Comparative Analysis Of Chinua Achebe’s Early And Contemporary Literary Works; The Stylistics Of Arrow Of God And Anthills Of Savannah As A Case Study

Project and Seminar Material for English Language

Comparative Analysis Of Chinua Achebe’s Early And Contemporary Literary Works; The Stylistics Of Arrow Of God And Anthills Of Savannah As A Case Study


Literary style, the meeting point between literary criticism and linguistic analysis, is the focus of this project. The study demonstrates the viability of collaboration between principles of the two approaches.

Focusing on two novels of the world-acclaimed African novelist, Chinua Achebe, the project suggests that even when a writer’s stylistic inclinations are recognizable, each literary work is at the same time a product of peculiar thematic, social and discursive situations, which are inevitably reflected in its stylistic features.

It concentrates on such levels of linguistic analysis as lexis, semantics and graphology, while privileging allusion, setting and symbolism as elements of literary explication relevant to the comparative study of Achebe’s style(s) in his early and contemporary novels.

Chapter One

1.0 Introduction

There is no denying the fact that time, place and the linguistic environment that generate a text determine, to a very large extent, the linguistic choices available to a writer. This hints at the correlation between a people’s culture (including the languages spoken) and the literary works emerging from the society. In this regard, African writers can be said to be confronted with a great task in representing in English, experiences and realities that are peculiar to Africa given the complex linguistic milieu in which they operate.

Emmanuel Ngara’s (1982:19) view in this regard is relevant. He maintains that “the African writer’s position is a complex one. His chosen tongue is not his own, neither is it his own people’s language. His society has its own linguistic system with its own prejudices and world views while his chosen language reflects those of its native speakers.” Chinua Achebe is a foremost Nigerian writer. He has, to date, published five novels, namely Things Fall Apart(1958), No Longer at Ease (1960), Arrow of God (1964), A Man of the People (1966) and Anthills of the Savannah (1988). Both Things Fall Apart and Arrow of God are set in the past. In Things Fall Apart, Achebe presents a balanced picture of the traditional Igbo Society and that of Africa by extension.

1.1 Background To The Study

Arrow of Godflashes back to Things Fall Apart. It deals with a period in Igbo history when the old and new values co-existed. No Longer at Ease is set in the period immediately preceding pre-independence in Africa. It reflects a stage in Igbo society when progress was measured by Christianity and Western education, and value was placed on the occupation of positions vacated by whitemen as independence drew near. Achebe portrays in the novel a society that is “infused by its multiplicity of races and of values, and by the bewildering search for a workable compromise” (Emenyonu 1987: xix). Arrow of Godand Anthills of the Savannah, that are studied in this ~ are set in post-independence Africa.

Achebe’s writings bear traits of his society while still communicating in a second language. The experiences he reflects relate to the customary practices of his people, the Igbo of Eastern Nigeria 1be immediate exigencies of intelligibility and realistic representation would therefore determine the language he adopts. A multilingual context often demands the integration of languages or dialects. It is natural then that Igbo, the mother tongue of the writer and that of most of his characters., should feature in Achebe’s texts, especially when such traditional practices as story-telling, as we have in Anthills of the Savannah, are to be encountered. Proverbs, communal properties in traditional African societies, equally condition the communicative process m this context.

When Achebe reports life in Igbo society, he integrates into English the Igbo similes, wise sayings, proverbs, riddles, songs and other traditional art features. Proverbs, in particular, constitute the spine of language use in (traditional) Igbo society. The Igbo describe it as ‘the palm oil with which words are eaten’. In the words of Ernest Emenyonu (1987: 156), the proverb “serves to emphasize and deepen the force of what is said … and [also] allows intent to emerge without having to resort to bare and blunt words”. For the Igbo man, it is absolutely impossible to display it, wisdom and skills in language use without a good knowledge of proverbs. The linguistic situation is further complicated by the existence of Pidgin English which a large number of people in the society adopt.

Anthills of the Savannah provide a logical sequel to Arrow of Godbecause it focuses on a phase in the political development of Africa when politicians had been replaced by ‘corrective’ military regimes. It explores tile climate of mis­-governance, opportunism and alienation which marks this phase, using the fictitious West African state of Kangan as the focus. It also prescribes radical reformism. The story is told by multiple narrative voices, ranging from the first­ person point of view of Chris and Ikem to the third-person point of view.

Consequently, there is an inconsistency that hinders comprehension on the part of the reader. The story begins Oft the note 1hat a military government assumes power following a coup in Kangan. Sam, as the Head of the State is called, then becomes the leader while also assuming the title of president. He surrounds himself with schoolmates and friends. But he soon begins to suspect them and this degenerates into a chaotic situation. But he soon begins to suspect them and this degenerates into a chaotic situation. Like any typical African leader, he sets the security machinery in motion to apprehend the ‘subversive elements’ in the midst of growing social discontent and mounting tension among the radical student-activists.

The positive portrait of women in the story aligns with the radical inclination of Achebe in the novel. It is possible to establish a link between Achebe’s concerns in the two novels. While Arrow of God mirrors tile disappointment of the period immediately after independence, which necessitated the intervention of the military,Anthills of the Savannah carries this indictment to the present by denouncing the failure of the military which has been aided by the self-seeking, educated elite. What we therefore have in his latest novel is merely a reiteration of an old problem. If Arrow of God adopts a recognizable setting, Anthills of the Savanna his set in a fictitious West African State. This makes the relevance of the story transcend a particular socio-political environment as it depicts the dilemma of emergent African states in general. Ojinma (1990: 90) suggests that “Achebe’s Anthills of the Savannah scrutinizes what the military in power in the new nations of Africa, who came ostensibly to correct the political excesses and muddles of the civilian politicians … to clear up the men left behind by the corrupt civilian government that preceded them, are making of their intervention”. It has been necessary to establish this link between the texts because they were written at different times. This could then be sufficient background insight into the texts as we proceed to provide some information on linguistic stylistics.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

Africa, as an exotic place filled with “unknowable” people, has figured prominently in European literature and in the European imagination. Achebe has distinguished himself as a writer by presenting Africa from an African perspective and by pointing out the ways in which European cultural prejudices have affected not only the way Africa and Africans have been portrayed in literature and popular culture, but how Africa and Africans have been treated by imperial powers.

This research work intends to analytically compare Chinua Achebe’s early and current literary works using the stylistics study of Arrow of God and Anthills of Savannah.

1.3 Purpose of the Study

The main purpose of this study will be to compare the early literary works of Chinua Achebe to his current literary works taking into consideration the stylistic approach(s) he used in both literary works.

1.4 Significance of the Study

Chinua Achebe has been considered as one of the fathers of literature in Nigeria. This study therefore, intends to research into the stylistic approach of the man, Chinua Achebe, used in these books, Arrow of Godand Anthills of Savannah.

This study also aims at helping other researchers who intend to research further on this work and other books by Chinua Achebe know the current trends in literary works of New Nigerian writers vis-a-vis pioneer Nigerians writers’ literary products.

1.5 Delimitation of the Study

This research work will be limited to two books of Chinua Achebe. Namely:

  1. Arrow of God
  2. Anthills of Savannah

1.6 Research Methodology

Since this research is basically on the stylistics of Achebe’s Arrow of God and Anthills of the Savannah, aiming at bringing to the fore areas of similarities and differences, the research methodology will largely be in the domain of discourse analysis, linguistic and stylistic analyses of the two texts. In order words, the research methodology of this project will not involve the use of questionnaire, interviews etc. All the textual samples derived from the texts will be subjected to linguistic, stylistic and discourse analyses.

1.7 Definition of Terms


Scientific study of language


Author peculiar way of writing


Non-standard English usage in Nigeria

Mother of Tongue

Immediate language of a child

Chapter Five

Summary, Recommendations and Conclusion

5.1 Summary

In this project work, the stylistics Analyses of Arrow of God and Anthills of the Savannah is done with a view of highlighting the areas of similarities and differences in the two texts as a result of time gap in which the two texts were written.

5.2 Recommendations

Having attempted a comprehensive comparative stylistic analysis of Achebe’s Arrow of God and Anthills of the Savannah, it is apparent that, indeed, Achebe is a literary genius and also an exemplary literary model. In view of this, the following recommendations are made:

  1. African literary writers should always strive to proclaim, upholds and esteem African culture in their literary works just as Achebe’ bas done in his literary works.
  2. Where Africans writers has chosen to use English language as a medium of expression, such as a writer should ensure that he/she domesticate the English so that African cultural norms, customs heritage etc that would be discussed in such a literary work should be positively described.

5.3 Conclusion

My analyses at the various levels have revealed that Achebe’s styles in the two texts are conditioned by the demands of context. The study establishes that while the two text of Achebe are products of the same location (Nigeria and Africa in general), his graphological, lexico-semantic and discourse stylistic choices are skillfully managed to reflect different thematic preoccupations, characters and temporal frames. Each level of the analysis thus aids the interpretation of the texts. At the graphological level, all instances of italicization, capitalization and punctuation are largely used to portray setting and characters. Italicized indigenous words and Nigerianisms, with acronyms, ellipses and dashes, to a large extent, denote spatial, temporal and thematic setting, while italicized pidgin, foreign language and grammatical words delineate characters. At the lexico-semantic and discourse feature levels, Achebe portrays theme through the vocabulary items and allusions selected. These items immediately separate Arrow of Godfrom Anthills of the Savannah in terms of thematic preoccupations.

All the instances of discourse stylistic variety are used to mark characterization. But, there are, expectedly, overlaps of functions between the levels. Sometimes, some of the graphological features, explicitly italicized content words, acronyms, ellipses and dashes portray theme, and lexico-semantic discourse features such as proverbs delineate characters.

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