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Social Realism in Chinua Achebe A Man For The People And Ayi Kwei Armah The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born

Social Realism in Chinua Achebe A Man For The People And Ayi Kwei Armah The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born

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Abstract

The main aim of this research was to examine Chinua Achebe and Ayi Kwei Armah on social realism: A Study of A Man For The People And The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born. In the course of analyzing the primary source of data which was the two recommended novels for the research, a library based research methodology was employed by the researcher to investigate the element of social realism in the two texts.

It was discovered that in texts, corruption, exploitation, class marginalization and untold hardship and poverty where the ordeals of the day in the selected novel and is still going on even till today and not to be stop at all cost.

The researcher however recommended that individuals of proven integrity should occupy public offices; Politicians should see politics as a game of luck and not as a do or die affair and lastly, individuals should view political office as an opportunity to serve the people and not to amass riches.

CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

1.1 BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY

A literary artist is not always at home with some of the activities he observes in his society and due to certain corrupt practices and moral decadence that pervade his society, he uses his work to express some of these corrupt practices. The theme of corruption in literary works is used by the literary artist to fully expose and at the same time frown at such moral devaluation.

As the literary artist who are not comfortable with the gravity of corruption in their society, Achebe and Ayi Kwel Armah use their works A Man of the People and The Beautiful Ones Are Not Yet Born respectively to expose and at the same time create in the minds and hearts of the people a hatred to such corruption practices with the aim of proffering solution to them. The society is a known steady feature in the setting of a novel because the novel deals with the interaction between the individuals in the society and the society itself.

To lay minds, society means a collective experience which arises when an individual has related with another in order to have a common identity. It marks the coming together of the individual. In this effect, society forces an individual to control himself and amend their ways when necessary because we are in a restless society that wants a constant change. In addition, Kendall commenting on society states thus:

Society is a stable, orderly system composed of a number of interrelated parts, each of them performs a function that contributes to the overall stability of society. These interrelated parts are social institutions such as families, the economy, education and government. And each institution performs a unique function, contributing to the overall stability of society and the well being of individuals. (106).

Here, society cannot exist without an individual. For instance, the government is responsible for coordinating activities of other institutions, maintaining law and order, dealing with unmet social needs, and handling international relations and warfare. But on the contrary, corruption and decay have eaten deep into the moral base of society.

This is because the social institutions do not fulfill the functions they are supposed to perform. However, the coming of Whiteman created the myths about Africans through which they denigrated and reduce the personality of Africans. But the nationalists’ movement came up to fight against prejudice and to defend African integrity.

The effort to achieve independence gave hope to the desires of the people. The people now believe that their own son will occupy the prominent positions hitherto occupied by the Whiteman and hence use such position to better the lost nation. But unfortunately, the military era was a year of holocaust, when the whole fabric of Nigerian society was torn apart. It was a period of monumental corruption.

A period when bribery and corruption became an official means of state craft. More so, the BBC English Dictionary defines corruption as “Dishonesty and illegal behaviour by people in position of authority or power”. (261). Corruption is a social malaise which eats deep into the fabric of individual or society. The government of post-independent Nigeria and Ghana witness this ugly trend. It was an era of public looting, bribery, indiscipline in the lives of government workers and eroding of ethnics and moral values in the citizenry.

Social Realism in Chinua Achebe A Man For The People And Ayi Kwei Armah The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born

Social Realism, also known as Socio-Realism, is an artistic movement expressed in the visual and other realist arts, which depicts social and racial injustice, economic hardship, through unvarnished pictures of life’s struggles; often depicting working activities as heroic. The movement is a style of painting in which the scenes depicted typically convey a message of social or political protest edged with satire. This is not to be confused with Socialist Realism the official USSR art form that was institutionalized by Joseph Stalin in 1934 and later allied Communist parties worldwide.

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During this period the standard of education was reduced. The military became very important in the Nigeria context and it created a lot of crises in the country. It was a time when extra judicial killings became rampant and a means of managing the country. It was equally a time when a few persons (generals) became richer than the country itself. It was the same period that saw the close down of the refineries through the allowance of multinational oil company and Nigeria National Petroleum Cooperation (UNPC).

Even in the religious field, corruption is greatly frowned at and this is why it is placed at the negative side of actions found in the Holy Book. The Holy Bible recorded that the Jews were able to crucify Jesus Christ because they succeeded in bribing (corrupting) one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot who betrayed Jesus Christ (Matthew 26). Ananias and his wife, Saphire, greedily conspired and made to the church community a false presentation of the amount they realised from the sale of their land (Acts 5).

In addition, Webster Encyclopaedia of English (1977) defines corruption as “The act of corrupting or the state of being corrupt. Moral pervasion depravity from a state of purity, debasement as of a language, a debased from the word.” (125)

Man lives in a society with many sub-systems. He allows the system to shape partly his character, so as to fit into the society. He does not live in isolation from the system of the society. Environmental reactions and experience shape one’s character in a particular society. But corruption has changed this fact into a more bad norms and values than good. As Chukwu V. O. in his additional comment on The Legacy states thus:

Corruption is unfortunately the only creed that has survived in this society. It occurs in different shades, embezzlement, misappropriation of public fund which are the quickest ways open to the public servant who wishes to change class, dupery and economic wealth and indecent living. (50)

Achebe’s A Man of the People is a portrayal of the theme of corruption in Africa in relation to the Nigerian contemporary society. He paints a vivid picture of the African view of power and life in general as well as people’s avowed nature to a quest for material and political power.

Armah’s The Beautiful Ones Are Not Yet Born is a great milestone, in that it represents at best the coming of age of African literature. It is individualised in style and language, radical in thought, and frightening in its frank and fearless realism. Throughout the novel Armah nauseates us to force us see corruption and filth within our environs, references to smells in the book, especially excreta which was frequently used.

Ironically, we are told at the end of the novel that only the wicked survive. “The man” as used in the book, has a family and is able to survive in an era of crass materialism. The teacher ran away from his family because his loved-ones would make him try his hand in the corrupt practices of the society. It is disheartening to note the pivotal rate of corruption in Africa, especially among those in authority. Armah and Achebe took a look in their societies, where they criticised the practices of the Africans involved in corruption.

It is widely acknowledged that the past decades of African’s existence have essentially been that of wasted developmental chances. Indeed, Africa is suffering from some deep-seated social, economic and political problems which have been responsible for the long-term retrogression, stagnation and under-development of the continent. One of these problems is corruption.

Udo (2009) conceptualizes corruption as the practice of using public or private office, position or institution to advance personal aims, goals and interest in ways that are out of consonance with societal ethnics and inconsistent with the principles of equality, justice and fairness. It en-compasses all forms of nepotism, favouratism, victimization and vindictiveness. As an alleged act, corruption subverts the reputation or integrity of public official and private citizens.

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Schumpeter (1983) sees corruption as every unscrupulous dealing that expose person in position of trust to inducement and underserved gain or make them capable of betraying their honour for a price. It is mainly attributed to greed and inordinate ambition of different individuals and groups. The social malaise of corruption is influenced by the quest for more material wealth. According to the World Bank (1997);

Corruption thrives when economic policies are poorly designed, education standards are low, civil society participation is weak, public sector management is poor and accountability of public institutions are non-existent.

Owusi (2002) in his book, “The Root causes of corruption in West Africa” observed that corruption involves opportunities manipulation of existing laws to obtain undue advantage over others in both private and public sectors of the economy. He emphasized that man’s outrageous and unbridled desire for wealth, power, prestige and influence is no doubt one of the in-roads of corruption in the society.

In a universal sense, forms of corruption vary, but include bribery, extortion, forgery, favoritism, nepotism, tribalism, graft, money laundering, financial impropriety, election rigging and other fraudulence practices (Nwabuzor, 2005).

Interestingly, corruption is a canker worm which eats deep into the fabric of individuals and society at large. In this light, the governments and people of Nigeria and Ghana during the post-independence era witness this ugly trend. It was an era characterized by public looting, bribery, financial recklessness, indiscipline and erosion of ethnic and moral values.

Thus, it is against this backdrop that the present study seeks to expose the evils and effects of political corruption on African societies with close reference to the novels A Man of the People by Chinua Achebe and The Beautyful Ones are not yet Born by Ayi Kwe Armah.

Social Realism in Chinua Achebe A Man For The People And Ayi Kwei Armah The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born

1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM   

The attainment of independence gave hope to the desires of the African people. This was because the masses were made to believe that their sons holding prominent positions hither to occupy by the colonialists would bring about improvement in their standards of living. But, ironically, they were betrayed as such privileged individuals’ abuse and misuse the opportunity by indulging in profligacy and acts of corruption.

Today, corruption has remained a major challenge basseting the socio-economic and political development of most countries. In fact, it has become a bane to the realization of democracy and good governance in the African. The malady, like cancer, is no doubt pervasive as it permeates all strata of the society (Nwabuzor, 2005).

Regrettably, corruption as nowadays been entrenched as a way of life of the citizenry. Every day, the media is a washed with reports of large scale fraud, embezzlement, financial scam and other inglorious practices involving personalities in position of authority. The scenario has however, resulted in the incriminating of poverty, unemployment and inflation across the land.

1.3 PURPOSE OF THE STUDY

The main purpose of this study is to examine Chinua Achebe and Ayi Kwei Armah on Social Realism: A Study of A Man For The People And The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born. The specific objectives of this research are as follows:

(i) to identify the major causes of corruption in the two novels;

(ii) to highlight the consequences  of corruption practices on the  individual and society in the texts;

(iii) to proffer feasible solutions to the menace of corruption prevalent in the African continent.

1.4 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY  

The study is significant for the following reasons;

(i) it will help the government to ensure accountability, probity and transparency in the conduct of public office holders.

(ii) it will serve as an eye-opener for the people   on the large-scale looting of public funds and the need to wage war against it.

(iii) it will enable policy-makers to initiate programmes that would alleviate the suffering of the masses.

(iv) it will help to stimulate the interest of students, teachers and the general public in literary discourse.

(v) it will offer a reference point for future researchers who might investigate the issue of political corruption in African literature.

1.5 RESEARCH METHODOLOGY

The study will be mainly a library based research. Hence, the two texts selected as a case study will be used as primary sources while other information from the internet, journals, newspapers, magazines, old projects and other relevant materials will form the secondary source.

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1.6 SCOPE OF THE STUDY

The study is limited to two works of prose namely A Man of the People by Chinua Achebe and The beautyful Ones are not yet Born by Ayi Kwe Armah. In addition, the research concentrates on the political problem of corruption using the two novels as a point of reference.

1.7 BIO-DATA OF CHINUA ACHEBE

Chinua Achebe was born on November. 16th 1930 at Ogidi. He is an English-speaking Nigerian writer, novelist, and poet, he is the author of Things Fall Apart and no Longer at Ease. Albert Achebe Chinualumogu (he changes his name during his studies for a traditional Igbo name) was born in eastern Nigeria.

He is the fifth out of the six children born by Igbo Parents; Isaiah Okafo and Janet Achebe, who are devout Christians. Being a good student, Achebe won a scholarship during his studies at Government College Umuahia from 1944-1947, from where he got admission into the university of Ibadan where he schooled from 1948-1953, and obtained his BA degree Before Joining the Nigerian Broadcasting corporation (NBC), Achebe made a few trips to Africa and the United States and worked briefly as an English teacher.

He trained at the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), and began working at Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation in 1954. In 1958 he wrote his first novel, Things Fall Apart. He took part in a conference in Makerere University (Uganda) in 1962.

In the late 1960s he distinguished himself in the Biafra conflict in which he supported the Biafran freedom Fighter, led by Colonel Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu. In 1972, he was appointed editor of the periodical Obike in 1978, the leader of one of the major parties in the Muslim North asked him to be his deputy. He agreed to show his countrymen that it is possible, from the east of the country to join a northern party.

After teaching in many English universities both in America and Nigeria, he became a professor at Bard College in New York and then at the university Brown. In 1990, he had an accident that nailed him to a roulant chair. He died on 21st March 2013 in a hospital at Boston.

Social Realism in Chinua Achebe A Man For The People And Ayi Kwei Armah The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born

1.8 BIO-DATA OF AYI KWE ARMAH

Ayi Kwe Armah was born on October 28, 1939 in Takoradi, Ghana. His heritage was Fante, one of the major ethnic groups in the country and he came from an elite family. At the time of his birth, the West African nation was a colony of Britain.

On March 6, 1957, Armah’s land became the first colonial African country to win the sovereignty struggle. Around this time, Armah was a student at the Achimota College, a secondary school in Accra, Ghana’s capital and in 1959 he won a scholarship to the Groton School in Massachusetts, a prestigious boarding school for boys whose alumni include President Franklin Roosevelt as well as numerous Wall Street titans. From there, Armah went on to Harvard University, where he earned a degree in sociology. His first published short story appeared in 1964 Harvard Advocate issue.

Armah also lived in Algeria and worked as a translator for Revolution Africa magazine in 1963 before coming back to take a job as a scriptwriter for Ghana Television. He also taught English at the Navrongo School in Ghana’s city of the same name in 1966 before leaving for Paris to edit Jeune Afrique (“Young Africa”), a French-language weekly news magazine, for the year.

He also taught at the University of Massachusetts and then settled in Tanzania in 1970. After 1976 he taught at the National University of Lesotho, a country located within South Africa. He continued to produce essays for various journals, including Black World and West Africa, on literary and political topics, while working on his third novel, Why Are We So Blest.

As one of the renowned Ghanaian novelists, Armah attained international renown for his fiction in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Despite his fame Armah maintained an intensely private life and rarely gave interviews and distanced himself from discussions of his craft. His Selected writings include: The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born, Houghton 1968, Fragments 1970.Why Are We So Blest 1972, Two Thousand Seasons, 1973 and The Healers, 1978.

Mr. Harrison

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