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Abject Poverty and Child Development in African Society a Case Study of Faceless by Amah Darko

Abject Poverty and Child Development in African Society a Case Study of Faceless by Amah Darko

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The  concepts  of  abject poverty and child development  are  not  new  in  any  society  especially  the  African  society.  Many  Africans  presently  live  below  the  poverty  line  and  this  is  further  exacerbated  by  high  level  class  inequality.  Right  from  the  creation  of  man,  there  has  been  class  while  poverty  gradually  crept  into  the  society as the  supply of the people was not meeting their demands, thus only those  who have what it takes  were  able  to  survive  and  stay  above-board. 

There  is  the  classification  between  good  and  evil,  male  and  female, white and black, poor and rich, influential and non-influential, educated and uneducated and so on.  The  class  stratification  being  looked  at  in  this  research  however  has  to  do  with  the  bourgeoisie  and  the  proletariat and how this has contributed to the advancement of poverty in society. The Nigerian novel purposively selected of faceless by Amah Darko.  

The  choice  of  this  text  is  due  to  the  fact  that  they  belong  to  different  generations  of  Nigerian  writings,  thus  we  considered  the  views  of  the  author on  the  subjects  of  discourse. The  method  of  investigation  adopted  is  the  critical  textual  analysis  using  the  Marxist  literary  theory.  The  research  considered  the  speeches,  actions  and  events  that  portray  poverty and child development.  The author’s’ intentions  and  views  on  these  concepts were equally established with the hope of an end goal of finding solutions that will take Africa out  of the shackles of poverty and inequality.


In all countries, poverty presents a chronic stress for children and families that may interfere with successful adjustment to developmental tasks, including school achievement. According to Inyang, “10 Children raised in low-income families are at risk for academic and social problems as well as poor health and well-being, which can in turn undermine educational achievement”. (24)

Poverty is a multidimensional phenomenon, whose contributing factors include unemployment, income inequality and corruption. The World Bank in the World Development Report 2000/2002 sums up the various dimensions of poverty to include lack of opportunity, lack of empowerment and lack of security. The window of opportunity remains closed to the common people, rendering them dormant in society. Thus this social incapacitation limits the choices they would have to make and their lack of security makes them vulnerable to exploitation, diseases, violence and so on. In Africa, widespread and severe poverty is a brazen reality experienced in lack of food, cloth, shelter, education, security and other entitlement programmes.

Indeed literature is life and it provides critical insight about life. Thus a general opinion is that literature mirrors society, because literature relates to all aspects of society: political, economical, historical and social, exposing both open and secret truths. It is a medium of reflecting the contemporary issues of the society—be it class struggle, leadership problems, matters of security or issues on national development.

In fact, literature serves as a mirror of society or a channel through which the social, political, cultural and economic issues that ravage a given society are explored. This means that there is a correlation between art and life; hence, literature deals with people and their experiences in a given milieu. This project, therefore, concerns itself with the contributions of literary artists to the lives and experiences of people in the Nigerian society, especially on matters of wealth and distribution of wealth.

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This is because the literary artist is seen as a committed person who uses his work to advocate for an egalitarian society, satirize the evils of corruption, exploitation and oppression; and push the proletariats into a struggle towards liberation from all the forces that undermine their existence. The project makes specific emphasis on Festus Iyayi’s Violence and Helon Habila’s waiting for an Angel, Marxist-oriented novels that advocate force against all the forms of exploitation, deprivation and unpatriotism.

Surely, it is in imaginative literature we can fully understand the problems of poverty and inequality. Poverty is a material condition, a class in the social structure. And literary texts: are they not aesthetic artifacts, retreating by their nature into the privacy of the imagination? Only in this retreat from the tactile and the statistical, I contend, can we approach the complexity of poverty as an ideological formation in the texts under study, or understand the inner life of being poor – the tangled web of emotion and behaviour that gets brushed too easily from social study.

Abject Poverty and Child Development in African Society a Case Study of Faceless by Amah Darko

And literature becomes a crucial tool to understanding economic and cultural condition that is at once urgent and elusive because it cuts across the categories of race, gender, and class by which we conventionally understand social difference.

However, it needs be said that widespread and severe poverty is a reality in our world. It is a reality that depicts lack of food, clothes, education and other basic amenities. Severely poor people lack the most basic necessities of life to a degree that it can be wondered how they manage to survive.

The link between poverty, hunger and human development is very significant. Indeed, poverty and hunger are the exact opposite of human development. All the attributes of human development are deprived by poverty. Poverty is lack of job. Poverty is hunger, poor health, low education, low self-esteem, lack of adequate housing, lack of land, inability to cloth oneself/family, low economic status and, above all, denial of choices.

Maduagwu concludes that poverty creates frustration, loss of hope/prospects and value for life, loss of meaning for life and purpose of living. It also creates disillusionment about morality, poverty makes people compromise on moral values or abandon moral values completely (Maduagwu, Alleviating Poverty in Nigeria). Okafor stresses that the success or failure of any government is measured by the degree of attainment of human development or the level of poverty prevalent among the people (67). On this note, Nigeria, the referent society in the novels under study, cannot be said to be successful with so many people wallowing in abject poverty.

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In this project, an effort is made to examine Festus Iyayi’s and Helon Habila’s representation of poverty in post-independence Nigerian state as reflected in their fictions Violence and Waiting for an Angel respectively. This is premised on the awareness that there is always a close relationship between African literature and the social reality; that social reality in the novels under study being that the literature of Nigeria has remained obsessed with the plight of the underprivileged, exposing a group of people that lie beyond traditional documentary sources.

In doing this, Iyayi and Habila select realistic details from ordinary life to chronicle the fate of an impotent silent majority. The authors present a vision of life as hell, with human concerns such as inequality largely fore-grounded in their novels. In consequence, the novels’ thematic focus centres on the portrayal of the terrifying, the painful and a common insistence on postcolonial disillusionment.

The novels also take as their thematic focus the foregrounding of the exploitation of the masses, betrayal of public confidence, highly decadent and socially stratified society that breeds and nurtures exploitation and oppression of the less privileged in society. Therefore, these authors acknowledge a poverty that is as aesthetically and culturally significant as it is socially and materially real. Combining Marxist theory with literary analysis, the authors masterfully bring poverty into mainstream critical idiom, thus validating Ahmad Aijaz’s assertion that ‘all Third-world texts are necessarily national allegories’ (95)

In Faceless, poverty is something one can see by one’s eyes and touch with one’s fingers. It is something concrete, touchable, physical and material. In Faceless, Amma Darko presents through simple words what is the compound yard of poor people where Fofo, if she did not decide to leave for the streets of Accra, should be living.

Evidence from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Early Child Care Research Network has shown that children in chronically impoverished families have lower cognitive and academic performance and more behavior problems than children who are not exposed to poverty, partially explained by a lack of stimulating behaviors and home experiences among low-income families.

For instance, Iyayi paints out the humiliation of the working class people in Nigeria and making the reader sympathizes with these wretched of the Nigerian poor masses. He equally paints a critical picture on how the bourgeoisies exploit, oppress and dehumanized the poor masses in post-colonial Nigeria. (27)

On the other hand, Ngugi as Kenyan most prolific novelist dramatizes class stratification, poverty; oppression and exploitation as the two major issues bedevilling the poor people of Kenya. He also portrays how the masses in his environment pass through oppression, corruption, poverty and suffered a high level of class of inequality. (67)

 Due to the exposure of these writers to the atrocities being committed by the capitalists against the poor, their focus is on the ordinary people with whom they seek to liberate from all forms of social injustice. To them, there is the classification between good and evil, male and female, White and Black, poor and rich, influential and non-influential, educated and uneducated and so on. The class stratification being looked at in this research however has to do with the bourgeoisie and the proletariat and how they have contributed to the advancement of poverty in their society.

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Abject Poverty and Child Development in African Society a Case Study of Faceless by Amah Darko

Again, many social injustices arise in their society such as abject-poverty, electoral violence, exploitation, kidnapping, religious crises, political subjugation, arson and wickedness that man faces in society. If these evils are not properly checked, the monster known as social injustice will continue to eat deep into the fabrics of their society.

 With the above analogy, it is very clear that poverty and class stratification are responsible for child development in African society and it is the poor children that suffers all these injustices. This also form the background to this research work with reference to the novels under investigation.

Problem statement

Over decades, poverty has eaten deep in to the livelihood in our society, Nigeria, Africa and the world at large due to the fact that our economy are control by leaders who are corrupt who instead of developing the economic for the citizens rather to their own pocket.

Lootings of public funds that were made for development of the society have been diverted to personal accounts, this has lead to abject poverty among citizens and of such, parents are no longer to take good care of their children and this has hinder the physical, psychological, academic  and moral development of children in our social . it is on this note that this work seeks to examine abject poverty and child development in African society: a case study of Faceless by Amah Darko

  Research Methodology

The research is both qualitative and descriptive, with thematic analysis of the texts. Themes of poverty and corruption are adequately analysed. The methodology approach used for the effective analysis of this study is a blend of Marxist theory and socialist realism theory.

This is because the Marxist theorist view society (especially capitalist society) as politically locked down and holds the freedom of the people. They portray the suffering of the masses in their literary texts and form their analysis and view point, stating that the masses suffer as a result of corruption and stratification which our leaders seem to always ignore.

The social realism theory falls in line with human concerns and perspectives. The referent society is Nigeria which is the setting in the selected texts. The use of Marxist and socialist approaches are justified as the two novelists whose work shall be used as the data for analysis share the same ideological approach which is Marxism and Social Realism.

Abject Poverty and Child Development in African Society a Case Study of Faceless by Amah Darko

Mr. Harrison

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