TRACING THE EVOLUTION OF THE ROLES OF FEMALE CHARACTERS IN SELECTED WORKS OF CHINUA ACHEBE

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TABLE OF CONTENT

DECLARATION………………………………………………………………………………………………………… ii

DEDICATION…………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. iii

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT…………………………………………………………………………………………… iv

TABLE OF CONTENT……………………………………………………………………………………………….. v

ABSTRACT……………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. vii

CHAPTER ONE – INTRODUCTION

CHAPTER TWO – THE FEMININE PRESENCE IN THINGS FALL APART

  1. Introduction……………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 19
    1. Concept of Patriarchy and Gender in Umuofia……………………………………………………………….. 20
    1. Feminine Presence in Things Fall Apart…………………………………………………………………………. 22
    1. Conclusion…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 38

CHAPTER THREE – IMPACT OF EDUCATION AND MODERNITY ON WOMEN IN

NO LONGER AT EASE

  1. Introduction……………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 39
    1. Effects of Modernity and Education on Women…………………………………………………………… 41
    1. Conclusion…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 54

CHAPTER 4 – RETHINKING THE ROLE OF WOMEN IN ANTHILLS OF THE SAVANNAH

  1. Introduction……………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 57
    1. Background……………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 58
    1. Beatrice……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 60
    1. Elewa………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 70
    1. Factors Accounting for Major Development in Roles of Women……………………………………… 74
    1. Conclusion…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 80

CHAPTER 5- FINDINGS AND CONCLUSION

  • From Things Fall Apart (TFA) To No Longer at Ease (NLAE)…………………………………………. 83
    • From No Longer at Ease to Anthills of the Savannah………………………………………………………. 88
    • Evolution of the Roles of Women from Precolonial Period to Present Day………………………… 89
    • Recommendations for future studies……………………………………………………………………………. 93

5.3 Conclusion…………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 94

WORKS CITED………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 96

ABSTRACT

Recognized as the founding father of modern African Literature in English, Achebe stands out as perhaps one of the most critiqued authors due to his portrayal of women in his early novels. In an attempt to respond to the disparaging representation of Africa in colonial novels such as Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (1899), Achebe focused on portraying the power and charisma of the African male; the adverse effect of this being weak submissive women who succumbed to these powerful men. This study will look at the representation of women in three selected novels of Achebe, namely Things Fall Apart, No Longer at Ease and Anthills of the Savannah. The main objective is to trace the evolution of the female characters from one novel to the other and investigate what accounts for the eventual shift from minimal roles of women in novels such as Things Fall Apart to central roles in Anthills of the Savannah. Theoretical analysis of these novels will be done from the perspective of Postcolonial Feminist Theory. The theory best fits this study because Postcolonial feminists concern themselves with the effect of patriarchy and colonization on women, and seek to correct the misrepresentation of women by the male authors.

Keywords: Evolution, Postcolonial Feminism, Western Feminism, African Literature, African Women, Patriarchy, Precolonial, Postcolonial.

CHAPTER ONE INTRODUCTION

      BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY

This thesis is a gender appraisal of selected novels of Chinua Achebe, that is Things Fall Apart (1958), No Longer at Ease (1960) and Anthills of the Savannah (1987). The study will trace the roles of the female characters before, during and after colonialism, and explore the change in roles from one novel to the other. From the perspective of Postcolonial Feminist Theory, the study will investigate the experiences of the female characters with patriarchy during precolonial period and with Western ideals during the postcolonial period.

As a writer who has been criticized for marginalizing women in his works, Achebe is one of the most criticized writers by Postcolonial Feminists who seek to correct the misrepresentation of women in male-authored works. Female writers are convinced that male writers dominate the literary scene, and misrepresent the female personality and her contribution to nation-building. Many female critics also believe that male authors write inadequately from the female perspective. Susan Gubar (1980) believes that men see women as “blank pages,” but that women sometimes also see themselves in this way, using writing to re-create themselves. The female author is deeply involved in her work, because it is often considered a re-shaping of herself, whereas the male author is creating something outside of himself.

Against this background, the first part of the study will investigate how Achebe represents his female characters in a densely patriarchal society. Achebe hails from a patriarchal Igbo society in

Nigeria and most of his novels are set in fictional towns of Igbo land. A titled Igbo Chief himself, Achebe’s novels focus on the traditions of Igbo society, the effect of Christian influence, and the clash of Western and traditional African values during and after the colonial

era. His style relies heavily on aspects of Igbo oral tradition such as the proverb and the folktale, and the masterful and artistic way in which he infuses this with literary tools has been highly praised. Gender power relation is a dominant feature in Achebe’s novels and he has been criticized for marginalizing his female characters, while projecting strong, dominant male characters.

However, if there is the possibility that Achebe’s representation of his female characters is a reflection of the situation of women during the period in which the novels are set, then that possibility must be explored. Therefore, in examining the changes in the roles of the female characters in Things Fall Apart through to Anthills of the Savannah, it is important to investigate how each period (that is precolonial, colonial and postcolonial) impacted women and how Achebe through this representation of women, addressed the negatives and positives of both the traditional and Western ideals. To this effect, the second part of the study will look at the experiences of the female characters in the hybrid society of Western and traditional customs. In this section, the position of women in the transitional society from traditional African to Western culture will be examined. The final part of the study will compare Achebe’s presentation of women in the postcolonial period to the women in the precolonial and transitional period.

         THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK

Postcolonial Feminism is a relatively new stream of thought, developing primarily out of the work of the postcolonial theorists who concern themselves with evaluating how different colonial and imperial relations throughout the nineteenth century have impacted the way particular cultures view themselves (Wikipedia.org).