THEMATIC PREOCCUPATIONS AND NARRATIVE DEVICES IN CHIMMAMANDA NGOZI ADICHIE’S PURPLE HIBISCUS AND KAINE AGRARY ’S YELLOW YELLOW TABLE OF CONTENTS CHAPTER ONE: Introduction 1.1Scope of Study- - - - - - Purpose of Study- - - - - - - Methodology- - - - - - - 1.4 Theoretical Background - - - - - 1.5 Review of Criticism - - - - - 1.6 Thesis Statement - - - - - CHAPTER TWO: Thematic Preoccupations in Purple Hibiscus - - 2.1 High-Handedness 2.2 Rebellion 2.3 Disintegration Thematic Preoccupations in Yellow Yellow 2.4 Degradation of the Niger Delta 2.5 Quest for Economic Survival 2.6 Moral Decadence- - CHAPTER THREE: Narrative Devices Deployed in the Novels 3.1 Suspense 3.2 Point of View 3.3 Symbolism 3.4 Irony CHAPTER FIVE: Conclusion- - - - Works Cited - - - - - CHAPTER ONE Introduction Purpose of Study This essay examines thematic preoccupations in Chimmamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus and Kaine Agrary’s Yellow Yellow. In addition to, the narrative devices deployed in the novels are looked at. 1.2 Scope of Study The scope of this essay is limited to the study of selected themes and narrative devices used in Chimmamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus and Kaine Agrary Yellow Yellow. 1.3 Methodology This study employs qualitative research method. Qualitative method is a type of research approach which examines the concept, meaning metaphor or symbols used in the projection of a text’s message. It does not use data, statistics and figures like the quantitative approach, however, it seeks an in-depth analysis of a text. In this essay, the primary texts for this study are thoroughly read and relevant portions are analysed. Pertinent and scholarly comments from articles online and in print journals are used in the interpretation of the texts. Moreover, the concept of formalism to the study of literary texts is employed as the basis of this study’s analysis. 1.4 Theoretical Background This essay adopts the tenets of formalistic approach in the study of literary texts. In other words, the formalistic approach to the study of literary texts is used as the theoretical background in this study. Formalistic theory prioritizes the place of form and structure in the study of literary works. The deployment of literary devices in the realization of authors’ messages in literary works is considered significant in the interpretation of a text. In other words, literary devices such as language, setting, characters, point of view, irony, suspense are studied. Formalist concern is with a text and not factors outside the text for this reason formalistic critics carry out intrinsic and not extrinsic study of a text. Looking at a text from within excludes social and historical context in which the work is set. Therefore, context in which the work is set. Therefore, biographical, social, political, psychological or ideological information is not given a worthy or serious attention in the analysis and interpretation of a text. Literary elements or narrative devices employed in a text are given priority. According to M.H. Abrams: formalists have also made influential contributions to the theory of prose fiction. With respect to this genre, the central formalist distinction is that between the “story” (the simple enumeration of a chronological sequence of events) and a plot. An author is said to transform the raw material of a story into a literary plot by the use of a variety of devices that violate sequence and perform and defamiliarize the story elements; the effect is to foreground the narrative medium and devices themselves, and in this way to disrupt and refresh what had been our standard responses to the subject matter. (108) Abrams’s opinion correctly summaries the key concept of formalistic approach to the study of literary texts. The theory maintains that the components of a literary text must be given a top priority if its meaning must be realized with accuracy. Formalistic critics read a text closely and locate the author’s message strictly inside the text. Wilfred L. Guering et al. also elaborate on the place of formalist criticism in the realization of a text’s meaning. They assert that, “the object of “formalistic” criticism is to find the key to the structure and meaning of the literary work a key that inevitably reveals itself as necessary to the experience of the work as an art Form” (45). The surest and most reliable way of arriving at the meaning of a text is to study its internal structure and form. They go further to say that, “this approach is based on the idea that, although extra-literary considerations such as the author’s life, his times, and sociological phenomena may be interesting and sometimes quite helpful, the heart of the matter ought to be, quit simply: what is the literary work, what are its shape and effect, and how do these come about? in short, we search for the form, necessary for a real understanding of the work” (45). It is very important to state that formalistic approach is unique because it practitioners pay attention to details in their interpretation of a text. No aspect of a text is given unworthy attention. A formalistic critic does not study central characters alone but minor characters as well. This approach enables a critic to carry out a complementary analysis which highlights the relationship between all characters either major or minor. Formalism at different times, has adopted different names but its tenets and approach remains the same. The world of literature accommodates the formalistic approach because it is flexible and not rigid for this reason, difference in name does not result to difference in idea and approach which formalists use in their analysis. Abrams affirms that there is a tie between Formalistic Approach and New Criticism hence readers use them interchangeably. According to Abrams, “American New criticism, although it developed independently, is sometimes called “formalist” because like European formalism, it stresses the analysis of the literary work as a self-sufficient verbal entity, constituted by internal relations and independent of reference either to the state of mind of the author or to the actualities of the “external” world” (108). Ann B. Dobie comments on Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s assertion on form which maintains that, “form is actually the whole that is produced by various structural elements working together” (34). Each literary text has different segments on which its overall message hinges. In the view of this, formalistic adherents maintain that the reliable way to identify the meaning of a text is to look within its intricate elements which the author deployed in its composition. Rather than looking at external factors like psychological, sociological and historical ideology to explain the meaning of a text, efforts should be invested in the analysis of a text’s internal form and structure because they give rise to meaning. Intrinsic exploration of a text therefore requires that a critic means should focus on the inherent or integral segments or parts of literary texts which largely account for their meanings. Going by this reasoning, there are close ties between a text’s thematic preoccupation and literary devices deployed by authors. Formalist critics investigate how a work is structured to realize its themes and this literary quest begins with the organization a text’s plot. That is all the artistic elements which are employed to build up the structure and form of the text are given worthy attention. Some texts do not yield their meaning easily and if these texts are subjected to all sorts of ideological theories, they become ambiguous. Formalistic theory does not impose certain ideologies on literary texts and this makes it less demanding to uncover the meaning of texts. It may therefore be out of the way to apply a psychological approach to a text that dwells on political persuasion. A formalistic approach however offers an open end approach to the study of a text. It does not give straight jacket rules that hinder free analysis and interpretation. Charles E. Bressler argues that the meaning of a text is located in its structure. Bresseler holds that critics should pay attention to a text’s structure because, “its meaning must reside within its own structure. Like all other objects, a poem and its structure can be analyzed scientifically… It is the critic’s job, they conclude, to ascertain the structure of the poem, to see how it operates to achieve its unity, and to discover how meaning evolves directly from the poem itself” (44). What Bressler is saying is that external considerations such as the authors’ sociological background, biography, political orientation or socio-culture orientation ought not to be focused on in the analysis of literary texts therefore Bressler maintains that to “analyze all images, symbols, and figures of speech within the text” (47). Formalism is a literary theory which stimulates readers to focus on the form of a text as a reliable way of arriving at the meaning of such text. Formalists analyse and interpret a literary text by looking at its plot structure, setting, characters diction, symbols and the point of view from which an author tells his story. Critics who follow the formalistic persuasion believe that the biography of an author, the psychology and the sociology of his days are not dependable way of arriving at the meaning of a text. Finally, it is crucial to state that the whole or sole business of a formalistic critic is to shred a text into bits and examines how each literary element deployed in the text helps such text to realize its meaning. Texts are therefore independent of readers subjective reasoning. Close reading of a text is a popular method formalistic critics employed in the reading of a text. Such approach of interpreting a text becomes necessary because sometimes the meaning of a text is hidden. Until elements like symbols, metaphor, setting or language and so on are uncovered, certain layers of meaning will not be brought out. This approach affords a critic to identify the relationship among different aspects of a text. This pattern of analysis and interpretation of a text is structurally inclined on this ground formalistic critics are considered to be structural because they emphasis on the structural form of a text their criticism. Most critics who comply to the tenets of formalism tend to favour it because it is objective and not subjective. It gives each critic a refreshing opportunity to look at a text from an individual point of view rather than looking at a text from the stand point of a theory with restricted ideology. In other words, formalistic approach does not compel critics to follow the tenets of disciplines outside literature therefore critics focus on a text and not ideas outsides it. The formalist approach is applied in this study. 1.5 Review of Related Scholarship Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus has attracted many critical and scholarly comments but Agary’s Yellow Yellow has not. What scholars have said about the two novels are examined. In a study on sex, gender and sexuality, Femi Ehijele Eromosele looks at the portrayal of characters’ attitudes towards themselves as depicted in Adichei’s Purple Hibiscus, Half of a Yellow Sun and The Thing around your Neck. In his argument, Purple Hibiscus, “is an indictment against fanatic brand of Catholicism-or any other religion that seeks to suppress the development of the total human in the name of holiness” (101). A study of Kambili’s relationship with other characters especially Father Amadi brings her suppressed sexuality out. Prior to her contact with the priest, her father has dominated her emotional, psychological and physical being such that she does not know how to properly relate with male characters. This further suppresses her to the extent that her cousin, Amaka calls her, “Atulu” that is, a sheep. Ogechikwu A. Ikediugwu claims that, “the sharp contrasts that exist in the developments of both sexs”(3) helps to point out the differences between Adichie’s male and female characters. For instance, she notes that the “female characters recognize the communal spirit of Africans and try to respect it in all their endeavours. They are accomodating, loving, supportive and protective while at the same time assertive of their rights whenever the situation demands for it” (14). This is true of Aunty Ifeoma who stands up to defend the feminist voice in Purple Hibiscus. It is on this premises that Maureen Amaka Azuike writes that, “the protagonists of Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus and Half of a Yellow sun have taken charge of their lives by taking decisions which may leave the readers absolutely breathless” (82). Beatrice is one of the characters who takes a bold step in fighting for her freedom. She poisons her husband who bullies her and this actually leaves readers speechless and breathless. Beatrice has endured all manners of ill-treatment with a submissive spirit but suddenly she becomes irrational and as a consequence she kills her husband. This unexpected action makes Purple Hibiscus a classic example of radical feminist text. Symbolism is a powerful device which writers employ to give extension of meaning to their works. There are symbolic objects like palm, missal, blood, figurine etc in Purple Hibiscus. Andre Kabore asserts that, “palms symbolize victory or triumph” (32) and “the figurines are always associated with Mama or at least mentioned in connection with her” (34). Mabore writes that: Mama is so happy with the figurines that she hugs herself. The glass is delicate, easily breakable. It is a sign of fragility in comparison to something stronger like the heavy missal which may personify Papa himself. The author establishes a link between the figurines and Mama’s gentle attempts to cope with her husband’s violence. Mama is physically weaker than papa. Interestingly, each time she is beaten by her husband, after her miscarriages for example, she spends some time with the figurine as if retracting to thinks over and find solution to stop such abuses. (34) Adichie draws a link between her characters and certain objects which physically represent their inner emotions. For instance, Mama’s personality and passion rest in the figurines which means a lot to her and her world view. Kabore maintains that, “since the smashing of the figurines, the relationship is the family have changed. Mama secretly gets ready for vengeance” (34). Mama bottles her emotion in the figurines and the moment Papa dares to break the figurines, things fall apart in the family. The figurines which represents Mama’s reserved personality is broken and her true image is brought out. Brender Cooper argues that “the figurines in other words, are Mama’s protecting spirits” (5). This is a kind of her personal god to her. She sees her shell broken and this fuels her anger and the yearning to end her task master’s life. She subsequently kills her husband who opposes her happiness and joy. Kabore concludes by saying that the symbols in the novel, “are ambivalent, revealing the complexity of characters which are full of strange contrasts and contradictions” (36). Lawal M. Olusola and Fatai Alabi Lawal affirm that Adichie deploys language to bring out the artistic strength of Purple Hibiscus. Olusola and lawal argue that, “the linguistic acumen displayed by the author here looks into how women are underestimated, downgraded, second classed and rather looked down upon by their men counterparts and how women are rising to the occasion to take on men’s challenge on this” (12). Language is a tool in which people reconstruct their world. It is observed that Adichie’s deployment of language in Purple Hibiscus reveals that women are portrayed as less human through their description and portrayal by men. Olusola and lawal concluded that, “there is a lot of deployment of linguistics adroitness and ideological disposition by Adeichie in Purple Hibiscus” (15). Words are used to socially class women such that they appear less important. The ideology of patriarchy which demeans the female gender is pursued through the use of language which relegates women. Florence O. Orabueze in her critique of Purple Hibiscus observes that it is an embodiment of man’s struggle for emancipation. Patriarchy is considered a terrible institution because it seems to empower men to subjugate their household. This is the position of Orabueze. She write that in Purple Hibiscus: Adichie shows that violence begets violence. She shows that the brutality, which Eugene Achike suffered in his travail to acquire the white man’s way, has turned him into a horrendous brute. He directs this brutality on his family in the name of Christianity. He beats Jaja, his son, until his little finger is paralyzed for falling two catechism questions that make him not to be the first in the class. He beats his wife several times that her face and eyes look like black-purple colour of an overripe avocado. He brutally assaults her several times when she was pregnant that the fetuses aborted. (226) This is a clear case of brutality, tyranny, and total cruelty against humanity. It is surprising that Eugene should be at the helm of such in human act and it is most disappointing that he cannot achieve the sort of perfection he seeks through brutality. For every action, there is a reaction which tries to balance two forces. In the words of Orabueze: Adichie shows that a man with such excesses imposition of suffocating restriction and brutalization and dehumanization of his family must pay for them. The whole structure of the novel is rooted in irony and there are several ironical situations. Eugene Achike, in battering the family insists that he wants them to attain the state of perfection, but in killing him they seem to be imperfect. This shows that his brutal training of his family is inadequate. (228) The reward of Eugene’s brutality against his dear or loved ones is death which his wife personally dishes out. Her mind is sunk low that the only reasonably punishment for her bully is death. Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus consequently warns that brutality should not be celebrated as a virtue in the pursuit of obedience and compliance. Sophia O. Ogwude notes that Adichie leaves readers speechless, “at the degree of Eugene’s in humanity of others under the pretext of religious zealousness” (116). Eugene acts under the impulse of religion but his extremism portrays him as a religious catalyst whose reaction is corrosive to people around. Sonika Sethi looks at the shift in generations that Adichie captures in the novel. The old orders are crumbling fast and the new generation people find it difficult to accept existing state of affairs, that is, the status quo. This gives rise to the issue of tradition and modernity in the novel. Sethi notes that: The unprecedented maturity in handling the theme of tradition versus modernity in her debut novel makes Adichie a novelist par excellence. Purple Hibiscus not only depicts the strife between modernity and tradition but also dares to take up the conflict that clogged the minds of thousands of Nigerians in the times of newly acquired independence. Transition is never an essay process and Adichie has aptly demonstrated the fact through her characters belonging to three generations. The story in a way reminds the reader of Achebe’s Things Fall Apart which is an excruciating tale of the members of a society who once stood together like a rock to preserve their culture but fall apart under the influence of powerful external force that targets the younger generation. The struggle between old beliefs and new religion is apparent in Purple Hibiscus.(web) Without doubt, there are series of contention in Purple Hibiscus and this is due to the failure of one party to yield to the other one. Papa, that is uncle Eugene holds a dangerous opinion about his religion where as his son Jaja does not buy his extremist ideas. His mother endures it a while and his sister also manages to bear it. Jaja does not so he confronts his father. This perhaps triggers Mama who eventually kills her wicked husband. Davin Stevens posits that, “the conflict between rebellion and obedience is also prevalent in Adichie’s novel Purple Hibiscus” (Web). Jaja’s father is very strict and brutal therefore he expects members of his family to be submissive to his authority. His highhandedness however makes kambili to be a recluse and Jaja a rebel. Stevens concludes that, “authority and rebellion constitute a lifelong struggle in Africa” (Web). This claim is true when placed side by side with Nigerian socio-political landscape. There are children-parents conflict and citizens-government conflict as well. J.E. Akung and A. Iloeje look at Kaine Agary’s Yellow Yellow from the point view of ecology and social collapse. There is a constant fall in the state of the earth and this partly blamed on human activities which has degraded the face of the earth. J.E. Akung and A. Iloeje write that: The novel explores the socio-cultural effects of oil exploration on ecology. It examines the effects of coastal communities in contact with the sea in the Niger-Delta. Some of these include what Kaine Agary calls, “Born troway”, “African profits”, “father unknown”, “Ashawo-pickin.” Zilayefa the heroine of the novel is a product of one of such contacts. The bulk of some of these contacts makes up for the tendency towards criminality in the Niger-Delta region in addition to poor leadership at all levels of governance. (Web) the novel projects most of the social challenges that make life unbearable for those who live along the coasts and creeks of Niger-Delta. Apart from the natural disasters they face due to oil exploration, there are many man-made social problems which have reduced the inhabitants’ human dignity. E.D. Simon in his own analysis of Yellow Yellow argues that: Saro Wiwa’s fight for social justice and minority rights has made him a man of the people. That he was able to mobilise and draw attention, locally and internationally to the plight of his people marked him out as one of the greatest activist of our time. Kaine Agary’s novel, Yellow-Yellow situates itself within the Niger Delta discourse as well as the polemics surrounding the women in this region. Agary’s inspiration as a writer derives from Saro Wiwa’s commitment for social justice for the Ogoni people, who have been marginalised, deprived and exploited. Pushed to the wall, these people have no choice but to bounce back in order to force the government and indeed humanity to understand their predicament. This has led to untold violence: killing, maiming, gunrunning, destruction/vandalization of pipelines and recently kidnapping of foreigners and Nigerians for ransom. Young girls/women who cannot find jobs to do or education, find succour in the hands of foreigners who exploit their sexuality. The plight of women in the Niger Delta region is indeed pathetic. Agary’s Yellow-Yellow is a literary enterprise whose main thrust is to expose further the socio-economic predicament of the people as well as explore the debilitating effect of poverty on the feminine psyche.(157) Those in the Niger Delta region are exposed to effects of oil spillage besides the problem of unemployment has turn the youths into criminals and unrest almost become a daily affair there. Women and young girls engage in prostitution to survive hardship. According to the assertion of Beatrice Orife, “Yellow-Yellow, Destination Biafra and Condolences raised vital issues about the survival of man in a degraded environment; however, Agary’s ‘Yellow Yellow shows that the people of the oil rich Niger Delta region groan under the evil hands of the multinational that exploit the land, to the detriment of the people. She mirrors the disastrous effects, both human and environmental of oil exploration in the Niger Delta” (170). Those with money exploit the weak thereby creating different social problems in society. Most characters in Yellow Yellow lack basic education thus Bayo Ogunjimi indicts ignorance of the cause of the people’s plight. He says that, Agary’s characters are depicted as ‘illiterate, gullible and rural, exploited because of conservative dogmatism and adherence to superstition” (85). Education is a vital too of emancipation but the characters in the novel seem to be less informed and this doubles their challenges. Precious Ona adds that “to Agary, the suffering is in two forms: the women suffer in the hands of the foreign oil expatriate and in the hands of local men who discriminate, subjugate and relegate them to the background. For the young girls in Agary’s fiction, the only escape is through prostitution. The hazards of prostitution are numerous. Apart from sexually transmitted diseases, the men abuse women physically or pushed objects like bottles into their privates as part of their fun” (35). The challenge of the novel’s heroine lays bare the fact that people in that region are endangered humans due to the endless hardship they go through. It is from this point of view that Ignatius Chukwumah studies the novel. According to Chukwumah in his comment on Yellow Yellow, he argues that “Kaine Agary’s Yellow-Yellow is a literary enterprise whose main thrust is to expose further the socio-economic predicament of the people as well as to explore the debilitating effect of poverty on the feminine psyche” (2). The novel is therefore an embodiment of social problems in the novel. From the works seen so far on Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus and Agrary’s Yellow Yellow, none seems to have fully discussed their thematic thrusts nor given the novels’ narrative devices worthy attention. This essay therefore attempts a new study geared towards the study of narrative devices and thematic preoccupation in Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus and Agrary’s Yellow Yellow. 1.6 Thesis Statement This essay posits the thematic preoccupations in Chimmamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus as: high-handedness, rebellion, disintegration and the thematic preoccupations in Kaine Agrary’s Yellow Yellow as : environmental degradation, quest for economic survival and moral decadence through the use of suspense, point of view, symbolism and irony deployed in the narrative devices used in both in both novels.
THE WRITER AND THE NIGER DELTA: A STUDY OF KAINE AGARY’S YELLOW YELLOW AND TANURE OJAIDE’S THE ACTIVIST ABSTRACT It should depress us that the Government and oil companies in the Niger Delta are the cause of the problems facing the people. To expose and deplore this ill is the Kernel of this... Continue Reading
ABSTRACT The research work reviews the historical encounter between the whites and Africans and argues that the challenges or problems evident in the black society at present are as a result of the white m also looks into the social... Continue Reading
TABLE OF CONTENTS CHAPTER ONE: INTRODUCTION Life and work of author Purpose of study Scope of study Research methodology Definition of terms – violence and oppression Literature review Thesis statement CHAPTER TWO:... Continue Reading
’S HALF OF A YELLOW SUN AND OKEY NDIBE’S ARROWS OF RAIN ABSTRACT This project work is on political corruption and symbolism. This project work brings out the corrupt practices by politicians and military rulers. To also brings out... Continue Reading
ABSTRACT This work was carried out to investigate the chemical properties of the water extract of zobo (Hibiscus sabdariffa) drink using the modern atomic absorption spectrophotometer. Zobo drink is a popular drink in the... Continue Reading
ABSTRACT This work was carried out to investigate the chemical properties of the water extract of zobo (Hibiscus sabdariffa) drink using the modern atomic absorption spectrophotometer. Zobo drink is a popular drink in the... Continue Reading