Achebe: African Writer and the English Language

Chinua Achebe’s The African Writer and the English Language address his feelings about the controversy of some African writer’s choices to use English as the language they write African literature in. Many of the opposers claim that a writer cannot properly convey the true many and feeling of the African culture if the text is written in English. Although the national literature of Nigeria is English this is only because Africa was colonized by Europeans. Therefore Africans in opposition of writing in English believe that by not using their native language the authors are condoning the Europeans teachings that the African language is substandard and not worth using. Achebe previously spoke of colonialism saying: “Colonialism gave Africans “a language with which to talk to one another. It failed to give them a song, it a least gave them a tongue, for sighing.” Despite his belief that the Colonization of the African language was not a good thing he does defend the use of English to tell and African story. However the excerpt provides an example of Achebe writing as an African, in a way that sings and speaks in the cultural way of Africa as well as an example of him writing as an African translating his story to English without a true understanding of the African culture. This example seems to be showing the audience that it is possible for someone to write in a second language and not lose their culture, but that it is their responsibility and ability to convey the meaning themselves not matter the translation.

Things Fall Apart, W.B Faris

Chinua Achebe’s story Things Fall Apart contains many  of the characteristics of W.B Faris’s 5 Primary Characteristics of magical realism. W. B Faris believes that magical realist story will contain an irreducible element (magical object or phenomenon) in Achebe’s story the setting is a tribal area of Nigeria in which the tribe believes heavily in spirit gods and going about rituals in which to please these gods. For instance the people of the village sought guidance from the Oracle of the Hills and Caves. “The Oracle was called Agbala, and people came from far and near to consult it. They came when misfortune dogged their steps or when they had a dispute with their neighbors…” Achebe does not describe the Oracle as though is an urban legend that a few people believe in, but as a living part of the culture and traditions of the people of Umuofia. In magical realism two unlikely realms form as one, in Chinua Achebe’s instance the two worlds are the spiritual and natural world.

The Garden of Forking Paths

Borges is known as a literary master of magical realism and his story The Garden of Forking Paths contains no shortage of it. In post modern literature there are themes of black humor which The Garden of Forking Paths contains. When Tsun arrives at Albert’s home ironically it seems that Albert is expecting him as well as the fact that Albert is familiar with one of Tsun’s ancestor’s T’sui Pen. The two men begin to discuss the great work of his ancestor a book about a labyrinth which was widely disregarded as an unfinished work of ramblings. However Albert states that he has figured out that the book is the labyrinth that the book and the labyrinth are not two separate works. Soon after Tsun realizes that Madden is happening upon them and he knows he must complete what he came there to do. Although the men have befriended each other in an act of irony and black humor another element of post modern fiction, Tsun says “The future is with us, but I am your friend. May I look at the letter again?” as Albert turns to get his “friend” the letter Tsun murders him in cold blood in order to complete his mission.

Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis

Kafka’s story entails a great deal of irony from the characters. Gregor awakes as a giant bug one morning and his main concern is that he will not get to go to work, that his boss will be upset, and that he may let down his family. One would imagine the first thing on your mind if you wake up as a bug would be how this happened and why. However those issues are never addressed in Kafka’s story. The title Metamorphosis refers not only to the physical change that has happened to the character but his mental change and the change the metamorphosis causes his family. In the beginning of the story Gregor Samsa’s family is completely dependent upon him working and earning money to support them. In the beginning Gregor describes his father as someone who sleeps most the day and barely rises from his armchair. However when Gregor is transformed and no longer able to work the family must strengthen themselves instead of depending on Gregor and his hard work. By the end of the story Gregor’s father is not only working outside the home, but also the figure who is most harsh toward Gregor and wounds him with the apple. His father becomes staunch and strong whereas it is Gregor who is now weak and helpless. Though Gregor is now the one in need the family who once depended so fiercely upon him shows him no sympathy and is revolted by the sight of him. Ironically, they consider him a burden although Gregor tries as hard as he can to minimize this.

Heart of Darkness compared to Love Thy Neighbor

Conrad’s novella bringing to light the darkness of the human heart and the insanity of the overlooking of people who are mad with power is similar in subject to a recent nonfiction book written by Peter Maas entitled Love Thy Neighbor. The two authors are tied together by the popular quote: The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is looking.” Maas’s non fiction novel dictates the atrocities he witness during his stint as a journalist in Yugoslavia in the early 1990s at which time was experiencing a rather bloody civil war. He was apalled at the actions that were occurring in “civilized” Europe. In both works the rulers use fear to intimidate and control the people under them. “I listened as Serbs lectured about the barbarism of the Turkish empire…The Ustashe leader, Ante Pavelic, was so beloved by his troops that on one occasion they presented him with a basket of Serb eyeballs. He was delighted…” The pure brutality of humans beings to another is unimaginable. Kurtz also used body parts he had collected as trophies and proof of his power. Kurtz placement of the heads on post for everyone to see  was also an example of him using fear to rule, without saying a word he exercised his power over the people. “These round knobs were not ornamental, but symbolic…They would have been even more impressive, these heads on a stake, if their faces had not been turned toward the house.” On his journey to find and stop Kurtz, Marlow witnesses racism and inhumanity toward the Africans by the British settlers whom Marlow calls the pilgrims. The final and worst of all the experiences Marlow has is when he finds Kurtz. He has turned the village into his own personal kingdom and he rules with fear. People follow Kurtz blindly into the madness he is creating. The Russian journalist even praises his methods, complimenting Kurtz on his knowledge. No one seemed to notice the madness of beheading people. No one questioned his methods. Even Marlow chose not to do a thing to discourage Kurtz’s  behavior.

Ibsen’s A Doll’s House

The title of Henrik Ibsen’s play A Doll’s House leads one to ask the question who is the Doll and to whom does the house belong to? The main character Nora is often referred to by her husband Torvald as though she is a source of entertainment rather than a wife and mother. When Nora tells a little white lie about Krogstad being in the house Torvald becomes very upset with her and says “Didn’t you say nobody had been here?…My little bird must never do that again! A song bird must sing clear and true; no false notes.” Torvald does not speak to her as though she is another adult she is his little song bird who must never displease him. Nora seems to understand her role as a perfect symbol to her husband because she makes it very clear that she feels the need to hide many things from him because he will find them unpleasant. Many times during the play most of the characters are quoted as calling her a silly childish girl, someone who has never experienced real life. She is stuck inside of this doll’s house created for her by Torvald in order to please himself. In the end Nora, true to the era of Realism, has an epiphany where she realizes that she is the plaything of Torvald, her father, and even her children in some ways. Torvald finding out the truth about his little doll shatter the image he had formed of her quickly and Nora was able to see that Torvald was not truly in love with who she was, but the little doll who danced when asked, who could be dressed up and directed to do as he pleased. She came to the realization that she had played the doll often, but had never come to know herself.

Desiree’s Baby

Chopin’s mind probing short story Desiree’s Baby is a journey filled with ironic twist, leading the reader to question exactly what train of thought lead them to the assumption they made. In the beginning Chopin stays true to the Realism Era by introducing Desiree in a close up way. Half way into the story the reader knows very much about her history which is an irony in itself because Desiree is adopted she does not know much about herself.  Desiree’s husband Armand comes from an established family in Louisiana and it seems that his family has a great deal of history. Chopin does take the reader on many journey’s through her description in order to lead the reader into a certain way of thinking before the truth is revealed. Revealing early on that Desiree is adopted caused the reader to presume the same thing Armand did, that the baby’s race is Desiree’s “fault”. This also is a method of causing the reader to slightly relate to Armand’s thinking although the reader might not agree.  Ultimately it is implied that Desiree decides to commit suicide and kill the baby because she is ashamed of the dishonor she has brought upon Armand by the “unconscious injury” she has caused. In a great ironic twist it is revealed the the origin of the baby’s African blood is Armand and not Desiree. Armand burns the proof of this along with everything that belonged to the baby and Desiree, how ever the simple fact is Armand cannot burn his DNA, when the next wife and child come along will this cycle continue or will Armand learn from his presumptions?

The Social Contract

Jean-Jacques Rousseau begins his essay with a powerful statement: “Man was born free, and everywhere he is in chains.” Rousseau questions the validity of any sort of slavery be it the transfer of ownership to a mans rights or the willing giving of a mans rights over to a king. Rousseau refers to the subject of kings as unwitting slaves who gain no obvious benefits from a monarchial ruling. The king seems to be the only benefactor in this relationship, after all when the king declares war it is the subjects who are sent to fight, die and suffer. When the kings soldiers pillage is the king who is rewarded and not his subjects. However his subject obey the laws imposed on them. Rousseau believes that even if the people were to overthrow the monarch that would be okay because then they would be entering into a state in which they would be able to come up with laws that are naturally beneficial to one another as opposed to only benefiting the king.

The Social Contract

3362: Blog Assignment Diderot and D’Almbert’s Enclyclopedia

The Encyclopedia entry “Slave Trade” by Jaucourt de chavalier Louis is a surprising , but necessary entry for the era of the Enlightenment. An Encyclopedia is supposed to be a source of pure knowledge, however Louis’s definition reads as opinion or a political news article. Most of the article is not necessarily supported by scientific fact, but supported by ideals of the Enlightenment, such as when he mentions natural law: ” Is it their deference to a law, which obliges them to nothing, that forces them to trample on the Law of Nature, which obligates all men in all times and places?” Louis believes that because of natural law that there is no natural way that anyone can or may be enslaved without any possibility of freedom. He asks the question if we are born free then how can that be sold away? How can a human turn his back on his own species because of civil law rather than natural law?

Louis’s article is extremely radical and seditious for its time and helps to explain why the encyclopedia was called a machine of war. The article presented a strong and logical article against the Slave Trade. Revealing ideals that most people of the time had never considered.

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