Tag Archives: literature

little women

“I’ve got the key to my castle in the air, but whether I can unlock the door remains to be seen.” 

-Louisa May Alcott, Little Women

In 1868, Louisa May Alcott was asked by her publisher to write a novel about girls that would be appealing to the masses. This was something new and challenging to her as she had spent all her life writing short stories. Also, she didn’t want to write a story from the female perspective as the only story she knew of was of her sisters. She was initially hesitant but chose to write the novel. Little did she know that her book would be an instant success and would still be read and admired by people centuries after her death.

Little Women was published in 1868 and recounts the story of four sisters: Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy March. The book is loosely based off of Alcott’s own life, and many believe that she is the Jo March of her family. It is set in Massachusetts at the time of the American Civil War. On their first Christmas without their father, the March sisters and their mother, Marmee March, decided to give their Christmas breakfast away to an impoverished and starving family. When they returned, they found out that their neighbour, Mr Laurence had sent over a surprise breakfast. This leads to the two families getting closer to each other, and the March Sisters getting acquainted with Theodore “Laurie” Laurence, Mr Laurence’s nephew. 

One of the reasons why Little Women was an immediate success and remains relevant years after the author’s death is because of its realism and a perfect portrayal of sisterhood. The sisters are not particularly glamorous characters and lead ordinary lives, yet one likes them as they can relate to them. For example, when Jo refused to take young Amy to the theatre with Meg and Laurie, Amy burned down Jo’s manuscript, on which she had been working for ages. While this is not pretty to read, it is accurate as Amy was 12, and this is an accurate response from someone of her age. Her burning down of the manuscript led to Jo being extremely angry at her, and she vowed never to talk to her again. Yet, when Amy chased after Jo after feeling remorse, and almost died by falling through the thin ice at the river, Jo saved her and even made up with her. This shows that no matter how angry one is with their sibling, they still love them and would do anything for them.

Alcott also manages to perfectly capture the feeling of growing up and leaving your childhood innocence behind. Meg gets married and moves out, Jo rejects Laurie’s proposal and moves to New York to write, Beth becomes sick and eventually passes away, and Amy goes to Europe with her aunt where Laurie proposes to her after being rejected by Jo. Slowly they all leave their comfort zone behind and face the tribulations one faces when they become distant from family as they grow up. Yet, all the sisters reunite and show that their bond is stronger than ever.

Alcott gave her characters distinct and bold personalities and the women who read it at that time related to the March Sisters and felt the need to have more “public” identities and follow their ambitions. Alcott even planned to let Jo remain unmarried, but she eventually decided to get her married which lead to Jo abandoning her writing career, though Alcott remained unmarried all her life. This book has stayed relevant to date and is still beloved by the people. Generations of readers have fallen in love with this masterpiece. It is an extremely captivating story, one you won’t be able to put down.

Sudha Murthy

“How long can you keep birds in cages when their wings are strong and they are ready to fly? We can give our children only two things in life which are essential. Strong roots and powerful wings. Then they may fly anywhere and live independently. Of all the luxuries in life, the greatest luxury is getting freedom of the right kind.”

-Sudha Murthy

Sudha Murthy is one of India’s most beloved storytellers. Her work appeals to both children and young adults. Born in 1950, she became the first female engineer to be hired at the largest auto-manufacturer in India, TELCO. She has written not only novels, but also short stories, travelogues, technical books, and books for children. She has received several awards over the years, including the R.K. Narayana’s Award for Literature, and even the Padma Shri, which is the fourth highest civilian award in India.

She was born in Shiggaon, Haveri in Karnataka. Her family was extremely study-oriented and sought to educate her in a time where women’s education was not very common. She was a determined student, and never missed a day of class as she was aware of the rampant misogyny which was prevalent in India in the 70s,  and knew that no one would assist her if she missed classes. She never let anyone break her spirit or her love for education. She broke several societal barriers by pursuing Engineering and Computer Science and was even awarded a gold medal for both of her degrees by the Chief Minister of Karnataka. 

In 1974, Sudha Murthy planned to go abroad to pursue her doctorate, until she came across an advertisement put up by TELCO on the Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru, calling for young and hardworking engineers, and under the advertisement, it was written, ‘Lady candidates need not apply.’ This agitated her, and she wrote a strongly worded postcard to Tata, expressing her surprise over their gender discrimination. A few days later she received a telegram from JRD Tata and was granted a special interview. Soon the job was hers, and she made history by being the first female engineer to be hired at TELCO.

Sudha Murthy helped her husband N.R. Narayana Murthy build Infosys, which is an Indian MNC providing business consultation, information technology and outsourcing. In 1996 she started Infosys foundation and is its trustee till date. A nonprofit organisation, it aims to support the underprivileged sections of society. The foundation provides healthcare, education and promotes art and craft amongst the underprivileged. She is a philanthropist and has expressed her love for this country and passion to serve it several times. She also started the Library Project and has established 60,000 libraries to date.

One cannot talk about Sudha Murthy without mentioning her books. A prolific award-winning writer in both English and Kannada, her books have been translated in all major languages. Her books were simple, yet profound and can make you laugh, cry and feel nostalgic at the same time. She was raised by her parents and maternal grandparents, and drew inspiration from her experiences to write her first notable book, “How I Taught My Grandmother To Read and other stories.” Her other works include Grandma’s bag of stories, The Day I Stopped Drinking Milk, The Mother I Never Knew and many others. 

Sudha Murthy is an inspiration for every single woman in this country. Her work has continuously broken several barriers and improved society in every way it could. Her story is an extremely influential one.

The unattainable American Dream: The great gatsby

“He who is not contented with what he has, would not be contented with what he would like to have.”

-Socrates

The American dream, a term coined by James Truslow Adams in his 1931 bestseller “Epic of America”, is the belief that anyone can achieve success if they work hard enough, regardless of their class or status. The dream of a land where life is better for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement. However, as the years have passed the American dream has become more and more materialistic. Nowadays, people have impulsive and reckless habits, and they are never satisfied. No matter how much they have, they just keep aiming for more. This critique of the American dream was provided in F Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 classic, “The Great Gatsby”.

Set in the Roaring Twenties, a few years after the first World War, the book begins with the narrator, Nick Carraway, a Yale alumnus and a war veteran, arriving in New York City, and renting a bungalow in the West Egg. This bungalow was next to the luxurious estate of Jay Gatsby, a mysterious multimillionaire and war veteran. The 20s were an interesting time for America. The young were rebellious, jazz was gaining popularity and the economy was prospering. The way society was living was reckless, and Fitzgerald foreshadowed that disaster was bound to happen. Sure enough, in 1929 the infamous Wall Street Crash put a stop to the economic prosperity of America.

Getting back to the novel, Nick observed that Gatsby had stretched out his arm in the direction of a mysterious green light coming from the end of a dock, reaching for something far off. This conveys the idea that no matter how much people possess, they always want more. Gatsby was the personification of the unattainable American Dream. He came from nothing and built his way up into the high society, earning his wealth through crime. Yet, he was never satisfied with what he had and failed to realise how hollow and empty his dream had become. When his ex-lover Daisy, who had gotten married to Tom Buchanan when Gatsby was deployed overseas, told him that she loved him, Gatsby wasn’t satisfied. He still wanted her to say that she never loved her husband. He always desired more and projected his version of the perfect American dream onto Daisy. When Daisy couldn’t bear the weight of his never-ending desires, she chose to stay with Tom, and his inability to win her love shattered his dream. This moment also set the stage for the novel’s tragic ending.

In the book, Gatsby was known for throwing glamorous parties at his lavish mansion which everyone attended, regardless of whether they were invited or not. Each week he had thousands of guests over, but he never formed a bond with anyone of them. His only companion throughout the book was Nick, although it is argued that he was only friends with him to get to Daisy, Nick’s cousin. 

After his death, only a handful of people attended his funeral, including Nick. All his former acquaintances had disappeared, and Daisy and Tom had moved away. Fitzgerald conveyed that the American dream had made people selfish, and criticised the lifestyle of the Americans. Disappointed by the low attendance at the funeral, Nick decides to move away from New York. He also realises that both Tom and Daisy were destructive and selfish people. Thus, Fitzgerald perfectly illustrates the fact that the dream is unattainable, and that one should focus on non-material things which bring more joy than this impossible dream.

The Great Gatsby is regarded as one of the greatest novels of all time.

jane austen: The witty feminist

The year was 1787. Delegates were gathering up in Philadelphia to draw up the US constitution, Russia had declared war on Turkey, and an 11-year-old Jane Austen had just begun writing poems and stories for her family’s entertainment. Years later, somewhere around 1796, Austen wrote her first full-length novel, Elinor and Marianne, which was published in 1811 as Sense and Sensibility. The book was published anonymously, with the cover simply stating, ‘By a Lady’, and was well received. Little did she know how big her impact would be on the literary world, and how her legacy would be kept alive years after her death.

Jane Austen’s name and her work is still popular and influential, and known by many. Born in 1775, Austen remains a mysterious figure to the public. The primary reason for this being the burning of the many letters written by her, by her sister Cassandra. This was done to prevent any embarrassment because of the merciless and witty tone of her letters, though some fragments of those letters are still preserved. She was the seventh child in a family of eight. Austen had a near-death experience when she suffered from typhus when sent to Oxford. After her recovery, she was sent to a boarding school in Reading but returned due to the exorbitant fees which had to be paid, and never again left her immediate family environment.

In 1787, Austen began writing, mainly focusing on poems and stories. These were written purely for her and her family’s entertainment, and she had no intention of publishing them. It is estimated that she wrote 3 plays during her teen years. At the age of eighteen, Austen began working on Lady Susan, an epistolary novel written in the form of letters. This wasn’t published until 1871 and has been described as Austen’s most advanced early form of work. After finishing Lady Susan, Austen’s first full-length novel was written. It was initially written under the name Elinor and Marriane but was later changed to Sense and Sensibility. Though it was well-received, Austen’s best and most well-known book was Pride and Prejudice. Set in rural England in the early 19th century, it starts with one of the most iconic lines in literature, “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.” It has been cited as an influential text and is a beloved book in the eyes of readers and scholars, even 200 years after its publication.

Austen’s work and style of writing were unique. She is known for creating fierce, independent and strong female leads, who are capable of identifying their flaws and correcting them. Her work also interprets and criticises the British aristocrats and the upper class, and deals with economic and class distinctions. In a time like the 1800s, where women were discouraged from writing and publishing books, and many female authors took up male pseudonyms for the publication of their work, Austen was seen as a rebel. She chose not to take on a male pseudonym, and simply published her work under the pen name, “A Lady.” By not marrying, she challenged the notion that a woman without a husband wasn’t capable of supporting herself. Austen has been named as a feminist icon by many.

Since publishing Pride and Prejudice, Austen has written many novels, which include Mansfield Park, Emma, Northanger Abbey, and Persuasion. Several adaptations of her work in the form of movies and shows have come up. Her books are studied in prestigious universities around the world, and her work has been appreciated by many scholars and philosophers. Though she may have died in 1817, the witty Jane Austen and her work remain timeless, and never fail to fascinate the new generations.

The picture of dorian gray

“How sad it is! I shall grow old, and horrible, and dreadful. But this picture will remain always young….If it were only the other way!”

-Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

A narcissist can be described as someone who has an excessive interest in themselves. While self love is important, narcissists take it too far. They think of themselves as superior in every way whatsoever. Their admiration and obsession with themselves can challenge extremities, sometimes even lead to their ruination. In Greek mythology, Narcissus, a hunter, was cursed to fall in love with himself. He admired himself in the river waters each day, until his despair about the fact that his own reflection couldn’t come to life and love him killed him , leaving behind nothing but a narcissus flower. The word itself is derived from his name. A similar theme is addressed by Oscar Wilde in his Gothic novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray.

Dorian Gray was Wilde’s first, and only published novel.It was new and compelling, providing us a peek into what goes on in a human soul, even though its initial release was quite controversial.Set in Victorian England, it tells the story of Dorian Gray, a man who, after seeing a beautiful portrait of his, falls in love with it, but grows distressed at the idea that the portrait will remain young and beautiful forever as he grows old and ugly. He desires that he himself remains young forever, while his portrait ages. Mysteriously, his wish is fulfilled. The man remains youthful, whilst his painting bears the marks every sin he committed, growing uglier by the day. Eventually, he stabs the painting with the same knife he used to murder his friend, perhaps to absolve himself from his wrongdoings. However, when his servants rush to find the source of a cry, they find Dorian’s corpse, old and withered, with the painting looking as beautiful as the day it was painted.

With appreciable vocabulary and vivid metaphors, Wilde manages to convey the slow corrupting of Dorian’s soul, egged on by his friend Lord Henry Wotton. Wotton’s character was crucial for the plot, as he was the one who poisoned his mind with the idea that beauty is the only thing worth pursuing. Had it not been for him, Dorian wouldn’t have driven Sibyl, his love, to death, nor would he have killed Basil Hallward, the artist who created the painting, and regarded Dorian as his muse. As the story progresses, he found it easier to shut off his conscience, and do what pleases him.

Throughout the book, Wilde keeps up his theme of aestheticism, and subtly manages to convey to the reader the shallow nature of tangible beauty, and how too much focus on it can destroy the soul. He manages to create a world where art meets reality. Wilde’s words present a perfect study of human selfishness and vanity, providing a perfect look into thr human soul. It has gone down in history as a classic work of literature.

the brontë sisters

The Brontë Sisters: Anne, Emily and Charlotte were some of the greatest contributors to the literature we love. Their books didn’t abide by the norm. Instead they were original and creative. The sisters had a talent for giving their characters depth and complexity which only few writers could pen down. They created a legacy which has been passed down for generations. Yet, their lives weren’t always perfect. Tragedy was regular for the Brontë’s, with the deaths of first their mother, and then of their two older sisters.

Emily Brontë

“He’s more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.”

-Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights

Emily is best known for her only piece of work ever published- Wuthering Heights, an original and exciting book, portraying the dark and twisted face of love.  She published her works under the pseudonym Ellis Bell. Her inspiration could be found in authors like Percy Shelley and Lord Byron. Emily was described as the shy and mysterious one in the family. The second youngest, she found occupation as a teacher in Law Hill School.

Yet, she had to return due to her fragile health. Her book, Wuthering Heights, was published in 1847, yet she didn’t live to see the success of her novel. She died at the age of 30, a few months after her brother Branwell’s death. It is said that she had grown so narrow and small that her coffin only measured 16 inches wide. Her work is now regarded as literary classic.

Charlotte Brontë

“’I am not an angel,’ I asserted; ‘and I will not be one till I die: I will be myself.”

-Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre

Charlotte was the oldest of the surviving Brontë sisters, who published her works under the pseudonym of Currer Bell, to veil her gender from the public. She was employed as a governess, a job she didn’t like, due to the abysmal treatment she received from her employers. Her first manuscript, The Professor, never found a publisher, but her second one, Jane Eyre, was her most famous and well known work. She was one of the few authors, who wrote the book from a female perspective. A governess, who falls in love with her employer, yet discovers that his crazy wife has been locked up in the attic the whole time. It was dramatic and ground-breaking, and found great success as well as positive reviews from critics. She published her last book, Villette, in 1853. The last surviving member of the family, she lost all remaining siblings within a span of ten months Brontë died at the age of 38, along with her unborn child.

Anne Brontë

 “What a fool you must be,” said my head to my heart, or my sterner to my softer self.”

-Anne Brontë, Agnes Grey

Anne was the youngest member of her family, and the least known, partly due to the delay in the re-publishing of her book The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. She too worked as a governess, but was later dismissed by her employers. Her debut novel, Agnes Grey was published in 1847 under the pseudonym Acton Bell, which was based largely on her own experiences as a governess. She drew inspiration from real life for her writing. This concept of realism was common amongst the sisters. Her second work, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, is described as a shocking and disturbing contemporary Victorian novel. Yet, it was well received and an instant success. Anne died at the age of 29, shortly after her sister Emily’s demise.

Rabindranath Tagore’s Chandalika

Self consciousness, up to a point, is necessary to self development;for without an awareness of the dignity of one’s own role or function, one cannot give one’s best to the world.

The above, are the lines from one of the most underrated dramas of Rabindranath Tagore, in the world of literature – Chandalika. A drama with a lots of love, compassion, over compassion, feeling of inferiority, new birth, and culmination of great teachings of Buddha. This drama has a vast history and has been portrayed over centuries as a musical drama, music to give more life to it, and make the audience understand the intensity of the emotions that the protagonists carry in themselves, during the play.

Themes –

A religion that insults is a false religion. Everyone united to make me conform to a creed that blinds and gags. But since that day something forbids me to conform any longer. I’m afraid of nothing now.

The story that is revealed in the plot is all about discovering new dimensions of life, as well as, discovering one’s inner self. Readers also come across new experiences of life through the characters themselves, in each and every scene that is being played on. Set in an old city of Shravasti, in the then Uttar Pradesh, the story has to offers many aspects of human approaches, such as, over obsession for something can be as disastrous as gulping poison. Another aspect of the play is discovered through the act of quenching thirsty Buddhist monk, that proves to be a kind of “rebirth” for a girl who is meant to be untouchable. The presence of the mother is a cue of saying that, one should not step out of the boundaries that are set by the religion and society for any person living on this earth. Rebellion against the wall of system and society, is another thing that is portrayed by the drama. The presence of a Buddhist monk in the play, rejuvenates it, bringing whole of a new sense to the play, teachings of Buddha, determination towards life and bringing up the best of a person, is that converts it into a multi dimensional and psychological drama of intense spiritual conflict. Finally, turning into a sort of redemption, along with self realisation, the drama yet has a tale to tell, that –

Love does not claim possession, but it gives freedom.

Introducing the characters –

Chandalika, as the name suggests, is about a chandal girl belonging to the lowest untouchable caste, who gives water to a beautiful monk and falls for him. Unable to restrain herself, she made her mother chant the spells and bound him to be presented at their house at night. Filled with lust and sensitivity, the character of Prakriti portrays the nature’s qualities, she is aggressive, ready to make sacrifices, adorably tolerant, love excessively, mostly alike our mother nature. The story is not of a wicked girl roused to lust by the physical beauty of the monk, but of a very sensitive girl, condemned by her birth to a despised caste, suddenly awakened to a consciousness of her full rights as a woman.

Anand, the famous disciple of Buddha, is a monk in a real sense, pure, loved all the creatures of the world, spread the enlightenment, and victim of the lust of a girl, who unknowingly, is put to remorse and shame.

Symbolizing the social evils prevailing in the society, in the contemporary time, Prakriti’s mother, is yet another character of the play, who, unfortunately had to pay heavy price of her daughter’s love, by giving sacrificing every nerve and cell of her body. She is, as protective, as every other mother ever lived on this earth. At the same time, preventing her to not to claim such a pure soul, Anand, as her’s.

The plot –

For wisdom is not happiness, and renunciation is not fulfilment.

Forgotten that I was a human being, these words always pinched Prakriti’s ears for many years, when one day in vaisakh, she, sitting under the blistering sun was introduced to a person in town, whom she could only think to be standing some fifty feets apart from “a girl, as she. ” It is, Anand, the monk, pure as heaven, beautiful,englitened, who has renounced the earthly leisures, approaches her to quench his thirst. But, being a Chandal, Prakriti was bound not to offer him water from a lake as unpure as herself, on which he laments, and speaks to her, if the black clouds of sravana are dubbed chandal, what of it? It doesn’t change their nature, or destroy the virtue of their water. Don’t humiliate yourself;self humiliation is a sin, worse than self murder. It is when comes twist in the tale, she is revealed to a new birth of herself and is determined to bring him back to her, and discover a cherish her new birth with herself.

Hearing this from Prakriti’s own mouth, her mother is shaken up and thinks that somebody has chant some spell over her. She is awestruck by the idea of her talking of the humanism, caste, and want for the monk. Not ready to listen to her mother, Prakriti wants the monk back, by hook or by crook, that could be achieved when the mother chants her spell over him, and call him off straight to her place. The mother rebels and protests against this idea of her, saying, we only churn up the mud, his power is much more greater than hers, and by chanting spell over him, she can commit a great sin.

The utmost desire to have the monk right next to her is unshakable, and being the only loveable daughter of her, the mother is bound to chant the magic spells. She makes her prepare all the stuff that is required to fulfill the strength of the words, and giving her a magic mirror, tells her to be attentive of the paththat Anand will choose to come over here. Magically, her spells worked out, but in a different manner, though Anand came all the way to her house, without any second thought, but his radiance withered, the shining, the purity, the heavenly glow, all gone, faded, destroyed to pieces. Also, her mother was exhausted till now, she was lying on the floor, counting last of her breath,as overpowering such a majestic personality was a difficult task to do.

It was the time when Prakriti again realised, was awakened to life, that she has committed a sin, redeemed for the second time, purged of the pride and egoism that had made her forget that love does not claim possession, but gives freedom. Also, the holy monk is taken back into his earlier state by the powers of The Buddha.

The drama is a delight to the readers, a tragedy with a lot of teachings and morals to tell. Self redemption, obsession, realization, rebirth, it is a bunch of great dialogues, that takes the reader into in itself.

Merchant of Venice – a tragedy or a comedy

One of the Shakespeare’s most powerful, strange, uncomfortable plays. A play about a piece of paper with a promise, a dangerous promise, and yet its a comedy. Sometimes showcasing the relation between Jews and Christians, sometimes, comedy and tragedy, and sometimes between those who are at center and the margins. Yet, it is a play that engages with toxic materials, with the major themes of self interest, the divine quality of mercy, hatred as a cyclical phenomenon.

Though, the play begins with a comic, but not entirely lighthearted way with a group of friends – male friends. But as the play proceeds, through act two, the story turns to unfold, and it is out of the history of hatred and suspicion that the play withstands in a new way. And turns into a tragic event. In act three is a famous moment, where the speech of Shylock (one of the tragic figures of the play) is a declaration of shared humanity. This speech makes the extremely strong claim of the opposite, that we share the same being. But it is also worth remembering that the speech ends with a declaration of determination to revenge.

This is a play that says if you treat me this way, I will want to get my revenge. And I have learned that also from you, because when you are treated badly you want revenge.

This play stages rage on the part of the persecuted minority. The determination on the part of Shylock to kill his enemy.

Going all the way through the act four, we,as an audience,experience that it might turn out to be one of the tragic plays, as is clear from the trial scene, ending up with Antonio’s death. But, lastly ends up with a happily -ever- after mood. In act five, everyone marrying their loved ones, changing of lives.

Genre –

There are two ways that people tend to think about comedy, a more romantic idea and a more satiric idea. And the romance is what throws the emphasis on the reconciliation.

When the play begins, fulfilling the audience’s expectations of what a comedy might look like, we have young men bantering with each other, teasing Antonio about the fact that he is sad. We also have the introduction of marriage plot, we learn that Bassanio wants to woo Portia. Also, Portia wants to find an acceptable husband. The play also goes towards a romantic play, a myths, fairy tales, romance stories that audiences might be familiar with, like involving the casket test. Audience might have reacted with some surprise when we hear this tragic news that Antonio has defaulted, that his life is in danger.

Thus, this is a play that leaves the audiences awestruck with its continuously changing moods, starting rightly from a comic pace, to going through some tragic moments, and finally ending up with a rom-com arena. Which is why most of the playwrights often misconceptualise it and try to mould it in a way which suits their audiences the most.

INNER VOICE

Inner voice
Inner Voice is a voice 
Which expels when no choice.
 
Tolerance is silent inside noise
Which becomes dangerous crime’s base.
 
Including burning heart cries
Which ignites when blood dries.
 
Tension reaches greater heights 
Which internally firmly bites.
 
Rascal when kept inside cine
Which hurts the mind, nothing fine. 
 
Work done with high anger line 
Which destroys the surroundings,no mistake mine.
 
Feeling high tempered alone 
Which everyone notices but not shown.
 
No friend here,just God is one
Which spreads blessings just like sun.
                                       -Sahaj Sabharwal 
                                      -Pacca Danga, 
     -Jammu city ,Jammu and Kashmir, India. 
                                       – Dps,Jammu.

 

Discourse Techniques in African Poetry: A Review of Literature

Stanley Somtochukwu Ebede, CNP, MA.

School of Kinesiology, Allied Health and Human Services

University of Northern Iowa, USA

203 Wellness and Recreation Center, Cedar Falls IA 50614

ABSTRACT

The study of discourse techniques in African written literature not just limited to poetry is a crucial and important area of study in the fields of academic as literature is becoming more indigenized and localized to suit author’s environment, language and culture and world view in multi-language society. The purpose of this study is to perform a detailed analysis of discourse techniques used in African poetry specifically examining the techniques used in two African literary works: Chants of Despair authored by Ngozi’s Chuma Udeh (2010) and Omeile Vol one authored by Asika Ikechukwu (2011) The study examines the use of language, proverbs, code mixing and code switching, and even nature names used. Furthermore, the findings will highlight some hidden and unfamiliar meaning as well as providing a clear-cut and detailed discussion of some of the discourse techniques that might enable individuals to understand and interpret the message in African poetry and other genres of literature. Generally, this study will provide techniques for analysis of some hidden thematic issues, critical and scholarly review of literature as well as paving way for future studies.

 

KEYWORDS

African, Discourse Techniques, Literature, Poet, Poetry

 

INTRODUCTION

For African authors to be well understood, the need to understand their language, culture and worldview become necessary. This is where discourse techniques play crucial roles in the understanding and interpretation of the indigenized works of art that reflect on the African aliment. Discourse techniques help to unveil and unfold hidden meanings in the works of art and literature. The role of poetry in society can never be over emphasizes neither will its study and interpretation be exhausted. African authors are greatly influenced by the social, cultural economic, religious as well as political happenings in societies. According to Ofoegbu (2012), discourse techniques refers to the language techniques used by authors to achieve an aim in a given piece and it is considered as the language of the writer in a work of literature. According to the author, these discourse techniques include (1) use of language, (2) local idioms, (3) proverbs, (5) code mixing and code switching, (6) unfamiliar terms and comic expressions, (6) transliteration and (7) use of nature names. The written literature we know today which consists of three genres of literature including poetry, drama and prose are part of the western acclimatization as a result of colonization and acquisition of the western education. The art of writing and literacy are part of African colonial heritage and Africans have over the time explored this gain of written literature to express the social –political, as well as economic realities around them. There was a great need for African literature through a colonial legacy to speak in African voice and these are part of the obvious reason that trigger African writers to search inwards for that which will help to elevate their literature and mark it out from the rest of literature produced in all parts of the world.

Olateju (1998) posits that discourse techniques are used to describe activities and various disciplines and human endeavors such as socio-linguistics, psycholinguistics, philosophical linguistics, computational linguistics and education. The analysis of discourse techniques in any work of art is very important. Style is the manner of linguistic expression in prose or verse and it is how a speaker or writer says things. The characteristic style of a work or a writer may be analyzed in terms of its diction, the sentence structure and its syntax (Abrams & Hogg, 1990). The concreteness of the details chosen, the diction, the images and figures of speech contributes to the meaning of a literary work (Nwoga, 1981).

African authors have to turn the oral tradition, folktale materials and other social-cultural elements around them to express themselves in a unique way; to speak in the typical voice of their people in such an artistic manner in which the quality of the message of their writing is not lost to the outside reader. The best African today is the writer who blends and experiments with traditional passion of his people and should make such sense to the outside world. The word ‘writing’ is clarified not simply to mean the graphic notation of language, but to include the unpleasant distinctions of language that are derived from an intricate historical intertextual process within which an utterance or a text is situated (Akingbe, 2014). This is what we witnessed in the works of many authors including the two volumes of poetry; Chants of Despair and Omeile Vol 1 by Ngozi Chuma-Udeh and Asika Ikechukwu respectively which are the main focus in this study. The scope of this study is limited to the works of these African poets (Nigerian poets). Both poets are from the eastern part of Nigeria.

Asika (2011a) asserted that authors play a prominent and significant role in the social-reeducation, re-orientation, and re-direction of their societies. Literature functions and help to shape one’s attitudes and lifestyle. Poetry though one of the earliest genres of literature seems to be the most dreaded of all other. Abada and Ezenwa (2009) explored poetry from several related dimensions. The authors asserted that some people have considered poetry from the point of view of rhythmic articulation. Poetry has become one of the variable tools ad writers articulates their perceptions and beliefs as it affects the society (Chukwueloka, 2011). Authors are greatly influenced by the social, cultural economic, religious as well as political situations in the society. In search of the message of authors hidden in symbols and languages, we attempt a study of discourse techniques in the works of two selected poets and their collections (Omeile and Chants of Despair).

DISCOURSE TECHNIQUES IN OMEILE VOL.1

Omeile is a poem that focused on the ranting, chants and travails of an uncivilized warrior Omeile, who has refused to accept the changes necessary in African’s modern era rather would hold tenaciously on his cherished and idealized views of the primitive and ways of life that is fast breaking.  The poet makes his collection of poetry a master piece by his use of language, code mixing and code switching, figures of speech, transliteration, proverbs and these have a much desired appeal on both readers and critics alike.

  1. USE OF PROVERBS

Proverb as a discourse technique used in Omeile by Asika Ikechukwu aid the readers in understanding and appreciating the message of the poem and enhances them for a feeling of change in attitude. Ofoegbu (2012) posits that the use of proverb in Omeile are very strategic as they capture and bound a reader, leaving the person to wonder at the mastery and usage of proverbs by the poet. The author further suggested that the use of proverbs sometimes flow with the line of literary work because the writer structures them in such a way that one might think that the proverbs follow themselves. However, it is a discourse technique used by the writer to captivate the readers.

In Omeile, the first few proverbs used by the poet occurred when the main character Omeile summons and appeals to the spirit. In Asika (2011b), the proverbs read:

The mother goat knows on whose skin the drummer rattles (pg.8)

 

The leopard knows in his head whose skin adorns the shoulder of the of the mighty king (pg.8)

 

When the sound of the king’s tusk is heard, the elephant remembers the voice of the lone brother lost (pg.8)

 

See the little bird perching on the Ngige, is full of dance (pg.8)

 

The old woman never grows old in a dance that she knows in heart (pg.9)

 

The above proverbs used in the in the introductory part of the poem did not only warn the African people about the danger of abandoning their culture but on the dangers of colonialism and the loss of African culture. Omeile tries to tell the readers his knowledge of the tricks and cunnings of the white men who exploited African to build their own world of civilization and he tries to express all these in his heavily worded proverbs. The over-emotional proverbs exist to remind the African people about the beauty of traditional culture which they are at the very of abandoning totally. This is a culture that motivates and inspires him and he wishes us to see a culture as a traditional way of life. Another proverb reads:

            Where a child cries and point, if the mother is not there, the father it (pg.10)

This proverb reinforces the seriousness of his message, for he knows why he is really crying about the loss of African traditional value. He believes that lack of culture robs ones his dignity and personality and that is what Omeile believes that happened to many Africans including himself. He used to be a warrior, but his marriage to Ekemma, a symbolism of his acceptance of civilization robbed him of all his warrior pose.

In the proverbs of Ikenga, another character in the poem, the poet recounts how we went wrong and how African culture was abandoned in pursuance of foreign culture in the name of modernism and civilization.  Ikenga used the following proverbs:

Forward……forward is the movement of a monkey, once it jumps backwards, it will fall into the traps pf death (pg.13).

 

Remember it is the leaf that sweet a goat/that kills it (pg.14)

 

Omeile, the bush that detest the basket let it meet and produce mushrooms (pg.14)

 

He who wants to know all the Nso ala. Does he want to live in the sky? (pg.14)

 

Omeile, the hen that has a face should not lose its side gaze (pg.14)

 

The person whose elephantiasis of his scrotum is under cure, may his stomach not swell as well (pg.15).

 

The going of a war is not like the coming (pg.15)

 

The above proverbs were used by Ikenga to warn Omeile when they were going to war. Ikenga was warning him of his dignity and manhood. This is also a warning about Africans’ negligence which brought about civilization and how their acceptance of it reduces us to mere mortals chasing after culture that is not theirs. The poet used proverbs as a discourse technique to strategically give way to hidden meanings and add values to the ideas and views expressed by Omeile. This will enable the reader to see a reality of the gains and losses of civilization.

  1. USE OF CODE MIXING

The use of code mixing refers to the mixing of two or more language varieties in a discourse or sentence strings (Ofoegbu, 2012). In the poem, each line goes with the presence of code mixing. The use of code mixing enhances the work and the message intended. The blood nature words from the Igbo language present the reader with an environment of Igbo traditional scene. Code mixing was used to express specific ideas with specific terms.

I have a palm kernel smeared in Ukpaka and Mangala fish (pg.6)

 

Like the memories of Omarimma, my first love (pg.7)

 

Let the Yokiliyo sound be heard (pg.8)

 

We stood before the chief priest Ikenga, the great (pg.11)

 

I painted your eyelashes with Otengele dark as Indigo (pg.32)

 

May Amadioha… May Ngene… May Omaliko… (pg.63)

 

Let Ulasi… (pg.63)

 

It is all man for himself now, Onyenankenya (pg.84)

The use of code mixing in the above lines is very significant. The poet used code mixing as an escape hatch and as a means of expression of facts that Omeile is warrior caught in chains of civilization. The discourse techniques may not be peculiar to the poet alone. Ofoegbu (2012) asserted that code-mixing is the very foundation of Omeile because the names of the actors Omeile and Ekemma were also derived from Igbo Language. The author further stated that the poet would have gone for western names rather he chose to remain in Africa.

  1. DICTION AND PLACEMENT OF WORDS

          The diction and placement of words in Omeile cannot be overlooked because they are very significant. Ofoegbu (2012) defines diction as an author’s choice of words while placement of words refers to the way an author arranges his words. The diction in Omeile is multidimensional because of the use of biblical passage as style of writing. For example

Land, fame, ventures and things of the world. It was there before we come; they still will remain rooted to the earth years after our voices are hushed (pg.26)

 

No sunshine ever hurts you during the day nor the terrifying rainfall in the night (pg.34)

 

Let this hour be his last, let no breath come again his lungs, let him be cursed and blinded to death, let him drink from the cup of their vengeance, let him die the death of a coward (pg.57)

 

The above lines look like that of the bible in the book of Ecclesiastes chap 1 vs 2 that talks about vanity upon vanity; Psalm 121 vs 6 that talks about “the sun will not harm you by day, nor moon by night”; and Psalm 109 vs 6-20. Omeile’s choice of words falls under the simple and everyday vocabulary. It is enclosed, concise and clear. The poet abided the use of high sounding and jaw breaking grammars.

            The placement of words is done in such a way that meaning is not lost and the element of Igbo language is not lost too. The following are some of the examples used in the poem.

Ikenga stood before me, eyeball to eyeball we look (pg.13)

When gbalagbala goes excessive, it becomes madness (pg.14)

Red oil of blood (pg.15)

But the precious liquids form the eyes of the goddess (pg.28)

May your soul rest in peace (pg.54)

Like hinge beaten dogs, they are (pg. 59)

The aforementioned examples show how the poet puts certain words side by side thereby creating word pictures in the minds of his readers. As a descriptive writer, the poet describe Ekemma in Omeile just as Ofoegbu (2012) asserted that description is the habit of Omeile and it has helped in adding flavor to the boiling pot of poetry. In other words, diction and placement of words are one of the basic foundations in poetry writing.

 

DISCOURSE TECHNIQUES IN CHANTS OF DESPAIR

Chants of Despair is poetry collection where the author tries to draw people’s attention to the monumental abuse, injustice, and poverty glaring in the society. The collection focus on the action and inactions of the government who are supposed to better lots of the people but they end up amassing wealth, depositing millions of Naira in foreign accounts and spelling out poverty and doom on the entire civilization. Ujowundu (2011) conducted in the collection just as Ofoegbu (2012) did with Omeile. The study ranks among the pioneering efforts in interpreting the message that lay buried in the collection.

            Ujonwundu (2011) asserted that Chants of Despair is a poem in three parts which portray the individuals’ frustration. Chuma Udeh, is just as angry as the older poets who have lived to satirize the society through their creature as the protest is not the end an expression of hate for humanity. The discourse techniques entail a wide range of ideas and patterns. They include the use of language and diction which boils down to choice of words and sentence pattern. The use of foregrounding of imagery, proverbs , code mixing and switching, figures of speech, direct transliteration, allusions and symbols among many others. No single study can be able to critically and meticulously examine all these because it can amount a textbook of his own. A research can only select aspects of these techniques for a detailed discussion. Other researchers with similar interest will pick up several other areas of these discourse techniques all geared toward a holistic understanding of the message in a given work of art. The use of language and the use of proverbs in Chants of Despair as part of discourse techniques will bring the message to limelight and serves as a key to unlocking hidden meanings and inter-textual materials in the poem.

  1. FOREGROUNDING OF IMAGERY AND USE OF LANGUAGE

            Language is very essential to the understanding of any work of art and is a tool available for any writer. Authors use language in such a way that any serious minded reader will understand their message. Ofoegbu (2012) asserted that the use of language had remained a very important issue in the analysis of any discourse. Discourse involves language plus context according to some discourse analysts. It looks at how language can be used to achieve aims and objectives in human development.

            Language is central to any work of art and can never be over emphasized. According to Umeh (1991), language is the medium for poetic utterances, the vehicle with which the poet transmits his message. The effectiveness or otherwise of this utterance of this message depends largely on the nature and quality of language used. In modern Nigeria, language has helped immensely in determining meaning sometimes. It has also helped to direct and clarify meaning while at other times language has helped to impede and distort meaning.

            The poet’s success in her writing could attribute greatly to her use of language. She used language to give out message to the readers. She describes the level of poverty and actions of African leaders with passion and hatred. The port also used foregrounding of imagery to draw imageries so close to the forecourt of the readers. The following lines analyzed the argument.

I was named Despair not because my mother had the good grace to know the commonest of English syntax; nor because of the stabs of bleakness swarming around me like our ever present neighbors, the green eyed houseflies; not because of the reality of the stark is because of the abject scarcity which has become my dearest companion….my status has nothing to do with the genesis of my name (pg.3)

I was named Despair because when I was born beside the putrid, shaking gutters, behind our rat infested, rickety shanty. Where my mother had no choice than to function as both doctor and midwife put together, my mother’s strangled gnarls of pains, My mother’s helpless labor screeching attracted the hand of fate, as she labored aided by hordes of flies (pg.4)

I was named Despair because Ikoro spoke out of Revulsion. Ikoro spoke out of frustration. Ikoro spoke out of cheer disgust. Ikoro spoke from the depth of his very demented soul. Ikoro spoke from the very profundity of his frenzied psyche. Ikoro expostulated out of cheer antipathy for wickedness before him. Ikoro summed up the episode in the scene before him in a phrase, a phrase that clinched accurately my fate and that of my mother (pg.7).

…little did she not realized that some other woman, just a few kilometers apart; in our mosquito infested ghetto was at the same time undergoing the paroxysm of parturition near the putrid maggot sewer. With swarm of flies as the doctors on call and the rodents as ever dedicated nurse, waiting to devour the afterbirth and god help the baby if it comes hitting the head by the edge of the gutter (pg.17)

I tell you my brother, poverty is not a disease. Poverty is far from affliction. Poverty is not a lack or want …. Real poverty is a fate worse than cancerous virus. It gives no chance but eats up everything. It is worse than a corrosive acid. It devours a man and leaves him a weakling carcass. It makes a man a shadow thing (pg.11)

 

The above lines point out the picture of poverty, want, scarcity, suffering, and oppression and bring them closer to the reader. One can argue that so many poets can do this enhance the beauty of their work. Ujowundu (2011) asserted that the poet’s diction has rein structure as to reasons for naming her despair and the images portray depravity. Such expression as the stabs of bleakness swarming around. The images are so everlasting and real. One could feel and imagine how the stench odor and hordes of flies could become part of situation of poverty and suffering. The description of the environment portrays abject poverty and want. Even the absence of medical professionals all epitomizes helplessness and deprivation. These were made possible by the foregrounding of imagery and choice of words employed by the poet. The words “strangulate”, “gnarls of pain”, helpless labor screeching”, and hordes of flies” all expressed despair and decadent environment.

The poet with conscious and consistent use of language presents the living conditions of average citizens in Nigeria. The above words “revulsion”, “frustration”, and “disgust” are all expressions of anger disenchantment and frustration. The level of rise of imagery coincides with rise of anger in the voice and mind of the poet. In the poem, Ikoro is a picture of a wretched teacher who is highly intelligent but no money to justify his patriotism and excellence in knowledge. He is a stereotype of some forsaken teachers in Nigeria who languished slowly in various schools in rural areas. Poverty is being described with images of “mosquito infested ghetto”, “swarm of flies”, “rodents” and “gutter”. All lasting pictures of poverty and deprivation yields the message of the poem to the readers through the use of language.

  1. USE OF PROVERBS

            Another discourse techniques commonly used in the poem is the use of proverbs. Proverbs were used in such a level that they become the backbone for the interpretation of the message of the poem. Proverbs did not give the poet an authenticity as an African poet but also helped and structured the pattern and flow of her poetic thoughts. Proverbs in this poem are so weaved together that one cannot easily separate the two elements (spoken words and proverbs).

Do not laugh yet at the old woman whose wrapper is torn at the bottom until you get to the root of her dilemma between her buttocks and the wrapper (pg. 1)

 

How can you attempt a guess of which fly is blind, when you have never cooked the garri paste? For if you want to know the fly that is blind in one eyes, seek the help of the woman who cooks ogiri (pg.2)

 

How do you master the walking gate of the man with sagging waist cloth when you have never suffered from testicles hernia? (pg.2)

 

Perhaps soul brother, you may not understand the anguish of being Despair. It is only he who ate the meat knows the exact tooth its piece were stuck into…..Only he who wears the ant-infested trouser knows the exact place of the bites (pg.9).

 

It does not matter how long the chicken angles for the corn in the covered basket, it yearns in vain….Even if the rat does a hundred maters dash around a pot covered with another, in vain does it toil (pg.26).

 

If you want to understand the language of the sand, seek the counsel of the arts….if you want to decipher the whispers of the wind, solicit for the interpretations from the leaves….If you want to speak the language of the cloud, do not hesitate to ask the birds….if you want to know the language of want, seek the true color of hunger….ask me (pg.37).

 

The use of some proverbs in a rhetorical form in the above lines captivates the reader to fully appreciate the message of the poem. These proverbs were series of warning, cautions, and appeals which allow us to put ourselves in the shoes of poor individuals. The poet narrated the suffering and excruciating situation of a woman giving birth which made Ikoro to exclaim after watching the sordid and heart touching scenario. The poet further suggested that we should feel the woman’s pain suffering on amidst of plenty. These proverbs recommended that we are yet to understand the level of poverty in Nigeria and yet this a country that has the capacity and economy to cater for the citizens. The rich are getting richer, the poor poorer and this boils down to inequality and uneven distribution of wealth in the society. The wide gap between the rich and the poor is glaring and no matter how much the poor strive, they can never escape the poverty level. This is what the poet expressed with the above proverbs, a situation we must rectify in the future. In conclusion, the poet used proverbs to bring the message closer to the reader and make her message more sensible and authentic.

DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION

As earlier discussed and examined, poets are the voices of their societies. They project societal norms, ills, and evils which they hope to win freedom and redeem their societies through their artistic visions and creative ingenuities. Literature has become the most viable way through which poets and authors, in general, express their individual’s concerns, fears and worries about society and cast aspersions on several institutions of evil and vices. Through this means, they hope to achieve peace and harmony for societal growth. This is an idea that makes language an essential part of writers’ work of art to be better understand the composition, construction, sentence patterning, presentation of imageries, use of figurative expressions and handling of some native issues.

This study examined the use of proverbs is Asika Ikechukwu’s Omeile. There were many proverbs used in the poem were neither accidentally nor unconsciously used. One with a thorough mind or critical mind will discover how these proverbs were weaved into various segments of the poem in order to heighten effect and achieve a desired purpose by the poet. These proverbs were structured in such a way that they combine effectively with the works of the poet and glued together that one anticipates a lot action, suspense and other series of event at the mention of any proverbs. The proverbs are so structured and well-tailored that when removed from the context will remain lifeless. In Ngozi Chuma Udeh’s Chants of Despair, the poet used foregrounding of imagery to demonstrate her appalling for the failures of African leaders and politicians which has reduced the citizens to poverty by expressing her thoughts in such a way that one can feel the bitterness and disgusting ideas. In addition, the poet also structured proverbs to direct the flow of her poetic thoughts and used foregrounding of imagery and other discourse techniques to bring hidden meanings to limelight.

Conclusively, the discourse techniques used in this study will enable individuals to easily penetrate, bring out so many hidden meanings, and digest the truth in art as well as being mindful of discourse techniques that were used in other genres of literature. This study demonstrated how the use of language and techniques of good poetry provide us with an understanding of some hidden thematic issues in any given work of art. Furthermore, the discourse techniques used in this study revealed many hidden truth and highlights how these poets used poetry to better the lots of African society. Future research are recommended to explore and analyze more discourse techniques in works that outcross other cultures and background for a more productive conclusion.

Declaration of Conflicting Interests

The author declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.

 

Funding

This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.

 

 

 

 

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AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY

Stanley S. Ebede is a doctoral student in the School of Kinesiology, Allied Health and Human Services (KAHHS). He holds a Masters of Arts degree in Leisure, Youth and Human Services from the University of Northern Iowa, USA.  He co-authored the book Bugle Sounds for the Legend.  His current research studies revolve around student involvement and development of skills. He is engaged with Friends at Home as a Resident Assistant. Previously, he was employed as the Assistant Director for STEM program at the University of Northern Iowa, USA.