaining and using them. 

In view of the foregoing conclusions, and in view of the oppor 
tunities for Canadian secondary schools to implement the use of a 
wide range of literary materials in their English Language Arts pro 
gram, the following recommendations are generated for consideration 
by classroom teachers, curriculum developers and researchers. 

1. That themes and approaches be identified which could 
be used to ensure the African novel written in English 
is studied as an integral part of the regular English 


course. 












137 


2. That the cultural background in which the novel was 
written, the social and historical period in which it 
is set and the novelist's background be studied to 
identify information which would enhance the insights 
to be gained from the study of the selected novel. 

3. That units which centre on the African novel written 

in English be developed and tested to ascertain student 
response to the insights gained and techniques studied. 

4. That opportunities for grants to study African litera¬ 
ture in a place where such study is intense be made 
available to professors, curriculum developers and 
teachers. 

5. That ways be identified in which a wider range of 
literary material could become an integral part of 

the English Language Arts curriculum at the high school 
level. 

6. That schools, school systems, universities and provin¬ 
cial Departments of Education co-operate in the 
development of courses and inservice workshops for the 
purpose of preparing teachers to teach a wider range 
of 1iterature. 

7. That the Alberta English Language Arts Council and the 
Canadian Council of Teachers of English lend more active 
support in stimulating greater interest in and support 
for the inclusion of a wider ranger of literary material 
in high school English courses. 




■ 




















138 


8. That English teachers, curriculum developers and 
other educators press for more Canadian outlets 
for buying international literature. 

9. That classroom teachers, consultants, curriculum 
developers and publishing firms co-operate in 
producing teaching materials for a wider range 
of literature. 

10. That research be undertaken to identify other 

international literature suitable for high school 
use. 

In view of the multi-ethnic background of the people of Canada, 
in view of the increasing possibilities of becoming affected by develop¬ 
ments in and among numerous countries of the world, and in view of 
more travel opportunities which enhance possibilities for contact 
among people of diverse backgrounds, the need to encourage students' 
understanding of people whose backgrounds may be different increases 
immeasurably. The novel offers ample opportunity to study people, 
their situations and problems, and the variety of ways these can be 
revealed and developed. African novels written in English, because 
of their realistic nature, provide many insights into the experiences, 
values, and concerns of African people in the changing societies and 
shifting world in which they live. 

Stambolian (1970), in an article stressing the need for the 

inclusion of more diverse literature in high school classrooms, 

capsulizes what the teacher through the study of this wide range of 

literature can offer students. 

Through diversity, great literary artists 
have always reached the same goal, heightening 




’’M : 













the perceptions and deepening the insights 
of readers — truly creating new dimensions. 

(30) 

It is, thus, the responsibility of the teacher to use available 
opportunities to help students understand how man uses language 
to express his concerns and share his experiences, how man manipulates 
language to enhance his point of view, and how man the world over 
faces similar struggles which are worked out according to the cultural 
environment in which he finds himself. 






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