The Image Of African Women In A Patriarchal Society; A Study Of Buchi Emecheta’s The Joys Of Motherhood And Amma Darko’s Beyond The Horizon
This thesis examines the image of African women in a patriarchal society. The purpose of this research work is to find out how Buchi Emecheta uses this text to present African women, how Amma Darko uses her book to present African women, whether these two novelists present women differently or similarly and also to find out whether Emecheta and Darko present African women different from the way some male authors have presented women. The investigation was done through the use of Joys of Motherhood written by Buchi Emecheta and Beyond the Horizon authored by Amma Darko. The theoretical frameworks for this study are African feminism and post- colonial African literary theory. The researcher carefully selected one standard novel of each author. In each, the key female characters were identified, their role and relationship with men and other women were analysed. This study reveals that Buchi Emecheta presents African women in a number of ways and notable among them are; they are presented as second-class citizens, very assertive, very hardworking, they can face difficulties in the absence of their husbands, they are appendages of men and capable of fostering peace and tranquillity. Amma Darko, in contrast, presents African women diversely as people who are naïve, who are exploited easily, as people who cannot make their own choices, as sex commodities and as property that must be sold to the highest bidder. Similarly, it is revealed that both Emecheta and Darko presented African women as: people that can be battered, people who should not resist the sexual pleasures of men, means through which their parents get wealth, people who are hardworking, appendages of men, people who are created for the sake of men and people who are incapable of making their own decisions.
1.0 Background to the Study
Traditionally, African women have played several roles- from peace-making to peace-building across different pre-colonial African societies (Amadium, 1997; Ngongo-Mbede, 2003; Mohammed, 2003). The existence of African women and their power in the pre-colonial African societies were based on ethic of care that was rooted in their motherhood and their nature, which was tolerance, non- violence and peacefulness. According to Nwoye (no date) women engaged in peace-building through childcare, responsible mothering and nurturing of children in ways that prepared and socialised them towards peaceful co-existence. In most pre-colonial African societies, a culture of peace, tolerance and anti-war traditions were imbedded in and transmitted through folktales, proverbs, poetry, songs and dance. Traditionally, women are often seen as transmitters of these cultural values to their progeny and to future generations through such artistic expressions.
It must be noted that because of the important role women play in our African societies, Mohammed, a Somali poet for example uses Somali stories, poetry, songs and proverbs to depict the importance of African women which is transmitters of knowledge and builders of a stable social fabric. Mohammed (2003:102) thus says:
Mother! Without you
It would have been impossible to utter the alphabet
Mother! Without you
It would have been impossible to learn how to speak
A child deprived of your care,
And soft touches
Would not grow up.
Mother! You are the source of love
The epitome of kindness.
To buttress the pivotal role that African women play in our society, a popular Somalian proverb says ‘before becoming adults, we attend a basic school and that school is mother’. Even in the pre-colonial patriarchal cultures like that of the Zulu, women were traditionally able to stop fights by falling over the person being beaten and according to Rakoczy (2006) Zulu women’s ability to stop fighting in this way may be due to respect for women as the persons who bring forth children.
From the foregoing, it could be seen that African women were metaphorically referred to as basic school and as a basic school, they had the arduous task of preparing young children for their adult lives.Again, African women in pre-colonial societies played active roles in conflict mediation. The elderly women were respected by all, and they played a key role in the management of crisis. Among the Tudors of Cameroon for example, the ‘Wog Clu’ (old women) were responsible for conflict mediation and as a result they were consulted on problems which disturbed communal peace (Ngongo- Mbede, 2003). In effect, according to Amadiume (1997), there are two unique contributions that African women have made to world history and civilisation: matriarchy and dual – sex character of African political systems which is directly related to the matriarchal factor. She is of the opinion that African matriarchy was fundamentally and sociallyand ideological and it was based on this that Kinship and wider moral systems rest.
However, this fundamental, social and ideological base was opposed by the imposition of rule by rich and powerful nations which rule Africa, and the imposition of patriarchy which is masculine in ideology and therefore celebrates violence, valour, conquest and power in various degrees. On this note, Diop (1989) holds the view that patriarchy denies women their rights, subjugating and making them properties in a strict hierarchical system of family where the man( husband or father) was supreme and had power of life and death over women. In the face of imperialist patriarchy, traditional African women in post-colonial Africa appear to have lost their image, myth and sacredness that represented their being and social existence. This is because apart from being marginalised socially, economically and politically (Amadiume, 1997; Nzeogwu, 2000; Rehn & Johnson-Sirleaf, 2002), they have become victims of assorted physical abuse and sexual violence based on a warped understanding of African patriarchies which has produced negative masculinities in the continent( Isike and Okeke- Uzodike, 2008).
The oppression of women is fostered in Africa and globally through patriarchy which is one of the cultural tools in the society. Africa is predominantly a patriarchal society and it is engineered by her traditional culture: “inAfrica, female subordination takes intricate forms grounded in traditional culture, particularly in the “corporate” and “dual-sex” patterns that Africans have generated throughout their history” (Mikel, 1997:9).In patriarchal society ofAfrica, men dominate the socio- economic, political machinery and organisation of the state. Men are regarded as natural leaders who are superior and they are believed to have been born to rule over women. The women are considered weaker vessels and according to the society, they are just the extension of men. As a result, Maseno&Kilonzo (2011) say that many cultures in Africa always view women as not equal to men. Men are generally viewed as overseers and women mostly engaged in menial jobs. This unequal power relation between men and women is highlighted by Coetzee (2001) when she presents the way power is distributed between men and women in South Africa:
…our society is a patriarchy. The fact is evident if one recalls that the military, industry, technology, universities, science, political offices, and finance in short, every avenue of power within the society, including the coercive force of the police, is entirely in male hands (p.301).
Under patriarchy, men and women are socialized to view themselves and the world through different lenses. While patriarchy in most instances results in the oppression of women, men have been given a stake in the system. Women in patriarchal societies do not have any choice than to accept patriarchy with its associated problems and as Foucault (1980) puts it aptly: “individuals, who do not comply with the social norms of the dominant discourse in society, are branded as ‘abnormal’ ” (p. 7).
In patriarchal society of Africa, male privilege begins during his mother’s pregnancy when his family expresses the age-long preference for a baby boy, especially if he is the first. In some communities in Africa, it is said that every married woman stands with one leg in her husband’s house until she gives birth to a male child. To show the seriousness with which much premium is placed on a male child in a patriarchal society, Wentworth (2005:4) has this to say:
In many cultures, if a man does not father a son his virility is questioned. The patriarchal system makes a daughter a liability since it requires that she be married, a status that normally affords her no long – term possibility of economically benefiting her family of origin. Male privilege also means that a son stands little chance of having his life snuffed out at birth.
In literature, African women have also been stereotyped, marginalised and projected in bad light. This stereotypical way of presenting women has been echoed by Kolawole (1997) who says “male writers in the early phase of African literature encouraged the marginalisation of African women”(p.9).To buttress the negative imaging of African women in literature, Fonchingong (2006) states “African literature is replete with writings that project male dominance and inadequately pleads the case of African women” (pp. 135- 146).
In African literature,women have been presented as ancillary to men thereby making them look like objects in terms of motherhood and wifehood. For instance, Mariama Ba’s widely read novel, So Long a Letter written in French in 1981 and translated into English in 1989 also concentrates thematically on the negative effects of polygamy on women in patriarchal Senegalese society. The appropriateness of this text in treating the abovementioned issue has made Harrow write the vision of Ba at the preface to So Long a Letter as: “she believed that the ‘sacred mission’ of the writer was to strike out ‘at the archaic practices, traditions and customs that are not real part of our precious cultural heritage”. So Long a Letter thussucceed admirably in its mission of bringing to the fore some of the negative cultural practices that are detrimental to the well-being of an African woman.Ba uses epistolary form of writing to bring out the condition of the African woman in post-colonial Senegal. Through a long letter, Ramatoulaye, the first narrator writes to her girlhood friend, Aissatou and brings out the effects of Islam and tradition on women. In this book, Ramatoulaye writes this letter with the view to coping with the four months seclusion mandated by Islam, for widows.
Ramatoulaye loses her husband eventually through death and she has to contend with series of suitors including her late husband’s brother, Tamsir. In this state of distress she has no choice than to retort “my voice has known thirty years of silence, thirty years of harassment. It bursts out, violent, sometimes sarcastic, sometimes contemptuous” (p.60). Accordingly, Ramatoulaye is fighting the culture of a man marrying more than one wife and wife inheritance in an Islamic society. Therefore, So Long a Letter succeeds in painting a vivid picture of the struggle of African woman in post-colonial Senegal that it affects students and readers alike. On this footnote Williams (1997) advances this:
While So Long a Letter is concerned with the lives of two women in post-colonial Senegal,this novel spoke to the needs and struggles of the women in my class. As members of the first generation in each of their families to attend college, these students faced tremendous obstacles to gain an education. Some were single mothers working at demeaning jobs during the day and attending school at night (p.142).
Likewise Mariama Ba, her compatriot, Aminata Sow Fall has written Beggars’ Strike to give a picture of the power of men in post-colonial Senegalese society. Mour Ndiaye, the central character of this novel, loses his job and decides to get involved in Senegalese politics and when his party eventually takes over the mantle of leadership in his country he is offered the enviable position of Director of Public Health. His fame in consequence grows like wide fire and he accumulates considerable amount of wealth:
Now that he has everything he can wish for: a house, two cars at his disposal, domestic staff paid for by the state sometimes he is worried by his competence especially at official ceremonies when he has to be careful that the buttons of his dinner-jacket don’t burst (p.19).
Prior to Ndiaye’s rise to prominence and affluence he has lived like a beggar and his wife, Lolli has no choice than to support the family through the sale of almost all her belongings such as best cloths and jewelleries. She often falls down on her relatives to ensure that Ndiaye and the children do not starve.Now that Ndiaye is famous and rich he takes another wife, Sine who is as young as his daughter, Raabi. Though both Raabi and Lolli oppose Ndiaye’s second marriage, characteristic of a patriarchal society, Ndiaye does not stop with the excuse that as “head of the house”, he can do what he wants: “Just think that I am the one who feeds you, keeps you, aren’t I? And justtell me what contract I am tied by that prevents me from taking a second wife, if I so desire?” (p.31).
From this it could be deduced that the power relations between Ndiaye and his wife is premised on economic factors. Ndiaye eventually lives home, stays with Sine and neglects his family totally. The behaviour of Ndiaye is in line with how Napikoski (2013)describes patriarchy:
A patriarchal society consists of a male-dominated power structure throughout organised society and in individual relationships. This means that in this society men hold the positions of power: head of the family unit, leaders of social groups, boss in the workplace and heads of government (p.15).
Ironically, unlike Lolli, Sine is more educated and very sophisticated so she rejects the idea of stopping smoking, wearing pants and making up. Thus she rejects any patriarchal control from Ndiaye when she asserts “If you think I am prepared to be stuck here like a piece of furniture… then you’re making a mistake! … I am a person and not a block of wood! … I am your wife so treat me like a wife” (pp.95-96). In the end Mour Ndiaye becomes so consumed by patriarchal norms that he thinks that everybody must obey him and never challenge his authority. In doing this, he forgets that some traditions are gradually loosing grounds in Senegal hence he thinks that by holding on to patriarchal tendencies he will exercise considerable power over men and women.
Similarly, Dagarembga’s Nervous Condition is replete with patriarchy as a subject. This novel which is written by a Zimbabwean female writer examines the various ways in which patriarchy broadly manifests itself regarding the subordinate position of women.
Nervous Conditions focuses on the colonised African clan (Sigauke clan, part of the Shona people) in the then Rhodesia during the 1960s. The novel explores the exposure of the Sigauke clan to westernisation in various ways. At times this westernisation would be at loggerheads with traditional customs, practices and beliefs, with disastrous consequences. In this novel colonialism is seen as a double-edged sword: on one side, it is the ‘carrier’ of western modernity which emphases on education and democracy, that gives the opportunity for challenging African patriarchy. On the other side, a colonial education alienates its African subjects from their culture, with disastrous psychological consequences.The novel examines unequal power relations between men and women in the Sigauke clan which is largely steeped in tradition. Women in Nervous Condition, Nyasha, Maiguru, Lucia, Tambu and MaShingayi challenge the practices of male domination in various ways, usually unsuccessfully. Each of these women makes an effort to question some of the decisions that are the prerogative of the patriarch. The women also attempt to break out of the role of domesticity and servility to the surprise of the men. Although, the novel appears to be the story of Tambu and her ambition to educate and develop herself in the face of a myriad of obstacles, it is very much about Nyasha, one of the central characters of the novel, who is alienated from her own clan by virtue of her ‘Englishness’. The truthful manner through which Dagarembga depicts patriarchy in Nervous Condition has made writers likeRimmon-Kenan (1987) affirms:
The narrator of Nervous Condition is an integral participant of the story, and a seemingly reliable one since the reading of the story and its commentary affords the reader the opportunity to accept it as an authoritative account of non-fictional truth(p.87).
Flora Nwapa, the first Nigerian female novelist has projected the control of men in patriarchal society in a number of novels including Efuru. It has female empowerment, sisterhood and gender equality as its hallmark. Her seriousness in dealing with the marginalisation of women in a patriarchal society has made people refer to her as been a feminist but she debunks this idea in an interview conducted by Umeh (1993) when she emphatically rejoinders: “I don’t accept that I am a feminist, I accept that I am an ordinary woman who is writing about what she knows. I try to project the image of women positively” (p.27).Nwapa is a novelist who dedicates her energy into discussing and fighting for women to gain independence and success in their native patriarchal Ibo society.
In Efuru, Nwapa illustrates women who are accomplished, well behaved and relatively healthy but as accomplished as they are these women have marriages that are faced with problems due to barrenness. These women are brought down by their traditions. Therefore, Nwapa presents to the readers that barrenness is both a curse and a failure on the part of women in a patriarchal society.
Nwapa’s compatriot, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has written Purple Hibiscus which also dissects the issue of patriarchy. This novel which is set in post-colonial Nigeria is about Eugene, the head of a family who is very domineering which leads to him constantly abusing and controlling his wife, Beatrice and two children, Kambili and Jaja. This novel addresses some of the important issues that post-colonial critics are seeking to fight against such as violence against women. The violent acts that are perpetuated by Eugene against his family underscore the issue of patriarchal power because in this tale Eugene is very oppressive and violent thereby forcing his family to live in perpetual fear and indifference.However, Beatrice exercises control in the domestic front by poisoning Eugene slowly through putting poison in his meals and tea every night. Though, Beatrice is docile and typically traditional, in this novel she wields considerable power that makes her fight against the authoritarian rule of a husband in a patriarchal society. To propagate patriarchal rule in Eugene’s household, he employs silence as a means to make Beatrice succumb to his dominating nature. It is therefore not surprising that some writers are of the opinion that the greatest weapon that some men use in extending patriarchy is silence. Thus, Nwakweh (1995) agrees that silence is:
All imposed restrictions on women’s social being, thinking and expressions that are religious or culturally sanctioned. As a patriarchal weapon of control it is used by the dominant male structure on the subordinate or muted female structure (p.75).
In shedding light on the patriarchal nature of the society created by Adichie in Purple Hibiscus, Mabura (2008) avows that Adichie’s novelspresentpatriarchy in African society and she likens her novels to that of the Gothic fiction in which female characters are often terrified, oppressed and driven to make psychologically imbalanced by powerful tyrannical male(s).In her recent work, Half of a Yellow Sun, Adichie again presents how women characters struggle to keep their families in the midst of a popular civil war. Women in this text are grappled with men infidelity and this is symbolised by the way Mrs Ozobia becomes a victim of her husband’s unfaithfulness. In the society of Half a Yellow Sun, motherhood which is defined in a patriarchal society as the ability of a woman to give birth to a child comes into sharp focus. Arinze, one of the major characters in this novel has her mother-in-law demanding to know how many abortions she has committed before marriage and becoming worried when Arinze does not become pregnant within the three years of marrying the son. These experiences are oppressive and put women under severe and unnecessary pressure thereby reducing them to the level of slaves.
Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie has chosen to use this book, Half of a Yellow Sun to articulate the place of African women in colonial and post-colonial Nigeria. This book which is set during and after the Biafran War in Nigeria which started between 1967 and 1970 is a love story. In this book, the British colonisers have left Nigeria and the rulership of this country is in the hands of male politicians and businessmen. Olanna, one of the principal characters in this novel has a father who hosts high-level dignitaries in his home. These businessmen who want to give this man a tender ask of sexual favours from his beautiful daughter, Olanna. Olanna is convinced and pressurised by her father to engage in prostitution.
Chief Okonji, a wealthy cabinet minister wants to contract Olanna’s father in exchange for Olanna. This makes Olanna an ‘object of sex’ to help the father get wealth and contracts. Even though Olanna has a fiancée who is a lecturer, her parents disliked him because according to the family, he had nothing to show except his books and hot-headedness. This an instance of public patriarchy which Walby cited by Kandiyoti (1993) explains has two forms:
Private patriarchy is based on the relative exclusion of women from arenas of social life other than the household and the appropriation of their services by individual patriarchs within the confines of the home. Public patriarchy is based on employment and the state; women no longer are excluded from the public arena but subordinated within it. More collective forms of appropriation of their services supersede the individual mode of private patriarchy… the twentieth century has witnessed a major shift from private to public patriarchy (p.377).
Patriarchy is in control in this novel, even though both Olanna and the fiancée have Bachelor and Master’s degrees from universities in United Kingdom her father insists on her marrying from a rich family so her father imposes a man on her by going out with her and displaying her for men to see so that they come for her in order to get money and tenders.
Despite these pressures Olanna eventually marries her fiancée, Odenigbo and for the first time a woman in patriarchal Nigerian society chooses her own partner irrespective of stiff opposition from the parents. Odenigbo and Olanna gets married but Olanna remains childless and because in a patriarchal society a woman is considered worthy when she has a child, her in-law constantly becomes furious and calls her a witch and that she should go back and tell those who sent her that she did not find the son. In this novel the educated woman is seen as spoilt and that education was seen as the preserve of men so the people in this patriarchal society are made to believe that a woman should not be of the same level with men in terms of education.
Comparatively, another Nigerian national, Elechi Amadi has aptly described the image of African women in a patriarchal society in his work,The Concubine.Women in this novel are made to live based on the precepts of men in their society. Women in Omokachi, the setting of this novel cannot go contrary to the straight- jacket role that they have been made to play as women. Therefore, any attempt made by a woman to side-step the traditions of this society is seen as a serious aberration. Accordingly, women are not given the freedom of expression and when Ihuoma, a woman for instance, decides to harvest plantains on a disputed land, she is confronted by Madume who rudely orders her to surrender these plantains.The chauvinistic manner in which Madume orders Ihuoma to give out the plantains makes her run away and this is presented to the readers as “Ihuoma puts down the basket quietly, removed the plantain and began to move away. Only a very foolish woman would try to struggle with a man” (p.68).
Bessie Head, a South African writer cannot be left in the way African writers have exhibited patriarchy in their novels. Bassie Head for instance has highlighted the issue of patriarchy in her novel A Question of Power. She exploits the effects of both patriarchy and racism on women in South African society.Patriarchy manifests in this text when Bassie paints male characters in this novel as sexual predators who rape young females in order to satisfy and empower themselves. This act of sexual escapade is made known when the raconteur speaks: “it was the nightmare of the slums she had grown in South Africa, but it never dominated her life. Usually small girls are raped, but the men were known” (p.117).
The male characters in A Question of Power use sex as a weapon to oppress their female counterparts and that a man is glorified depending on the number of women he has systematically bedded. Effectively, women do not enjoy sexual intercourse because sex is viewed as beneficial to men only. Dan, one of the male characters restates this scenario as he tells Elizabeth “my whole body is on fire…it’s you. You are not supposed to think of me with any desire or else I shall fall down” (p.26). In the end, in order to eradicate the sexual role and the subjugating role as women, the female characters decide to destroy the source of their problem- the penis.
Therefore, Dikeledi cuts off the manhood of Gareseso. By severing the manhood of this man the women have succeeded in reversing the gender roles of women and are considered liberated which is a representation of the feminists’ ideals of victory over the men.Elizabeth, the central character of the novel brings out the way the women in this fictionalised world have been oppressed in the patriarchal society by likening one of the male characters, Dan toAdolf Hitler who was a German political and military dictator in the twentieth century by addressing him as “He had not yet told the whole of mankind about his ambitions like Hitler and Napoleon to rule the world” (p. 14).
On the other hand, Ama Ata Aidoo, a Ghanaian novelist and playwright has highlighted patriarchy in a number of novels such as Changes: a love storyand The Girl Who Can andOther Stories.Changes: a love story,for example,brings to the fore a situation where Ogyaanowa, the daughter of Esi and Oko listens to the noise that her parents are making due a feud that is between them which results in a fight between them. This fight emanates from the fact that Esi has refused to have another child and that she spends so much time at work. Oko becomes angry, grabs Esi and forcefully have sex with her and instead of apologising for his actions he goes outside the bedroom with the bed sheet.
Being ambitious, this female protagonist, Esi goes contrary to the dictates of her tradition and divorces Oko and later becoming the second wife of another man. Throughout Esi’s tussle for self- respect in a patriarchal society, Aidoo scans pertinent issues like career choices, marital rape, monogamy, polygamy and compromises in marriage. It is therefore not surprising when one looks at the mode of treatment that Esi has received at the hands of Oko and agree with Bohemer (1991) who cries: “Mother Africa may have been declared free, but mothers of Africa remained manifestly oppressed”(p.7).
By the same token, The Girl Who Can and Other Stories revolves around a young female protagonist who goes through a lot in her resolve to define herself in a patriarchal African society. Among some of the short stories in this novel such as She-Who- Would- Be- King and Male-ing Names in the Sun Aidoo topples the traditional portrayal of adolescent African females and as a result she creates characters who question and challenge the role of the African women in the twenty- first century.
The works of the Nigerian writer, Buchi Emecheta namely The Bride Price, The Joys of Motherhood, Destination Biafra, Double Yoke, Gwendolen, The Rape of Shavi, Second-Class Citizen andKehindepresent patriarchal issues in Nigerian society.The Bride Price and The Joys of Motherhood represent the pre- colonial and colonial era whereas Destination Biafra and Double Yoke portray Emecheta’s feminist phase as far as her authorial career is concerned thereby using them to exhort the virtues of the African womanhood.
Gwendolen and Kehinde presents a scenario where the African woman struggles to acquire an identity for herself so as to find her feet in a patriarchal society. The Bride Price gives a different picture of oppression of people in a patriarchal society. Aku-nna, the central figure of this novel approaches womanhood but her uncle’s ambition is to marry her off to a rich man, Okoboshi to get a very high bride price but Aku-nna falls in love with another man that she is forbidden to marry. Aku-nna is kidnaped and about to be married to Okoboshi but she is determined to kill herself if such marriage comes on. She fights so hard to protect her dignity as a woman so that she is treated cruelly by patriarchal conditions in her society. Finally, Aku-nna marries this gentleman and this marriage is seen as the beginning of her rebellion against the entrenched social norms of patriarchy which does not allow any woman to make a choice of a husband.
In The Rape of Shavi, Emecheta represents both patriarchy and colonialism as twin forces that collaborate to oppress African women. She shows that both the African culture and colonialism are at fault when it comes to the marginalisation of African womenand that patriarchy is deeply entrenched in the social consciousness that there is nothing that could be done except there is cultural revolution so as to give fair treatment to women.
Destination Biafra on the other hand, talks about the hegemonic nature of men in a patriarchal society. This is captured in the way Debbie is wickedly raped by black soldiers. Though she is one woman, her experience epitomises the way women have been subjected to atrocities because of colonialism and patriarchy. The real condition that women underwent during the Biafra War which is fictionalised by Emecheta in this book provides a horrifying condition that women undergo under war and patriarch. Therefore, it is not surprising that it is said that war becomes a theatre not for male heroics, but for female endurance. Even though the males in this novel leave their various countries during war Debbie for example stays and fights for her nation and in the end she tells Alan Grey:
I see now that Abosi and his like are still colonised. They need to be decolonised. I am not like him, a black white man; I am a woman and a woman of Africa. I am a daughter of Africa, and if she is in shame, I still stay and mourn her in her shame (p.245).
In similar fashion, Double Yoke brings into sharp focus the problems that Nko, a central character faces. She faces the problem of identity in marriage in a patriarchal society which makes her get torn between marrying and becoming a good wife as expected of her traditionally or get a degree and be branded as a feminist, rebellious and a bad woman. She finally becomes victorious in life as compare to her colleague woman, Dr.Madume Edet who tries frantically to pattern her life to suit the patriarchal patterns of her society. Nko is able to extricate herself from patriarchal yoke when she defies all odds and gets education.
In contrast to how Nnaife and Abgadi show their love towards their daughters, in Gwendolen, Uncle Johnny decides to abuse her niece, Gwendolen sexually instead of negotiating for her bride price. Winston, another male character in this novel capitalises on his authority over Gwendolen and has sexual intercourse with her. The male characters in this book thus appear to be oppressors who give female characters psychological trauma. This act is done by Winston and Uncle Johnny illustrates fact that in a patriarchal society the image of women is that of a mere objects that can be used by men to satisfy their sexual desires as and when they deem necessary.
The Joys of Motherhood written by Buchi Emechetapresents a story line which centres on patriarchy. Nnu Ego who is the daughter of Chief Agbadi decides to live her life by adhering to the strict social convention of marrying, giving birth to male children and enduring the pains that come with it. In this sense, Palmer (1983) extols the novel as the first in African literature to represent the female point of view in registering its displeasure at the male chauvinism and how patriarchy has been unfair and oppressive towards mothers.
This novel presents barrenness as a curse and women who give birth to female children are perceived to be unsuccessful because it is believed that the male children perpetuate the family names. Nnu Ego, the central female character makes several attempts in the line of the above to define her identity through procreation but her dream of motherhood becomes a source of slavery to her. The storyteller in this regard articulates “Her love and duty for her children were like a chain of slavery” (p.186).
Despite Nnu Ego’s tireless efforts at fulfilling her dream of motherhood, all her efforts become a mirage; she becomes bitter ironically. In the end, it comes to light that nurturing children does not necessarily bring joy as Nnu Ego suffers an ignoble death at the early age of forty-five, becoming lonely and abandoned by the very children she has slaved for in the name meeting patriarchal expectations of a woman giving birth to male children.However, what actually broke her down was that months after months she is expecting to hear from her sons in America, and from Adim too who later went to Canada, and failing to do so. It was from rumours that she heard Oshie had married and that his bride was a white woman.When she dies, her misery and dishonourable death is brought to the limelight as:
After such wandering, on one night, Nnu Ego lay down by the road-side thinking that she had arrived home. She died quietly there, with no child to hold her hand and no friend to talk to her. She had never really made many friends, so busy had she been building up her joys as a mother (p.253).
Amma Darko, a Ghanaian female writer, who has emerged as a worthy successor to the pioneer Ghanaian women novelists like Efua T. Sutherland and Ama Ata Aidoo has written Beyond the Horizon,The Housemaid and Faceless.Darko presents a story in Beyond the Horizon about the way African women have been maltreated in a male-dominated African society. This story presents an uneducated African village girl, Mara who accepts her father’s decision to marry Akobi, the son of the village undertaker. Mara experiences neglect, sexual abuse and battery at the hands of Akobi. Akobi sends her to the city of Accra and he has the opportunity of travelling abroad but when he does he sends for her mistress, Comfort who earlier on has rejected him.
Later, Akobi sends his friend and crony, Osey to bring Mara abroad but she is later blackmailed into prostitution when Akobi laces her drink, allows several men to sleep with her and films the act. The last straw that brings the back of a camel is that the lion share of the proceeds from Mara’s prostitution goes to Akobi who spends it lavishly on Comfort, his Mistress. In the end, Mara becomes so devastated that she forgets the idea of going back to Ghana.
In her Faceless, Darko portrays the manner in which women and children are abused sexually and physically. The perpetuators of this abuse are men embodied by Onko, Kwei, Kpakpo, Macho and Poison who brutalise women and children. Onko for instance defiles Maa Tsuru’s daughter, Baby T. who is just about twelve years old; Kpakpo on the other hand rapes the same girl. Kwei on the other hand subjects Mama Tsuru to severe beatings every now and then and one of such scenes is highlighted as he “pounced on her like a cat on an unsuspecting mouse and began a vicious pounding spree… landing blows anywhere and everywhere and on every part of her pregnant body” ( p.153). At the end of it the attitudes of these men in the patriarchal society shown in this text is comment on by Anyidoho:“ Men with devilish intentions towards vulnerable children, such as wily rapist Onko pretending to be every child’s uncle, the bully Macho, or “the no-nonsense street lord” appropriately named Poison”(p.17).
On the basis of how these women writers discussed above have presented African women in their novels, the research seeks to find out how Buchi Emecheta and Amma Darko present African women in their novels, The Joys of Motherhood and Beyond the Horizon respectively.This investigation will be done by the researcher using African feminism and post- colonial African literarytheory as theoretical framework.
The research design for the thesis is qualitative research and the data that will be used for the research is the content analysis of Buchi Emecheta’s The Joys of Motherhood and Amma Darko’s Beyond the Horizon. To analyse the data, the researcher will look at how Amma Darko and Buchi Emecheta have presented African women in their novels and whether these authors have presented Africa women similarly or differently. The sample technique for the work will be purposive sampling and these texts have been selected purposely because they contain more information about how African women have been presented in novels.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
Women have been presented in various ways in literary texts. Most literary writers have presented them negatively in texts and to buttress this Ruth (1998: 104) says “women have long been portrayed in negative and derogatory terms over the years in many African literary texts especially those written by men”. Women have been presented as docile, unintelligent and illiterate folks whose voices must not be heard in the assembly of men.
Consequently, in contemporary African literature, many female feminist writers have used their novels to praise women characters by given them prominent roles to play with the view to portraying how chauvinistic some men writers have been. However, there has not been much study about how female writers have presented women in their novels. The researcher, therefore, seeks to find out how these two female writers, Buchi Emecheta and Amma Darko present African women in The Joys of Motherhood and Beyond the Horizon respectively.
1.3 Purpose of the Study
The purpose of this research work is to find out how Buchi Emecheta presents African women in her novel, The Joys of Motherhood.
Also, this work probes into how Amma Darko presents African women in her novel, Beyond the Horizon.
Again, it seeks to find out whether there are similarities and difference between the presentations of women in these novels, The Joys of Motherhood and Beyond the Horizon by Emecheta and Darko respectively.
1.4 Research Questions
The research questions that the researcher finds answers to are:
- How does Buchi Emecheta present African women in The Joys of Motherhood?
- How does Amma Darko present African women in her novel Beyond the Horizon?
- Have Emecheta and Darko presented African women similarly or differently in
The Joys of Motherhood and Beyond the Horizon respectively?
1.5 Significance of the Study
This study is significant in terms of pedagogy and literary criticism. As regards pedagogy, it will contribute significantly to the teaching and learning of Literature especially in analysing how traditional African women have been presented in literary works.
In terms of research, the study will contribute to the unending debates as far as feminism and literary analysis are concerned since it will serve as a resource material from which a range of knowledge can be tapped for further research.
Even though Amma Darko’s Beyond the Horizon has attracted a lot of critical attention, most of which concentrating on her considerable skills in presenting the difficulties of African women and young girls in a male dominated society, information
about her work is not enough as compared to her counterpart, Buchi Emecheta. Hence, the researcher had a lot of challenges getting more information about her. As a result, the research had to rely mostly on unreliable internet connectivity to get the little information.
The choice of The Joys of Motherhood and Beyond the Horizon over several texts written by these authoresses stems from the fact that these books are pregnant with instances of how African women have been presented in patriarchal societies. This choice is justified because in reviewing Amma Darko’s Beyond the Horizon, Umezurike (2015) avers: “Amma Darko’s fiction essentially tackles the (tragic) experiences and the fate of African women caught in the stranglehold of patriarchal structures and how these women strive to achieve agency in such debilitating conditions “(p.155). Elleke Boemer from Oxford University on the other hand, attests to how The Joys of Motherhood aptly presents African women when he posits at the prelude of the book that : “Emecheta’s work established a name for its women-centred perspectives and determined focus on the leading female characters’ spirited struggle for survival, often against the pressures of patriarchal and colonial tradition”.
This chapter looked at the background to the study. The researcher looked at how patriarchy and its manifestation in the facets of our society. It again, looked at how various female authors have generally presented African women in our patriarchal society, the purpose of this study was enumerated, the problem to be researched was stated, research questions that the researcher will find answers to was spelt out, the significance of the study was captured, the limitation and delimitation of this study were also discussed.
The researcher also gave a brief introduction to the research method that he will adopt during the chapter three of this work, the theoretical frameworks for the work which are African feminism and post-colonial African literary theory were also mentioned.
Summary, Conclusion and Recommendations
This chapter states the summary of findings, recommendations and suggestions for further research.
5.1 Summary of Findings
This study sought to examine the image of African women in patriarchal society by using The Joys of Motherhood and Beyond the Horizon written by Amma Darko and Buchi Emecheta respectively. In discussing the image of these African women in the texts, the focus was on content analysis of these texts.
In exploring the image of African women in these books, the researcher adopted Africa feminism and post-colonial African literary theory as its theoretical frameworks. These theories were appropriate because these texts have been written in the post- colonial era; their authors are feminists who are of the firm belief that colonialism meant unmitigated suffering for the African woman and that to bridge the gap between men and women African feminism which seeks to bring equality between men and women must be embraced.
The researcher sought to find out how Buchi Emecheta presents African women in The Joys of Motherhood. Again, the purpose was to probe into how Amma Darko presents African woman in her novel, Beyond the Horizon. Furthermore, this study was conducted to examine whether there are similarities and differences between the way both Emecheta and Darko present the African women in the novels.
From the analysis of the way Emecheta and Darko have presented the African women in The Joys of Motherhood and Beyond the Horizon respectively, it could be seen that Emecheta presents African women as: second- class citizens, very assertive, people whose only honour is to give birth to children preferably male ones, their own enemies, people whose permanent place is in the kitchen, people who can be inherited, appendages of men, means for fathers to get rich and object of sacrifice.
Darko on the other hand presents African women as: sex commodities, people who could be exploited easily, people who are incapable of taking their own decisions, property that must be sold to the highest bidder, people who must be battered, people created for the sake of men, must not be shown love, very materialistic, loving and caring, people who bear the brunt of their husband’s desire to succeed, workaholics, very assertive and capable of sacrificing for her family.
Another interesting findings from the analysis is that both Emecheta and Darko present African women similarly as: sex commodities, very assertive, people created for the sake of men, people who must be battered at the least provocation and very supportive.
In spite of their contexts, these two novelists, Buchi Emecheta and Amma Darko have used these texts to touch on issues central to the condition of the African woman. They have succeeded in bringing to the fore the gender imbalances in our patriarchal African society and educated the readers on the need to bridge this gender imbalance in our African society. The plot of these books have reflected the plight of the African woman trapped by the claws of traditions. In The Joys of Motherhood for example, Emecheta provides a unique opportunity for the myth that motherhood is synonymous to female self-fulfilment to be fulfilled. This myth is satirised by Emecheta when Nnu Ego labours all her life to nurture several children but all of them deserts her
Also, in analysing these two texts, it is evident that an educated African woman is well prepared to challenge the status quo traditional depiction of women which are not helpful. Comfort in Darko’s Beyond the Horizon is an epitome of an educated African woman who knows what she wants and does not allow the dictates of tradition to hoodwink her. It is therefore high time all writers presented the developmental nature of the female character through a varied exploration of the theme of female assertiveness in the various societal facets which enslave the female. Basically, their thematic messages should enforce the fact that even in the face of deep seated patriarchal nature of our society African women should strive to assert themselves.
To achieve this, literary genres should present complementary roles between men and women which will fill the gap between the way African women in the African and Western literary contexts have been presented.
In the light of the presentation of African women in The Joys of Motherhood written by Buchi Emecheta and Beyond the Horizon written by Amma Darko, I recommend that texts written by female writers should be promoted as Literature texts in our schools. African writers should also recast a new image for the African women in literary works in order to reduce the stereotypical way that they have been presented in books. This can be done when these writers use female characters to change the status quo by not presenting them as mere victims but people with capabilities to stand on their feet. This will give impetus to the emancipation of women in Traditional African society and African feminism.
5.4 Suggestions for Further Research
As has already been stated this study sought to explore the image of African women in a patriarchal society using Buchi Emecheta’s The Joys of Motherhood and Amma Darko’s Beyond the Horizon. However, for further scholarly work on these two set of books the following thesis topic could be researched into:
- The image of African men in female authored books: a study of Buchi Emecheta’s The Joys of Motherhood and Amma Darko’s Beyond the Horizon.
- Reclaiming female identity: women in Buchi Emecheta’s The Joys of Motherhood and Amma Darko’s Beyond the Horizon.
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