FICTIONAL REPRESENTATION OF THE OPPRESSED IN THE NOVELS OF NGUGI WA THIONG’O, TANURE OJAIDE AND HELON HABILA

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ABSTRACT




African writers have consistently addressed social and political problems of their societies. The current revolutionary trend of the novel is an expression of writers’ disaffection with the ineffectual social, political and economic structures of African nations, especially after independence from the colonial masters, and their conviction that a candid restructuring is a desideratum. So with its focus on the oppressed in the African society, this study aims to explore the various facets of oppression as portrayed in the African novel. The study, in fact, silhouettes the emergent factors against contemporary realities in African countries because the works under study, Wa Thiong’o’s Devil on the Cross, Ojaide’s The Activist and Habila’s Waiting for an Angel, are peopled with oppressed characters and groups in each setting. A systematic critical approach is adopted to unravel the different causes, forms and consequences of oppression in the literary works. The Marxist critical model is used to explain leadership problems, economic and political oppression, which are forces/factors that undermine the survival of the oppressed class—the proletariat. The study also reveals the existence and status of the oppressed characters and groups, whose oppression is as a result of corruption, greed, sabotage, betrayal, materialism, etc. In fact, these oppressed individuals and groups are subjected to deprivations, humiliations, psychological traumas, social, economic, political and cultural handicaps such that they are always in sorrow over their sub-human and sub-standard conditions, hence the struggle for change and emancipation. The writers under study, therefore, advocate that the oppressed masses should take up arms and overthrow their oppressors, bearing in mind that their freedom is in their own hands.


TABLE OF CONTENTS

Title Page
Abstract
Table of Contents

Chapter One: Introduction
1.1       Background to the Study
1.2       Statement of the Problem
1.3       Objectives of the Study
1.4       Significance of the Study
1.5       Scope and Limitations of the Study
1.6       Explanation of Keywords/Concepts

Chapter Two: Literature Review
2.1       Introduction/Overview
2.2       Literature Review on Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s Devil on the Cross
2.3       Literature Review on Tanure Ojaide’s The Activist
2.4       Literature Review on Helon Habila’s Waiting for an Angel

Chapter Three: Theoretical Framework and Methodology
3.1       Introduction
3.2       Marxism and Class Struggle
3.2.1 Marxism as a Political Practice
3.3       Marxist Criticism
3.4       The Society and Social Consciousness Among Artists
3.5       Violence as a By-Product of the Revolutionary Ethos
3.6       Political/Ideological Commitments
3.7       Dialectical Materialism
3.8       Common Themes in the Literature of Oppression

Chapter Four: Ngugi wa Thiong’o and the Quest for Genuine Freedom, Change, Justice and Equity
4.1       Profile of a Literary and Social Activist
4.2       The Novel and Portrayal of Oppression
4.3       The Quest for Freedom and Change

Chapter Five: The Concept of the People as a Revolutionary Force in Tanure Ojaide’s The Activist
5.1       Ojaide’s Social and Educational Status
5.2       Environmental Degradation and Oppression in The Activist
5.3       The People’s Revolutionary Struggle for Change

Chapter Six: The Fight Against Tyranny and Oppression in Helon Habila’s Waiting for an Angel
6.1       The Novelist: Helon Habila
6.2       The Inspiration and Structure
6.3       Military Dictatorship, Tyranny and Oppression in Waiting for an Angel
6.4       The Struggle for a Better Life

Chapter Seven: Conclusion
Works Cited


CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION




1.1       Background to the Study

In the words of our eminent African novelist, Chinua Achebe:

The trouble with Nigeria is simply and squarely a failure of leadership. There is nothing basically wrong with the Nigerian land or climate or water or air or anything else. The Nigerian problem is the unwillingness or inability of its leaders to rise to the responsibility, to the challenge of personal example which are the hallmark of true leadership (The Trouble With Nigeria, 1).
Without doubt, this perfect observation by Chinua Achebe, arguably one of the world’s most erudite literary scholars and social commentators, captures the cankerworm that has consistently plagued the Nigerian and, indeed, the African political landscape since the various countries got their independence from colonial rule. Ours is a continent with a teeming and resourceful population, abundant natural, agricultural and mineral resources, yet mired by misrule and glaring mismanagement.
In fact, leadership, in all its ramifications, has actually been the bane of our collective existence, such that today, most African countries are reference points of tyranny, oppression, power mongering, official corruption, electoral malfeasance, intolerance, victimisation, betrayal, sabotage, exploitation, ritual/wanton killings, and all kinds of humiliation and human degradation of the citizenry, especially the poor masses and those who advocate a functional model of society. Thus, everywhere in the post-independence African society, there is oppression, hunger and starvation, and the looming shadows of unmitigated greed and egregious ostentation in the face of crushing poverty, tyranny, betrayal and alarming insecurity have reduced Africa to an everyone-for-himself and God-for-us-all society.
There are loud grumblings about the yawning gap between the rich and the poor. Serial failure of leadership has crippled the continent on the race-track of global competition for development. Unfortunately, there is conspiratorial silence on what is to be done with power so as to make the conditions of the vast majority of the people better, especially in the search for an egalitarian society, a society where resources are evenly distributed. The leadership class has not thought it wise to woo the masses—the oppressed, the deprived, the exploited, the wretched of the earth—on the strength and conviction of their vision for their societies to be optimistic of a better future.

To them, the African people should be quite easily exploited and oppressed, as the whites did to them under colonialism. Power failure, oppression, exploitation, indifference, betrayal of hope, bad roads, poor healthcare, inadequate housing, declining standards of education, massive unemployment, corruption, disillusionment, lack of basic necessities, safety, etc. have become the bane of the continent. In fact, this systemic rot is an urgent reminder of things to do in post-independence Africa. And the very first things to do is to change the way we have been doing things.

We need a change of system; a paradigm shift in our thinking, vision, values and actions. Indeed, there is no gainsaying that the present system, which promotes the selfish interests of a select few to the detriment of our common good of all in post-colonial Africa, is an additional burden to the challenges of nation building. Since a house divided against itself cannot stand, Africans should not continue with a system that divides them, diminishes and dehumanises their people; a system that oppresses and exploits them; a system that stifles creativity and discourages even distribution of resources and....


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