Tag Archives: criticism

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

KELANI, Mercy Timilehin: Mimetic Analysis of “Akintunde, Come Home”

Department of English, UNILAG.

100 Level



“Akintunde, Come Home” is a free verse poem based on its form. The poem is a reflection of the Nigerian society, just as literature mirrors and reflects the society. “Akintunde, Come Home” exposes political ills prevalent in Nigeria; it reflects the malevolence and corrupt practises of African political leaders exhibited in their act of governing. The poet who seems to be more experienced, elderly and politically vigilant than the addressee exposes dubious acts of African leaders. The poem could be said to be a piece of advice or admonishment to young minds who find themselves in this political realm of corruption. The tone of the poet is rather persuasive as he calls political minds back to order. Apparently, its truthfulness to life is portrayed by the themes that can be derived from the poem. Some of these themes are: oppression; corruption; selfish ambitions; repercussion etc. Also, this poem, as an African poem, portrays core African values as seen in the way the persona employs adages to make his point clearer.

The poem opens with a rhetorical question of an African adage; “if a man’s mouth is small must he borrow a bigger one to talk to his child?” This adage brings us to a typical African society where proverbs are used to convey messages of inspiration, consolation, advice and many more, but precisely, the African adage used at the opening of this poem could be said to convey a message of advice and admonishment. The use of this adage portrays the poet as a typical African who is concerned on voicing his intent to his addressee on a pressing issue. Adages are common in African societies as it opens ground for dialogues; great writers like “Chinua Achebe” make use of adages in their works; novels, essays, poems etc. to make it full of wisdom. Africans believe in the truthfulness and effectiveness of adages on dialogues, even “Chinua Achebe” once wrote; “proverbs are the palm oil with which words are eaten”. Evidently, the adage used at the beginning of the poem shows its truthfulness to life as it shows us a picture of the African society.

In addition, the African society is governed by cold-blooded leaders with selfish ambitions. The poet in a serious manner, exposes the corrupt practises and malevolence of political leaders in the African society. Some of these callous acts by the ruling elites include: unfulfilled campaign promises; disregard for the poor; overpowering the weak, among other things as displayed and carefully highlighted in the poem.

Furthermore, the poem’s truthfulness to life is clearly seen in themes of oppression, corruption, selfish ambitions and repercussion, these themes aptly describe the nature of African politics. Oppression and corruption complements African politics as shown in the poem: “…where life is a race in which the strong trample the weak, dashing for the flattering fragments of stolen trophies”. Corruption takes most part of African politics as African leaders engage in looting of public funds, embezzlement of public funds and the likes. Oppression also is not left out as striving citizens are impoverished through deprivation of some rights. Rich politicians in the society look down on the poor with contempt. All these themes, undoubtedly, are aids that strengthen the fact that Niyi Osundare’s poem, “Akintunde, Come Home”, is one which accurately describes issues that are plaguing the African society.

Niyi Osundare also subscribes to the classical, or rather human law of retributive justice. This belief can be placed under the theme of repercussion. Repercussion, as employed in this poem, denotes that there are always consequences for every human action, be it good or bad. This can be seen in the poem as the speaker admonishes his addressee to quickly return to his roots before he would become a victim of the cases aforementioned. The persona vividly portrays his belief in repercussions in this line: “Come home before the sword you wield turns round to claim your neck.”

In conclusion, the who’ve explanations clearly show the relationship between the poem and realism: its truthfulness to life. The use of an African adage at the opening of the poem and themes that relates to present happenings in the African society evidently depicts the truthfulness of the poem to life. Also, from a mimetic point of view the poem could be said have being written in an attempt to curb political ills.