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A CRITICAL STYLISTIC STUDY OF CHIMAMANDA NGOZI ADICHIE HALF OF A YELLOW SUN

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A CRITICAL STYLISTIC STUDY OF CHIMAMANDA NGOZI ADICHIE HALF OF A YELLOW SUN

 ABSTRACT

Previous studies on the literary presentation of the Nigerian-Biafran civil war concentrated on depicting the horrors of war and the ethno-religious factors that gave impetus to the conflict. They aimed, among other things, to use the literary mode to preach peace and national unity.

This study, however, takes a critical examination of the ideology that underlies the actions and discourses of social actors, who ignited conflict and that of the victims of the actions. More importantly, the study tries to unearth how social actors use language to justify their acts of violence against others and how the victims use language to present their victimhood.

Therefore, based on the tenets of critical discourse analysis, this study employs a descriptive and analytical method of analysis using the tenets of critical stylistics as a theoretical framework to analyze the text. The aim is to show that language is not only a tool for literary aesthetics, but also an essential one in interpreting literary texts, and arriving at the intended meaning of the writer.

CHAPTER ONE

   Introduction

1.1 Background of the study

The resources of language have always been the medium for the expression of thoughts, beliefs, feelings, ideologies, and other human experiences. Consequently, language has been a fascinating phenomenon to humans all through time. It is this resource with which the individual’s identity is asserted, the resource through which meaning of utterances, in communality with the context is construed.

This diverse and fascinating nature of language is what has been employed by writers to relate meaning to their readers through the use of words. It is on this realm of language being able to paint pictures, images, sounds, assert identity and construe meaning that stylistics dwells on.

The study of a writer’s style in text may be geared towards the understanding of the ideology and meaning embedded in the writer’s work that makes his voice stands out from the myriad of voices that populate the field of literature.

The writer through literature and language is able to make known his experiences about the world and his thought about happenings in the society, showing that meaning does not just lie on the linguistic codes, alone, but also on the situation surrounding the use of such codes. This is where literature, language and ideology meet.

Understanding the writer’s style is one of the ways in which the reader of a text can fully arrive at the intended meaning of the writer. Looking at the work from the angle through which the story is told, who tells the story, the reason behind the story, the ideology of the story, all through the medium of language go a long way in telling the reader more about the world of the writer. It is at this level that this research will be using Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun, to analyse how social meaning and ideology are embedded in language.

War has always plagued the world, and, through time, it seems the human race has become addicted to it, and writers have come to use it as a motivation to depict or portray its effects on the psyche of the common man. This is why Lucien Goldstein observed that

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Period of crisis . . . are particularly favourable to the birth of great works of art and literature because of the multiplicity of problems and experiences that they bring to men and of the great widening of affective and intellectual horizon that they provoke ( ‘introduction’2 qtd in Allwell and Ezechi, 2010,p.73).

A CRITICAL STYLISTIC STUDY OF CHIMAMANDA NGOZI ADICHIE HALF OF A YELLOW SUN

For the past decades, Africa has been a war torn continent, and the Nigerian civil war of 1967-1970 serves as a resource from which most Nigerian writers have drawn inspiration, relating how the war has affected the common man and all those that were either actively involved in the war or not. Nwahunanya asserted that

In every nation’s life, there are normally epochal events, events that are of national significance which keep on recurring in writings… the Nigerian civil war literature is comparable to what is happening along those lines… the nature of the shake-up that resulted from the Nigerian civil war, the nature of the trauma that people went through at the time and the aftermaths…. (1996, p.62)

It is from this pool of inspiration that Adichie has drawn to come up with Half of a Yellow Sun. It should be noted that so many Nigerian writers have explored this subject matter of the civil war in their works. Works such as Wole Soyinka’s The Man Died (1972), John Munonye’s  A Wreath for the Maidens (1973), Elechi Amadi’s Sunset in Biafra (1973), I N.C. Aniebo’s The Anonymity of Sacrifice (1974), Festus Iyayi’s Heroes (1975), Isidore Okpenwho’s Last Duty (1976), Vincent Ike’s Sunset at Dawn (1976), Buchi Emecheta’s Destination Biafra (1981), Flora Nwapa’s Never Again (1984), Chinua Achebe’s There Was a Country (2012), etc, were all inspired by the Nigerian civil war.

Adichie’s has also come to join these literary giants with her work Half of a Yellow Sun. As other writers have done, she uses the medium of language to marry history and fiction, to bring to the fore the gory and horrific details of the war on the psychology of the individual and the group involved in the war, and to inform and enlighten the reader about the civil war. Just like other third generation writers, Adichie experiment with language in her work, aesthetically using it in ways that it carries her thoughts and opinion about the war.

A CRITICAL STYLISTIC STUDY OF CHIMAMANDA NGOZI ADICHIE HALF OF A YELLOW SUN

1.2 Aims and Objectives of the Study

Most studies on the text have focused mainly on its theme and subject matter; with little attention on its style. However, the objective of this study is to examine Adichie’s employment of language to aesthetically relate her feelings, and ideology about the war in Half of a Yellow Sun. It looks critically at the syntactic, lexico-semantic, phono-graphological features of the text, as well as the ideology that underlie them, and how these features enhance the realization of meaning.

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 1.3 Significance of the Study

A critical study of a text enables the analyst to see how the writer’s linguistic choices enhance the communicativeness of their works. The significance of this study lies in the demonstration of how the writer’s linguistic choice leads to a better understanding of the social experiences and ideology that underlie the text. It shows how linguistic devices such as mood, transitivity, cohesion, parallel structures, etc, enable us to unearth the ideology behind text construction. The ideology of the text leads us to understand issues of identity and inter-group relations in Adichie’s society.

 1.4 Scope of the Study

Studies in stylistics range from discourse stylistics, pedagogical stylistics, literary stylistics, linguistic stylistics, general stylistics, feminist stylistics, to critical stylistics etc. This study will however focus on critical stylistics which looks at how social meaning and ideology manifest through language in text. It will use the features of critical discourse analysis and critical linguistics in analyzing the style in Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun.

1.5 Author’s Biography

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was born on September 15th 1977, in Enugu, South eastern Nigeria. She grew up in the University of Nigeria Nsukka campus with her parents; James Nwoye Adichie; a university professor of statistics and Deputy Vice-Chancellor for a father, and Grace Ifeoma Adichie; a university register registrar for a mother, with five other siblings.

Adichie had her primary and secondary school education at the university primary and secondary school. Her potential for writing began to manifest at an early age of seven just as she confirmed this in her Tedtalk “the Danger of a Single Story.” The early stages of her creativity, most scholars and critics have attributed it to her parents’ occupation of Chinua Achebe’s former house in the same university. At the age of eighteen in 1995, Adichie got admitted in UNN to study Medicine and Pharmacy.

The following year, at the age of nineteen, she left to enrol at Drexel University, Philadelphia on scholarship, but later transferred to Eastern Connecticut later to study communication and political science, and graduated in 2001. After graduation, she received a scholarship to pursue her master’s degree in creative writing at St. John Hopkins University in Baltimore. It was at this time that she started her debut novel Purple Hibiscus.

Between 2005 and 2006, she was a Hodder Fellow at Princeton University, and enrolled in Africa studies at Yale University. She is married to a Nigerian-born medical doctor in Maryland, USA, and she divides her time between Nigeria and the United States, and teaches writers workshops. She was awarded a 2011-2012 fellowship by Radcliff Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University.

Adichie is recognized as a novelist, dramatist, poet and essayist. She has written and has been published in various magazines including The New Yorker, Granta, Other Voices, Calyx, Iowa Review The O. Henry Prize stories, The Financial Times, Zoetrope and Farafina Magazine. Her works range from different topics and subject matters such as political injustices, war, love, family, women’s role in society in times of war, and life in general. Consequently, many have said that she is a prodigy of late astute writer Chinua Achebe.

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She did not contradict the fact that she was hugely influenced by Achebe, as her first novel Purple Hibiscus opened with an extract from Achebe’s first work, where she wrote ‘thing started to fall apart at home when my brother Jaja did not go to communion . . .’(1). She also asserts that her influence in writing comes from a myriad of sources, mainly books she has read.

This is so, because she has written works that were influenced by the war; For Love of Biafra (1998) a play on the Nigerian civil war, Half of a Yellow Sun (2006), ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’, ‘That Harmattan Morning’, and ‘Chinasa’ all short stories. Her experiences in the Diaspora are also laid to bear in her collection of short stories, The Thing Around Your Neck (2009), and her latest novel Americanah (2013).

Adichie’s literary prowess is manifested in her number of literary works, reviews done on her works, critical essays, interviews, and awards that have made her a world literary giant, and a future Nobel laureate. Her works have been accepted both locally and internationally, as she tours the world, reading from pages of her book, to both fans and book lovers.

She has used this opportunity to push forward women’s right as is seen in her second Tedtalk with the topic, ‘We should all be feminist.’ This talk was featured by Hollywood celebrity and singer Beyonce Knowles in her song Flawless.

Her works include a collection of poetry Decision (1996) which she, and describes as ‘really bad, awful poetry,’ For Love of Biafra (1998), Purple Hibiscus (2003), her first novel, Half of a Yellow Sun (2006), now adapted into a movie by the author of Burma Boy and first time director Biyi Bandele, The Thing Around your Neck (2009), Americanah (2013), a novel on racism in America, and numerous essays and lectures which include ‘Heart is where the Home was (2003), ‘the Line of no Return’(2004), ‘

A CRITICAL STYLISTIC STUDY OF CHIMAMANDA NGOZI ADICHIE HALF OF A YELLOW SUN

Blinded by God Business’ (2005), ‘Life During Wartime’ (2006), ‘In the Shadows of Biafra’ (2007), ‘Nigeria’s morality is about hypocrisy not miniskirt’ (2008), ‘The man who rediscovered Africa’ (2010), ‘A Nigerian Revolution’ (2011), ‘No More Super Power’ (2011), ‘Why can’t a smart woman love fashion’(2014), ‘Performing Gender: Sometimes I do and Sometimes I don’t’ (2014), etc.

She is also the recipient and nominee of a lot of awards, which include The BBC Short Story Competition 2002, O. Henry Prize 2003, David T. Wong International Short Story Prize 2002/2003 (PEN CENTRE AWARD), Hurston Wright Legacy Award 2004, Commonwealth Writers Prize 2005; Best First Book (Africa) for Purple Hibiscus,

Anis field-Wolf Book Award 2007. ‘Beyond Margins’ Award 2007, for Half of a Yellow Sun,  Orange Broadband Prize for fiction 2007, for Half of a Yellow Sun, 2008 Future Award (Young Person of the Year category). 2008 MacArthur Foundation ‘genius’ grant 2009 International Nonino Prize, 2013.

New York Times Book Review, for Aericanah, listed among the 100 most influential Africans in 2013, New African Winner of the National Book Critic Circle Award 2013 for Americanah.  She has also been nominated and shortlisted in a lot of awards including the famous Caine Prize for short story and her works have been translated into thirty languages.

Mr. Harrison

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