Category Archives: Literary Criticism

What Is Literature? UTME/SSCE. Chiedozie Ude

WHAT IS LITERATURE?


Literature, as a subject, is unarguably the most important subject, after English, for art students because passing it at O-LEVEL is a prerequisite for gaining admission to study courses such as language, law and mass communication, to name a few, at tertiary level.

However, the fact that literature is crucial to students does not make it less complicated. As a matter of fact, the first problem students and others may face when dealing with literature is the difficulty in ascribing a particular definition to literature. Of course, literature does not have a specific definition. This lack of specificness may be as a result of the vastness of literature. Vastness in this scenario points out that literature is so broad that it cuts across several disciplines. Another reason for the lack of specificness towards a definition arises due to the generally accepted notion by critics that no definition of literature is completely flawless. For example, the definition which classifies literature as something that is written is often debunked because literature can also be oral. Oral literature will be defined in subsequent pages.

Nevertheless, for the sake of classroom learning, several definitions will be provided and these definitions will be critically examined for their merits and demerits.

DEFINITIONS OF LITERATURE

  1. Hancock’s (2006) defines literature as the body of every written work.
  2. Bwalya .L (2006) explains the term literature as a Latin word ‘litera’ which means “writing”.
  3. Stephen Chike Nnaemeka (2015) defines literature as the subject which studies life.
  4. Chiedozie Ude (2020) describes literature as an art form that seeks to present an accurate or idealized picture of life through creative writings, performance or the word of mouth.

CRITICAL REVIEW OF THE DEFINITIONS


The definitions given above have their merits and demerits. Hancock’s, for instance, suggests that anything that is written is literature. His definition is reinforced Bwalya, who confirms that literature has to do with writing. However, an argument against these definitions is that they do not specify which form of writing constitutes literature; rather, they postulate that everything that has been written is literature. They by extension, give people the go-ahead to brand things like mathematical figures and Roman numerals as literature.


Also, literature can exist in the oral form. To succinctly put it, oral literature is a form of literature whereby stories are told verbally. This act, otherwise known as orature, is an integral part of the term, literature. In fact, it is a well agreed notion that the oral tradition is far older than the written tradition. Hence, one can easily vilify the definitions given by Hancock and Bwalya because they restricted literature to the written tradition. In other to plaster the loopholes in the above definitions, Chiedozie depicts literature as an art that can be written, spoken or performed.


Chike’s definition points out to a different perspective. He declares that literature is a subject that studies life. This definition is universally accepted and one will not be erroneous to point out the uncanny similarity it shares with the now-cliche definition that brands literature as a mirror of life. By this, we can affirm that the ultimate aim of literature is to draw a vivid picture of life or the society and this is what Chiedozie meant when he said literature seeks to present an accurate or idealised picture of life.

Also, the relationship between literature and life is what Aristotle was trying to show in his Poetics when he explained the theory of mimesis — a theory which identifies literature as a discipline that imitates life. This also explains why many teachers are quick to define literature as the mirror of life.

WHY WE STUDY LITERATURE


Literature is studied due to a plethora of reasons. Some of these reasons are:

  1. Entertainment Purpose: Literature can provide entertainment for people. Comedy, for instance, often provokes laughter from the audience or reader.
  2. Cultural Purpose: The study of literature helps the reader to know a lot about different cultures. For example, reading books that talk about Africa will surely expose the student to the African way of life. Likewise, reading books about other places will help one to understand the manner in which the people in that location operate.
  3. Didactic Purpose: Didacticism is a tradition that aims to teach moral or religious lessons. While many critics are of the opinion that great literature is one which concentrates on creating beauty (aesthetics), we cannot downplay the role of literature in teaching morals to people. Therefore, we can describe any work of literature that teaches morals to be didactic in nature. Stories that can be said to be didactic include parables and fables.

KEY THINGS TO NOTE

  1. Literati: The term, “literati”, refers to a group of people who love literature. They are usually smart and well-read.
  2. Literatus: This is the singular form of literati. A literatus refers to a person who loves and enjoy reading works of literature.
  3. English Literature: This refers to works of literature written in Great Britain and her colonies. For examples, we have: the works of Shakespeare such as Othello, Hamlet and The Tempest; the works of Charles Dicken such as David Copperfield and Oliver Twist.
  4. Literature in English: This refers to works of literature from all over the world, written in languages other than English.
  5. Litterateur: This is a person who writes literature. You can refer to a litterateur as an author.

JUSTICE IS SERVED By Providence Wright

A BRIEF ANALYTIC REVIEW OF KUNLE AFOLAYAN’S CITATION

Sexual harassment has been a subject of discussion for many. Although in many scenarios has it been overlooked. In recent times, individuals, groups, the media, and the government, etc., have sought to tackle this negative phenomenal. It is in a bid to tackle this problem, essay will seek to expatiate on this subject, using the just-released movie by Kunle Afolayan entitled CITATION as its case study. The subject matter, theme, setting, quotations, and personal opinions will be used to give highlights and produce clarity.

Citation was released initially on the 31st October, 2020. The major character, Moremi, is a post-graduate student of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Osun state. She is in a very sensitive state as she faces the senate in a battle against her course supervisor, Professor Lucien N’dyare whom she accuses of attempted rape.

In the happenstance of a threat of sexual harassment, Kunle Afolayan, at the beginning of the play preaches that students shouldn’t take matters into their own hands as it may cause irreplaceable damage. Rather, such cases should be reported to the authorities of the school. It can, however, be argued that students usually do not take this path due to the high level of corruption knowing that the lecturer has more influence than the student. One of the big questions viewers must have asked in the course of the movie is ‘Will justice be eventually served?’

The movie is set in Africa: Nigeria, Senegal, and Cape Verde to be precise. Verisimilitude is a prominent device used as we see the use of many languages to communicate; Yoruba, Ibibio, and French. This succors viewers to relate to the typical African society that speaks diverse languages.

Furthermore, the use of flashback is an excellent tool that is used in the action. This device aids comprehension, helping viewers to fit in loopholes. As both sides recount their sides of the story, the actual place, manner, and speech of events are revealed to viewers. Viewers can also easily depict how much of a liar the Professor is.

The theme of love has an adverse effect on the story. We see her boyfriend, Koyejo, advising her to stay away from the Professor as this closeness may give ‘green light’ to him.  While she considered this jealousy and thoughtlessness on his own path, it might have saved her the stress she went through. But then, the story will probably have lost its taste and meaning. Furthermore, it is the little knowledge of taekwondo taught by Koyejo that saved her from getting raped.

More so, another worthy theme of note is friendship. Moremi had a snake in her grass all the while without knowing it. Gloria, due to her selfish interest of wanting to be with the Professor, testified against her. However, Kwesi was one who didn’t compromise his standards but stood till the end as a true friend should.

It can also be argued that Moremi wasn’t careful enough to see into the intentions of the Professor. From the questions regarding her sex life in his office, making an effort to kiss her in Cape Verde and seeking every slight opportunity to be with her was more than sufficient for her to know.

At the end of the hearing, we see the senate serving justice, like a hot plate of Senegal Jollof to the Senegalese Professor, Lucien N’dyare who was guilty as charged. The last straw was the testimonial against him by Vicente Cardosa, an office assistant who had been a victim of this same tragedy. He lost his daughter but wasn’t able to speak up as a result of poverty; a disease gradually and consistently feeding on the actions of Africans.

In retrospect, Moremi is used as a synecdoche to represent all women who have been victims of sex for grades. Her name reveals the innate power and desire to set the captives free just like her historical counterpart; The Great Moremi who helped her tribe win a battle against the Igbos. The name Moremi means Brave Goddess and it was duly depicted in the actions of the protagonist of this play. In her words “I hope my victory serves as a clarion call for change and I hope my victory gives a voice to silent girls or women in all walks of life facing sexual harassment just due to their gender”

To this end, Citation is a lesson to all; a lesson to the one with power and the one without. With this perfectly acted satire, lecturers who still indulge in this act should repent or will soon face the wrath of the law. Female students of this age are now more knowledgeable than ever before and are expected to act wisely. We say no to sex for grades, we say no to sexual harassment.

Providence Wright

Analysis of Chimamamda Adichie’s Zikora: Chiedozie Ude

Zikora, named after its eponymous protagonist, is a short story that explores the world of women who are repeatedly mistreated by the men in their lives. Just like other short stories, Zikora possesses a compact plot that revolves around one storyline. Using the lives of her protagonist, Mmiliaku and Mama, Chimamanda Adichie affirms that the male gender is incapable of doing things right. All the aforementioned characters are victims of grave injustice in their different relationships. To simply put it, these characters are portrayed as martyrs of male nonchalance. Apart from the injustice these women face, they are all linked together by blood, and by the unquestionable and unreserved love they show for their kids.

Chimamanda Adichie, once again, explores the theme of callous males in relationships. Starting the story at its complication stage — the protagonist’s protracted labour — she paints an image of abandonment. That is, her protagonist has been left by her lover to face the most trying period of a woman’s life alone. By graphically describing the ordeals faced by the protagonist, who is yet to be named, Adichie sheds light on the plight of women in labour. To her, the pain undergone in the process of birthing a new life is unreasonable and incomparable. To make matters worse, the father of her child is nowhere to be found.

Quite stereotypically, as evident in most of her works, she represents her male characters as unfeeling, childish and entitled. These traits are evident in the lives of men such as Kwame, the protagonist’s father, Emmanuel and the basketball player. To showcase the unfeeling nature of the male specie, Adichie describes the basketball player as one who is uninterested in commitments: similar to the way that Kwame is indifferent towards Zikora when she informs him of her pregnancy. Zikora’s father is no different because he jumps at the opportunity to take in a second wife in a bid to have a male child. Emmanuel is projected as a sadist who derives pleasure in mounting his wife even when she is dry, thereby subjecting her to pain instead of sexual pleasures. Also important to note is how these men are classified as unintelligent due to their lack of knowledge on the female biological system. A textual illustration is seen where Kwame, a well-educated lawyer is depicted as showing hesitation and surprise when he was told that an influential American suggested that women should be able to hold in their menstrual discharge. All these instances are used by the author to support the unfavorable way at which she views men.

Contrary to the presentation of the male characters is the way the female characters are depicted. They are highlighted as caring, trusting and longsuffering. Mama, most prominently, is used to highlight these qualities. She is a woman who loses her husband to a second wife, yet she accept this new reality by resigning to her fate. Despite the unfortunate events in her life, she remains a doting mother to her daughter, Zikora. Mmiliaku, Zikora’s cousin, also falls into this category. She is constantly abused by her rich husband who deems it proper for her to neither work nor be friends with ladies who are single. Her acquiescence in the face of domestic abuse strengthens the theme of female subjugation. Similarly, the main protagonist is used to reinforce these characteristics. Zikora exposes her caring side by the fierce love she shows to her baby. This is exemplified through her stance against the circumcision of her son because she is aware that cutting the foreskin of a child is a painful experience. Despite Kwame’s betrayal, Zikora is trusting enough to believe that he would still change. A great question raised by the plights of these women is the recurring question: Why do women have go through these degrading acts in relationships?

By contrasting the males with their female counterparts, Adichie is able to create a chasm between reality and her fictional world. In reality, we have the good and bad in both genders; but in this story, one cannot help but notice how the bad features of men pervades its entire literariness. Are we to believe that the nature of man is to be selfish and insensitive? Are we also to believe that all women are caring and loving? While we cannot deny the act of male nonchalance in the larger world, we can at least kick against the act of misrepresentating men; that is, it is becoming quite cliche for feminist writers’ to give their male characters animalistic traits. In summary, having flat male characters is a trend that Chimamanda should seek to break. Perhaps, the mantra, “NOT ALL MEN”, should be promoted with all vigour.

In terms of the mode of narration, this book will probably stand out. The way the delivery scene is described is vivid enough for it to be pictorially registered in the minds of the readers. Adichie’s use of simple expression in place of flowery and complex ones will undoubtedly make this book more accessible to readers from all walks of life. Narration, undoubtedly, constitutes a strong point of the writer’s credentials.

Another aspect of this story that is worth attention is her plot structure. Instead of starting the story at its expository stage — the stage where we are introduced to the characters — Adichie begins at the complication stage; that is, the time where the protagonist put to bed. This way, she is able to build up suspense by making the readers wonder what must have brought the protagonist to the stage of giving birth as a single mother. To fill this vacuum, the author makes good use of the flashback technique. Through this, we are able to know the things that transpired in the past. Quite surprisingly, the story ends on a cliffhanger — there is no resolution to the conflict. The absence of a reasonable resolution opens up this story to a lot of possibilities. Will the father of the child assume responsibility or will he continue to be callous? In my opinion, the cliffhanger simply points out the fact that this vicious cycle of male nonchalance is most likely going to continue.

The book, Zikora, raises issues that are significant to the emancipation of the female gender from the shackles of the patriarchal society. However, these issues are tackled in a one-sided manner because there is no male voice of reason to complement the female voices. We are not all Eugenes or Kwames, neither are we all Obinzes who would easily leave a marriage to chase after childhood fantasies. We cannot all be animals, can we?

© Chiedozie Ude

Why Students in Arts Perform Poorly in Exams — Chiedozie Ude

Check out those who get at least 5 A’s in SSCE. What do you realise? They are usually science students!!

It has become quite cliche to expect good performances from science students and poor ones from their arts counterparts. In fact, it is believed that no academically-sound student should waste his intellectual prowess in arts. With this shallow belief, it comes as no surprise that most schools in Nigeria churn out below average art students every year.

As a teacher in tutorials, this trend of having less-than-stellar pupils becomes quite worrisome. Many times, I do a lot of soul searching, trying to decipher the problem. Maybe I wasn’t just good enough.

However, with the improvement I see in the students after several sessions, I realised that I may not be the problem after all. This realisation set me on a new path: one where I sought to demystify the reasons behind the academic mediocrity in arts.

Do you want to know why we have average or below average performances in arts? Read on

  1. The belief that educationally-challenged students belong to arts.

Sodiq Adesokan Sp Vibes has this to say:

“It is suicidal in nature to ask secondary school students that are performing below expectation to go to Arts Department. I don’t know how some teachers came up with the idea that Arts Department is meant for students with learning disorders. Do they even know that a student who is mentally lazy can’t be in Arts Department? Should we tell them how many plays, novels and poems Arts Students are compelled to read for just a subject? Or we should let them know that without an analytical mind, there can be no thorough analyses of literary texts?
Please, stop sending students who can’t read and write to Arts Department; it is suicidal.”

  1. The nonchalant nature of school owners. Many of them think that art subjects can be taught by anyone, so they employ every Tom, Dick and Harry to teach art-related courses.

See what Olayemi Deejaysaintq Andrew has to say:

I had to just search and comment on this post. A friend who just finished her NYSC just got a job as a private school teacher. She studied biochemistry and was drafted to teach CRK and LITERATURE to ss3 students preparing for WAEC, NECO and UTME. Isn’t that too absurd?! When she complained that she had no prior knowledge in that field, she was told to read out whatever she finds in the recommended textbooks to the students. Please how long are we going to keep lowering the standard oe education and bastardizing the arts department. Can a graduate of history or English be drafted to teach physics or chemistry?

3. The non-challant attitude of the student: Surely, this is quite glaring in every discipline. However, it is predominant in arts. A teacher once said that he could easily identify art students whenever he visited a school. He pointed out that majority of those who skip classes, those who loiter around during lecture periods, and those who were always standing in the class turn out to be in the arts. Of course, his premise is totally subjective. Nevertheless, we cannot help but agree with him to an extent.

The arts department requires analytical skills. Stop discouraging bright students from going to arts. Likewise, we need to stop the practice of sending lazy and below par students to arts. Art is not a dumping ground.

A Not-So Careul Rant on Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. Chiedozie Ude

Well, straight to my rant. I’ll drop something more detailed whenever my spirit tells me to.

Things Fall Apart is seen as a prototype book that aptly portrays the lives of Africans before the coming of the colonial masters and even during the colonial era. Therefore, many critics regard it as a historical fiction.

Achebe, masterfully, tells the African story from an African perspective. Before this book was written, we had so many stereotypic works about Africa that were written by Europeans. These works described Africa as a savage place that housed lawless black people. A typical example of one of such books is Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Because of these European depictions of Africa, it became important for us Africans to tell our own story; and in my opinion, Achebe did that through Things Fall Apart.

This story narrates the saga of Okonkwo, the protagonist. Okonkwo typifies a traditional African man who believes in toxic masculinity. No wonder he loathes his father and everything his father epitomises because his father is his foil. This theme of masculinity is further reinforced in the way Okonkwo treats Nwoye. Sadly, this treatment of Nwoye was to force Nwoye to accept the Christian missionaries. Also, it is owing to the fact that Okonkwo hated anything feminine that made him kill Ikemefuna.

Okonkwo, despite being a flawed character, has some admirable qualities. He is hardworking and prosperous. He symbolises the indigenous African resilient spirit; the spirit that helps us thrive under hardship. According to the narrative, the odds were against Okonkwo, but he still found a way to succeed. Thus, he also deserves our admiration. Therefore, we can say that he represents the prosperous nature of Africa before the coming of the colonial masters.

The book also covers a lot of traditional Igbo practices such as the New Yam Festival, the Masquerade Event, and the Wrestling Event. With these events, Achebe seeks to show the richness of the Igbo culture as against the erroneous belief that Africans only practiced barbaric cultures.

Also important to talk about is the genre of the novel. This book falls under historical tragedy. The tragedy perspective is totally valid because it show how the coming of the whites completely destroyed our way of life. Of course, for things to fall apart, there has to be a cataclysmic event. In this case, the destructive event is colonialism. To simply put it, Achebe aims to tell the story deculturisation of Africa by Europe. He does this by narrative the story of his tragic-hero, Okonkwo, who despite his zeal to do what he feels is right, possesses several flaws that are Illuminated by several factors — modernization, colonialism, fear, tradition, to name a few. These flaws ultimately lead to his downfall. By extension, the flaws symbolically represent the flaws in the traditional African society that made it possible for the colonial masters to conquer and enslave Africans. Surely, the decision of the district commissioner to write the story of the life of Okonkwo in a single paragraph helped to strengthen the argument that this book is a tragedy.

So, in terms of form and content, Things Fall Apart deserves to be celebrated. It simply presents the lives of Africans before and during colonialism. Let me stop the rant here.

Comments on A Time to Kill and Sycamore Row: John Grisham.

Chiedozie Ude

I missed yesterday, so I will just forge on with today. Consider this as free writing and not a review. No thematic analysis. No structural criticism. Just random thoughts. Pardon my lack of suspense; it bores me sometimes. Then again, I am always bored. Permit my ramblings or train of excuses; so, here goes nothing:

John Grisham is an author that influenced me a lot during my mid-teens. Because of him, I wanted to study law. I found myself falling in love with litigation; I wanted to be a hotshot lawyer who would champion the cause of the downtrodden masses. One reason behind my decision to consider dabbling into law was that his protagonist, Jake Brigance, was surreal. Jake Brigance was capable of kicking ass!

In A TIME TO KILL, Jake successfully defends a black man who killed the men that raped his daughter. In the next book, SYCAMORE ROW, Jake defends a black woman whose late employer will all his property. The point here is that Jake was always able to beat the odds.

However, the way the underdog lawyers win in his books is sadly a misrepresentation of the society. The little guy hardly wins in real life. Consequently, we may say that Grisham is too much of an idealist. The paints pictures of how he thinks the world ought to be, especially in terms of justice.

Also significant to mention is that these two books graphically show how racist the USA society can be. Thus, we can mention racism as a predominant theme.

There are a lot of things to discuss in this book. Perhaps, we can have this discussion some other time. 🏃🏃🏃🏃🏃.

Lol. Expect me to edit this piece once I’m sober.

A Brief Review of J. K. Rowlings’ Harry Potter by Chiedozie Ude

The Harry Potter series is a collection I hold dearly. The way the author was able to create a whole new civilisation that consisted of supernatural creatures such as wizards, witches, werewolves, goblins, etc., beats my wildest imagination.

The Harry Potter books are seven in number and they span 7 years of Harry Potter’s life: seven years of intense struggle against dark forces led by the evil Lord Voldemort. However, the use of flashbacks, in some places, make us realise that the conflict is one that began long before the main protagonist, Harry, was born. Retrospectively, one can say that all the events that occurred before Harry’s birth are significant to the development of the plot.

Stereotypically, Rowlings presents her conflict in the expected good-vs-evil format. Nevertheless, her story is purely original, both in terms of action and in terms of her character development. Harry alongside other members of Gryffindor are presented as the good guys while Lord Voldemort and his death-eaters are portrayed as villains. The originality of this exquisite work is augmented by the various plot-twists that arise as we seek a resolution to the conflict. For example, the killing of Dumbledore presented Professor Snape in a bad light, but at the end, it is discovered the Severus Snape was just acting on Dumbledores’ orders. Many readers did not see that coming because Rowlings was careful enough to hide the true loving and bold personality of Snape behind his gruff and mean facade.

Another thing of note in this text is how Rowlings is able to show contemporary issues. The real world, for instance, is divided based on racial and tribal lines. Identically, the world which Rowlings paints is split based on specie-lines; that is, there is a class difference between the wizards and the humans. In fact, this division cuts across various specie, with the wizards occupying the top of the food chain. The wizards reinforce their superior feelings by derogatorily calling humans “muggles”. Also, the offsprings of wizards who married humans were regarded as halfblood (similar to the term half caste) while wizards who had human parents were called “mud bloods”. Likewise, the wizards with two wizard parents were known as “pure bloods”. So, it is justifiable to say that the world of Harry Potter is a microcosm of the real world in terms of the malignant issue of discrimination.

In all, Rowlings is successfully able to pass across the message of true friendship and familial love. She preaches the power love possesses over evil. Little surprises when it is revealed that Harry’s mother’s love for him was the charm that prevented Voldemort from destroying Harry as a baby. Similarly, the strong bond between Harry, Hermione and Ron Weaselly was key to finally defeating Lord Voldemort.

I can write many pages on this books, but I think it is important for me to stop here in order not to spoil the book for those who wish to read it. Therefore, let this piece serve as a clarion call for you all to lose yourselves in the enchanting world of Harry Potter: a world that makes a child play the roles of men; a world whose civilisation relies on a boy — the boy who lived, Harry Potter.

However, the movie is a travesty of art.

The way so many events that occurred in the book were blatantly ignored in the movie makes me think that the movie is mediocre.

The director needs to face firing squad. Lol.
It is the same storyline though.

IS CHIMAMANDA’S PURPLE HIBISCUS WORTH THE HYPE? BY CHIEDOZIE UDE

Chiedozie Ude

Purple Hibiscus, a book like no other

Adichie, generally, should be applauded for being able to shine in the literary world of Nigerian literature which has been largely dominated by the Soyinkas and Achebes. I read Purple Hibiscus for the first time in 2011. Back then, I read it for what it was: an interesting story. However, of recent, I cannot help but give kudos to Adichie for the manner in which she approached everything in this book.

Firstly, her use of her protagonist, as the narrator, helped us to see things from the perspective of a girl made timid by familial obligations and religious constriction. Undoubtedly, the use of this mode of narration helped to endear the character of Kambili to the readers. Adichie’s descriptions of the events are actually how a teenage girl would describe them; thus, giving credence to her choice of Kambili as the narrator.

Secondly, I love her character development. At first, we get to see Kambili as a naive lady, but as time goes on, she comes of age and is able to make several decisions without feeling guilty. One of such is her decision to confess her love to Father Amadi, a man whose job as a preacher requires celibacy. Other instances of this transition can be seen in the way she develops other opinions which are contrary to those of her religious zealot father. This coming of age is what reinforces the bildungsroman aspect of the book.

Also, in terms of character development, we see Jaja grow from a spectator to a key player who begins to look after his sister and mother. Of course, the defiance he shows to his father helps to make the conflict more interesting. Unarguably, the most important act performed by Jaja is when he decides to take the blame for his father’s murder in a bid to protect his mother. This act performed by Jaja debunks the claims made by many that Adichie is totally against the male gender.

Furthermore, Mama also experience this growth; howbeit, not in terms of ageing. She metamorphoses from being a timid woman who lived to please her abusive husband to a woman who would kill her husband in order to protect the children and herself. However callous this may seem, the premeditated murder of Eugene by Mama is justifiable.

Another thing that makes this book worth the hype is that this text discusses a lot of sociological issues that happen in Nigeria — both past and present. The past events covered in this text include: the military coups, the transition from military to civilian rule, the killing of journalists (Ade Coker). The murder of Ade Coker draws great semblance with the murder of the historical personality, Dele Giwa. Thus, we have to give Adichie credit for covering these issues in her text.

Of modern concern in this text has to be themes such as: patriarchy, religious rigidity, the depleted educational system of Nigeria, amongst others. Patriarchy is displayed through the way Eugene Achike rules his family with an iron fist. The religious perspective, also, cannot be underemphasised because many of the actions in the text are instigated by the religious beliefs of the characters. Eugene, for example, believes his father is a pagan; thus, he refuses to respect and help his old father.

Indeed, Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus is a story that is totally worth the hype. It is one that will forever be treasured by yours truly.

A Realistic Approach to the Poem “May 29”

UDE, Chiedozie Orji.
University of Lagos, UNILAG

The poem.


The poem, “May 29”, is a realistic one that graphically depicts the Nigerian political society. The poem is a satiric one which centres on the farcical nature of the Nigerian democratic system. According to the poet, democracy, as practised in Nigeria, is not in line with the tenets of true democracy. Instead of the Nigerian democracy being an affair for every citizen of Nigeria, it is an affair for a select few, that is, the rich, the political godfathers and the electoral candidates which are metaphorically referred to as “sacred cows”. The poet continues to criticise the Nigeria’s version of democracy by mentioning several flaws in it. He shows these flaws by describing the system as one that is infected. Finally, the persona admonishes that Nigerians should practise proper democracy by giving the people the opportunity to select their own leaders.

The title is significant to the subject matter and thematic content of this poem because it is a date that shows our return to the democratic system of government after decades of military rule. Little wonder why the 29th of May is regarded as Democracy Day in Nigeria. This day is one that should represent a new beginning for us Nigerians; however, it is not so because our democratic system is flawed by issues such as violence, preference for the rich, incompetence, godfatherism, anarchy, restriction of the press, amongst others. All these issues, no doubt, show that this poem is one which accurately portrays the Nigerian society.

Obviously, the issue of violence is central to the understanding of the subject matter. Violence, as an act, is one which pervades the Nigerian political system at all levels of government. It is not uncommon for political leaders and candidates to employ thugs that will aid them to suppress or intimidate the opposition. The persona sheds light on this issue by mentioning the disregard with which the rule of law is held in the country. He emphasises the obvious irony by defining democracy as a system of government where the practice of the rule of law is absent, that is, instead of having peace during elections, we have bloodshed. The except below strengthens this argument:
“Democracy
Without rule of law”
Democracy with
Deoxygenated blood”

Closely following the theme of violence is the theme of anarchy. Anarchy suggests a state of lawlessness. The Nigerian society is described as lawless by the poet due to several anomalies. To exemplify this state of lawlessness, we use several instances highlighted in the poem such as the decision to allow only the rich to govern; the violence that mars our elections; the absence of press freedom; and of course, the blatant disdain with which our constitution is treated by the political elite. Anarchy is further emphasised in the poem when the poet advises the ruling elite to give the people the power to constitutionally choose their own leaders instead of imposing leaders on the people through unconstitutional means.

“Let authority
Emerge from the people
Let the have the right
To alternate leadership”
What makes anarchy stand out as a theme is the sharp contrast between the two systems — democracy and anarchy. One symbolizes orderliness while the other represents chaos. Due to the obvious difference between the two ideologies, it becomes ironic that the Nigerian democratic system is deeply embedded in lawlessness.

Another theme that is central to this analysis is the theme of incompetence. The poet draws an image of a blundering person as he tries to define the Nigerian democratic system. To him, nothing about our democratic process is worth emulating and this is because those in charge did the weigh the advantages and disadvantages before making the decision to return to democracy. This explains why the persona, in the fifth stanza, describes the system as “premature”. He goes on by stating in the subsequent stanzas that our democracy is counterfeit; hence, it will never work unless we go back to the basis by giving the people the power to select those they want as leaders.

One cannot discuss the Nigerian democratic system without mentioning the problem of godfatherism. Political godfathers are powerful individuals who impose electoral candidates on the people. These godfathers can go to any length in order to ensure that their candidates win. This practice, unquestionably, limits our democratic system. The presence of these godfathers make the candidate untouchable, that is, these candidates cannot be rejected by the people irrespective of whether they are qualified or not. To further show that these candidates are untouchable, the poet describes them as “sacred cows”

Another issue that helps to give credence poet’s stance on Nigeria’s democracy is the fact that only the rich can contest elections. Abraham Lincoln defined democracy as a system of government that revolves around the choice of the people; but in the case of Nigeria, it is a government of the rich who rule for the benefits of the rich. This problem vividly support the writer’s claim that our democracy is infected.

The poem is structured in twelve quatrain stanzas. Each stanza, undoubtedly, is used by the poet to reinforce the main idea of this poem. The poet is consistent in his criticism of the Nigerian democratic process by clearly mentioning the different flaws in our democratic system in the stanzas. The stanzas are uniquely structured in such a way that no two stanza mention the same problem. For example, stanza two presents the system as one reserved for only the rich while stanza three exposes the bloodshed that is inherent in the Nigerian democratic process. Aside these differences, one can, without any iota of doubt, conclude that all the stanzas reinforce the fact that Nigeria is not practising the right form of democracy. Also important to note is that the stanzas lack any form of rhyme or regular meter; instead, the poet ensures musicality through the repeated use of the word “democracy”.

The diction — choice of words — employed by the poet is simple and straightforward. The poem is one whose subject matter can be easily deciphered by the reader due to the writer’s use of everyday words. Also, the choice of words is also important because it helps us establish that this poem is set in Nigeria. For example, the use of “May 29” as the title reveals a specific date, and constant repetition of the word “democracy” or its adjectival variant “democratic” help us to establish that the pun centres on democracy in Nigeria. Asides the use of somewhat complex expressions such as “rinderpest, suffused, deoxygenate, and Francis de Sales, to name a few, the poem is to a large extent easy to understand.

The persona’s tone can be described as satiric. This satiric tone is evident in the way the poet mocks the Nigerian version of democracy. It is worthy to note that this mockery is geared towards bringing about a change in the Nigerian society. The poet ridicules contrasts the Nigerian version with that of other developed democratic countries by sarcastically bringing his own variant of Abraham Lincoln’s definition of democracy. Instead of calling democracy an ideology that is people oriented, the persona calls democracy a system that has been reserved for the rich. He satirises all the lacunas in the Nigerian system, and he concludes by calling for a revamp of the system, that is, one that will ensure people’s participation.


Conclusively, this essay has been able to prove that this poem is realistic by discussing extensively on its form and content. The issues mentioned in this poem will, most certainly, convince any reader that this poem adequately mirrors the Nigerian political society.

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