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Authors: AKANDE, O. R.
Keywords: Nigerian fiction
Literary representation
Issue Date: 2013
Abstract: Many of the studies on the growth of the Nigerian novel have given more attention to characterisation, but little attention has been given to how Nigerian novelists depict the impact of the city on the moulding of the personality of urban dwellers. This study, therefore, examines the transformation of the image of the city as a place of limitless opportunities and uninhibited enjoyment of life in the Nigerian novels of the 1950s and 1960s; to the more recent period - from the end of the 1990s to the present - where it is privileged as a metaphor for cultural rootlessness. The study employs a postmodernist theory which highlights the pre-eminence of representation over reality. Ten novels written by five Nigerian novelists were purposively selected: Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City (1954), Jagua Nana (1961) and Iska (1981); Chinua Achebe's No Longer at Ease (1960) and A Man of the People (1966); Buchi Emecheta's The Joys of Motherhood (1979); Maik Nwosu's Invisible Chapters (2001) and Alpha Song (2001); and Sefi Atta's Everything Good Will Come (2005) and Swallow (2008). A close reading and content analysis of the texts were carried out. In the absence of the restraining influence of traditional society, city dwellers are generally culturally adrift, and with the prevalence of corruption and excessive individualism, social disintegration sets in. While the early novels like People of the City and Jagua Nana portray the city as a place of enjoyment, free from the restraints of traditional society, a space where people's expectations and potentials could be realised, there is a more radical shift in the figuration of the city in the novels written after the 1990s. The metaphors include the city as paradise, a place of opportunity, suffering and frustration. Invisible Chapters, Alpha Song, Everything Good Will Come and Swallow portray how the attempt to enjoy the advantages of the city environment result in problems and wanton corrupt practices, which serve as a means of escape from the hardship and frustrations that characterise life in the city. Novels like Iska and The Joys of Motherhood also project the image of the modern, contemporary city as a place of vicious ruthlessness. While No Longer at Ease and A Man of the People focus on issues like corruption in public life with some restraint, Invisible Chapters, Alpha Song, Everything Good Will Come and Swallow treat the vices in the city in greater depth and depict desperate city sojourners trying to cope with the challenges of a harsh socio-political environment. Early and recent Nigerian novelists portray the city differently in terms of communal, socio-political, economic and ideological orientations. Thus, while most characters in the early Nigerian novels are committed to primordial ethnic loyalty, those in the recent ones are engaged in new forms of communalism which globalise their identity.
Appears in Collections:Theses & Dissertations

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