Yet another research paper I thought I'd upload for posterity. However, as before be warned - they are from when I was still a young student so they are not quite up to the academic and professional standards they should have been. Also, I'm not including the bibliography as much of the data is no longer accessible. Enjoy!
Week 6 Literature Paper – Themes and Situations Representing the African Narrative
IRLS220 – African Peoples and Cultures
Christopher S. Miller
Professor Jacques Roussellier
December 16, 2012
For this assignment, I choose two stories from our assigned reading list entitled “The Immigrant” by Helon Habila and “Quality Street” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
In the story “The Immigrant”, we see multiple themes dealing with emotion throughout the course of events. First, we encounter joy as a Naomi is notified of her upcoming journey to America. We also sense uneasiness and uncertainty from her sister-in-law regarding the situation. Curiosity is also presented when a young Abigail asks “What’s America like?” of Yakuba. (Habila, Paragraph 7). As the story progresses, we continue to see themes of excitement and apprehension as Naomi travels to a new country. Upon her arrival, the reader views the environment and characters with a sense of wonderment and surprise as seen through the eyes of Naomi. However, the reader is also privy to the beginning of Naomi’s understanding of the situation’s reality. We also see elements of stereotyping in the description of Osasa’s mistresses (such as “the same big blonde hair, the same oversized breasts trapped by the undersized bras”. (Habila, Paragraph 20).
It eventually becomes apparent that time passes and these emotions evolve and change as Naomi understands the environment in which she finds herself. There becomes a sense of weariness, accompanied by anger and resentment, surrounding the character of Naomi. There are also elements of loneliness and despair intermingled in the story and they are beautifully (but subtlety) accented by the changing of the seasons in the back consciousness of the narrative. Finally, there are elements of forbidden desire and possibilities wrapped up with the shared kiss between Naomi and Yakubu.
What I truly appreciated in this particular literary piece was how it utilized the concept and idea of there not being a single story to any person or event – as described by Chimamanda Adichie. Too often, individuals here in the United States look upon foreigners (especially individuals from the African continent) as somehow inferior or not on the same level as us. This story deftly portrayed its characters as having the same flaws, hopes, and dreams as every other member of the human race. Whereas an outsider may have viewed Naomi as yet another immigrant taxing the system, this work portrayed a very different picture. It excellently proved a glimpse into another world or perspective which may not normally be considered. It enlightened me to consider other possibilities and other views – and more importantly, it allowed me to go beyond my preconceptions to thoroughly understand and empathize with the characters and their situations.
In the second story “Quality Street”, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, we encounter a quite different tone and perspective. First we get a sense of tension and opposition with the differing of opinions between Mrs. Njoku and her daughter, Sochienne. There is also a certain aspect of impertinence and disdain evident in Sochienne’s attitude. As the story develops, the reader is witness to anger and hostility as Mrs. Njoku scolds her daughter and tells her “you think if you take the driver into Chicken Republic to eat at the same table as you then you have done a good thing for him but you have not because it is not about his own well-being but about your own well-being”. (Adichie, Paragraph 5).
As the narrative continues, the reader has to acknowledge the passage of time and the continual stubbornness of both individuals. However, on the day of the wedding, we catch a glimpse of the underlying emotions and viewpoints contained within the major characters. We are given a quick snapshot of times gone by, as well as the love of a mother who only wants her child to have happiness and the best in life. Although there are still differences between the two women, the reader is allowed to also grasp and understand the complexities of their lives.
This particular story engaged me on several levels. First, it addresses the concern that an African author would not be able to adequately master a language outside of his/her native tongue in order to present the narrative. Adichie shows us that certain ideas and concepts are universal and that they can be conveyed quite easily by anyone willing to put in the time and effort. But more importantly, it show how the looks, the feelings, and the perspectives of the African continent can still be provided. In all truth, it allows a part of the African identity to shine through showing outsiders a glimpse of that environment. There is a definite sense of issues and concerns which originate in that particular setting – as opposed to more generic themes and ideas which could be applied to anyone anywhere at any time.
In conclusion, I feel that these stories show beyond a doubt how African authors can still retain their roots but utilize secondary languages in order to promote their culture. There is a definite ability to showcase a person or event with multiple stories and that the African voice is full of complexity and subtlety. I truly enjoyed these literary pieces and will definitely be exploring more of them as time permits.