This study examines what character traits can be revealed about four selected characters (Jojo, Marjorie, Norah and Dwayne) through their interpersonal interactions with others in Benjamin Kwakye‘s The Other Crucifix (2010). It also looks at how the characters‘ choices of sentence types and grammatical categories such as Modality, Subject, Polarity and Vocatives reveal about the selected characters‘ interpersonal relations. The study focuses on a structural-functional analysis of characters‘ use of language in context. This chapter discusses the general overview of this research and a brief theoretical and methodological framework within which the study was undertaken.
Background to the Study
The study of character and characterization has received great attention and has generated a lot of interest and analysis by both literature and language scholars in African and non-African fictional narratives.
One way through which humans often convey their experiences and social realities is through literature (Koussouhon & Laine, 2016). This is what, to some extent, Benjamin Kwakye has portrayed in his fictional autobiographical narrative, The Other Crucifix. The reading of
Kwakye‘s narrative brings out interesting relationships among the characters and therefore the need to look at how characters interact in the narrative.
Based on the assumption that literary works, such as prose poetry and drama, can be studied using linguistics, one can say that there is a link between language and literature.
Language and literature though, have often been treated as separate subjects, many scholars such as Roman Jakobson (1960) are of the view that the two subjects are not mutually exclusive. Sapir (1921) emphasizes the relationship between language and literature and states that ―language is the medium of literature as marble or bronze or clay are the materials of the sculptor‖ (p.1).
Halliday (1971) has successfully demonstrated the interdependence of language and literature. The close relationship between language and literature has received great attention in studies such as Halliday (1985); Hassan (1985); Traugott and Pratt (1980); Adika & Denkabe (1997); Yankson (2007); Vaishali (2011); Koussouhon and Tchibozo (2014), Samone (2017) and many others. To Halliday (1985), the linguistic analysis of a literary text is what he terms the study of language and language theories.
The aim of many linguists, according to Mwinlaaru (2014) has been to study the language used by literary writers to explicate issues that border on the realities of society and their personal experiences through fictional characters and in a fictional world. Language and its resources must therefore, be sought to enable a writer successfully convey his or her message to the reader or audience and this many African writers have successfully done in their literary works by tackling various societal issues. Traugott and Pratt (1980) point out that ―since texts are the primary data for all literary criticism, adequate means of textual description are essential if any criticism is to be properly founded. Linguistics therefore, helps to ensure a proper foundation for
analysis by enabling the critic to recognize the systemic regularities in the language of a text‖ (p.16)
One of the linguistic approaches that have been applied to the study of the language of literature is Systemic Functional Linguistics (SFL) (Halliday, 1985/1989; Eggins, 1994/2004). Language is functional as observed in Halliday and Matthiessen (2014), Anderson (2006), Asante (1997) and Krashen (1981). In Halliday (1994), he observes that language is ―functional and systemic‖ a meaning making resource. Function therefore plays an important role in how language is used to construe social issues and bring them close to the real world.
One such issue that has received much attention in the literary world is the issue of migration. Apart from African writers of fiction focusing on post-colonialism, which is a big issue on the African continent, first generation writers such as Achebe, Ngugi, Wole Soyinka, and Armah who experienced forced migration in order to save their lives have also used much of their literary writings to reflect their experiences and especially their return home from abroad and the challenges they face as they try to reintegrate into the society.
The characters presented in these narratives though fictional narratives are often representative of the realities that surround issues and people in our societies. The fictional characters of the fictional migrant narratives, therefore, tell the stories of real life experiences of both the writers and other people who have been immigrants themselves. These writers have explored characterization as a tool for explicating various themes which depict the experiences of the migrant living abroad and often the return (Kabore 2016, p.1) of the migrant to his / her homeland.
Many contemporary writers have followed the steps of these first-generation writers to produce many works which touch on migration (Harzoune 2015). Through a purposive selection of their characters and a conscious use of language to explicate characters in order to bring the migrant narrative close to reality as indicated in Edelmar (1985), language is the key creator of the social world and peoples‘ experience.
The recurrence of migration as a theme in most African Literature from the 1960s has been enormous. Some writers have focused on the plight of the female protagonist, such as in Leila Aboulela‘s The Translator (1999) which tells the story of a Sudanese woman living in Scotland, and Baingana‘s Tropical Fish: Tales from Entebbe (2005), set in Kampala and Los Angeles, which tells the story of Christine, the protagonist who returns home from America to Uganda and how she struggles to adapt to her own culture. Voice of America: Stories (2009) is a collection of short stories by Osondu and the collection tells the story of a woman who writes a letter to her son who has migrated to the USA, asking for support. Other writers such as Emecheta and Adichie of Nigeria have also contributed their voices to discussing the theme of migration. Adichie for instance in a number of her works such as Americanah (2013), Purple Hibiscus (2004), Half of a Yellow Sun (2006) and The Thing Around Your Neck (2009) has dedicated her works to discussing the issue of migration, with a greater concern on women migrants.
Some writers have also fictionalized the stories of illegal migration. One such story is Brian Chika‘s Harare North (2009) the story of an unnamed hero as one of the thousands of illegal immigrants who flee Africa to London.
Ghana has had her fair share of these migration narratives dating back to the early Ghanaian novel such as Casely Hayford‘s, Ethiopia Unbound (1911). Ayi Kwei Armah‘s Fragments (1971), discusses the theme of migration and the return as he narrates how his protagonist Onipa
Baako who is a ―been-to‖ (a man who has been to the United States) struggles to settle in his home country, Ghana on return from the USA. Armah again in Why are we so Blest (1972), tells us about Modin Dofu who migrates to the USA in pursuit of education but drops out of Harvard and is disillusioned.
In Ama Darko‘s Beyond the Horizon (1995), she tells the story of Mara a young Ghanaian woman with little formal education who is forced into an arranged marriage with Akobi, a brutish husband. Mara slides from a heroine to one forced into prostitution by her own husband and does not return to Ghana. Benjamin Kwakye is another Ghanaian writer who dedicates much of his writing to narrating the story of the migrant African in the USA. The Other Crucifix (2010) discusses the migrant African‘s experiences in America.
The telling of these stories reflect very much what goes on in our contemporary Africa today and these are dramatized in the theme of migration in contemporary African writing. The educated migrant, such as Jojo, who does not return to his home even in the face of racial bias and discrimination is not a common feature in the narratives of most African writers. From the above discussion it is realized that an important aspect of these migrant narratives across Africa and for that matter Ghana, is the choice of characters used in these narratives.
Characterization is generally described as how characters are brought to life in a piece of literary work and this is usually achieved through narration and dialogues which are incorporated into the text. The novel is made up of narration and drama and it is the dialogic components incorporated into the drama that brings the novel life.
One way to do an in-depth interpretation of a literary discourse, is to analyze its language. Koussouhon and Tchibozo-Laine (2014) argue that the linguistic study of a literary text can help
us solve misinterpretations of text and characters. Koussouhon and Koutchade (2016) point out that Halliday‘s approach to text analysis through the metafunctions is the most suitable model for characterization.
―Characterization is generally described as how a writer brings characters to life on paper and this is done through the character‘s statements, thoughts, facial expressions, actions and clothing‖ (Samone, 2017, p.4). What the character does and what other characters say about him
/ her equally reveal a lot about the character. Characters bring the text to life when they interact with other characters using language. The language used by characters in their dialogues with other characters is therefore very important when it comes to characterization. To explicate character through language will require a tool that caters for the functional use of language since characters use language to achieve specific goals.
Character and characterization have received a lot of attention due to the role the two play in the development of fictional themes (Jannidis 2013) in narratology. Though language scholars have contributed significantly to the discussion on characterization, this study discusses characterization by suggesting that characterization has to be viewed through the interpersonal relations that exist between characters since characters do not exist in isolation.
Statement of the Problem
Characterization is not new in terms of literary analysis. It has received significant attention in literary studies due to its major role in the development of themes in literary writings. The theme of migration is one of the literary themes in which characters are often selected to represent
reality. It has been studied by both first generation and contemporary writers of fiction. Characters in migrant narratives like other narratives are often created by authors with a conscious effort to communicate a particular message to the audience. This is often achieved through how the characters are created to interrelate with other characters and the linguistic as well as grammatical choices these characters make as they live in a fictional world. As these characters communicate with each other through dialogue, they are made to explore the various functions of language. The fictional character is often constructed to be able to represent the real world as much as possible. The main resource for characterization in the migrant narrative like any other literary piece is language and so characters use language to interact with each other in order to establish and maintain social relations and express their view point on things in the world while aiming at changing the view point of others.
Characterization has been studied by both scholars of language and literature. In literature, characters have often been studied based on what the character says, what the character does and what other characters say about him / her. In language the study of characterization has been looked at often from the perspective of discourse analysis. Characters in the fictional world represent some people in the real world and so as it occurs in the real world, it is through the interactions that go on between characters that reveal who these characters are and what or who they represent in the real world. It is to this end that this work concentrates on the dialogue involving the characters by looking at the interpersonal relations that exist between characters and applying a structural-functional linguistic tool to analyze these dialogues.
The concept of migration has been captured by various fictional writers who have embodied in their fictional characters revelations of their personal experiences and the realities that the migrant African faces in the face of racial relations and cultural adaptions. Ayi kwei Armah and
Ama Darko have both focused their writings on the returned migrant (been-to) to explore the integration of the migrant African to his homeland. Other writers such as Buchi Emechita and Chimamanda Adichie look at patriarchy and loneliness of exile in their novels.
Benjamin Kwakye writes a different kind of migrant narrative. In Kwakye‘s The Other Crucifix (2011), the focus is on the educated African migrant who does not return to his native homeland, Ghana but stays in America in spite of racial discrimination and rejection. The novel reveals through characterization issues of racial relations, adaptation to a new culture and alienation.