Struggle And Survival In A Cowrie Of Hope By Binwell Sinyangwe And The Cardinals By Bessie Head

Project and Seminar Material for English Language

Struggle And Survival In A Cowrie Of Hope By Binwell Sinyangwe And The Cardinals By Bessie Head


Life is a battle for struggle and survival. Struggle and survival are as old as man. Every second, man is on the move, thinking of what to do and how to do it in order to survive. This project, therefore, examines the ways the two novelists presented their characters in their attempts to depict the various methods people adopt in their struggles for survival in this hard and harsh environment. This work also explores the artistic features as were conveniently deployed in their works by the novelists. (There are injustices in the world, because man is struggling for his survival and is important man should mind the way he go about this).

Chapter One


1.1 Background Of The Study

Life is full of struggles. Man lives in a hard and harsh environment where he struggles, toils and labours from day to day in order to survive.

Every living thing on earth struggles for survival, both plants and animals. Plants struggle, searching for sunlight to survive. Even lower animals with low mentality struggle for survival. Human beings are not left out. A baby that is still in the womb struggles for food and searches for a way out during labour, to show that struggles of human beings start right from the womb.

There are many types of struggles namely, political struggle, economic struggle, family struggle and so on. But all these struggles lead to one thing which is survival.

The seventh edition of Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary defines struggle as “to try very hard to do something when it is difficult or when there are a lot of problems”, while explaining survival as “the state of continuing to live or exist, often despite difficulty or dangers or something that has continued to exist from an earlier time” (1491). In a similar vein, the Webster’s Dictionary enters struggle as “to use great effort to labor hard; to strive; to contend forcibly; as to struggle to save one‟s life” (203).

Whereas all the above definitions are apt, we choose to align with an online posted material which adds that “survival is meeting your basic needs for food, shelter, clothing, transport and health care”. Survival goes hand in hand with success.

Davil Salti, a Palestinian who lives in the Middle East says:

The one who does not know the struggle of life is either an immature soul or a soul who has risen above the life of this world. The object of human being in this world is to attain to perfection of humanity, and therefore, it is necessary that one should go through what we call the struggle of life. Because life means a continual battle. One‟s success, failure, happiness or unhappiness mostly depends upon one‟s knowledge of the battle. Whatever be one‟s occupation in life, whatever be one‟s knowledge, if one lacks the knowledge of the battle of life, one lack the most important knowledge of all (

As soon as man loses his courage to go through the struggle of life, the burden of the whole world falls on his head. But he who goes on struggling through life, he alone makes his way. One must study the nature of life; one must understand the psychology of this struggle. In order to understand this struggle, one must observe that there are three sides to it: struggle with oneself, struggle with others and struggle with circumstances. One person may be capable of struggling with himself, but is not sufficient; another is able to struggle with other, but even that is not enough. A third person may answer the demand of circumstance but that is not enough either. What is needed is that the three should be studied and learnt, and one must be able to manage the struggle in all three directions. The one who struggles with himself first is the wisest, for he has struggle with himself, which is the most difficult struggle. The other struggles will become easy for him.

What is the nature of the struggle with oneself? It has three aspects; the first is to make one‟s thought, speech and action answer the demands of one‟s own ideal, while at the same time give expression to all the impulses and desires which belong to one nature being. The next aspect of the struggle with oneself is to fit in with others, with their various ideas and demands. For this, a man has to make himself as narrow or as wide as the place that ask him to fill, which is a delicate matter, difficult for all to comprehend and practise. And the third aspect of struggle with oneself is to give accommodation to others in one‟s own life, in one‟s own heart, large or small as the demand may be.

When we consider the struggle with others, there are also three things to think about of which the first is to control and govern people and activities which happen to be our duty, our responsibility. Another aspect is how to allow ourselves to be used by others in various situations in life; to know to what extent one should allow others to make use of our time, our energy, our work or our patience and where to draw the line. And the third aspect is to fit in with the standards and conceptions of different personalities who are at various stages of evolution.

The Concept Of The Survival Of The Fittest

This is a phrase originating in evolutionary theory as an alternative description of natural selection. The phrase is today commonly used in contexts that are incompatible with the original meaning as intended by its first two proponents, the British polymath Philosopher, Herbert Spencer (who coined the term) and Charles Darwin. Herbert Spencer first used the phrase “survival of the fittest” after reading Charles Darwin‟s On the Origin of Species. In his Principle of Biology (1864), he draws parallels between his own economic theories and Darwin‟s biological ones, writing “This survival of the fittest which I have here sought to express in mechanical
terms, is that which Mr. Darwin has called natural selection or the preservation of favored race in the struggle for life” (vol. 1 p 444).

In Amanda Ripley‟s book, The Unthinkable Who Survives When Disaster Strike – and Why? Is outstanding account of real life scenario of people‟s struggle to survive different challenging situations, especially disasters. It also provides psychological reason why they act the way they do in this situation. The author discusses that during any type of disaster, a person travels through three phases: denial, deliberation and decisive moment. Reality is full of unforeseen events. The end results of these unforeseen events depend on the choice the person makes during the three phases the disaster occurred.

Tess Penniston outlines three survival concepts he thinks could save life on his web page “Ready Nutrition” (May 2010) as first taking responsibility for your own survival, second, sorely relying on someone else to save you is foolish and naïve, and third, train yourself to act without fear.

1.2 Statement of Problem:

At the moment, there exist innumerable literary assessment by scholars, especially the literary critics, on the creative works by African writers. The volumes of “African Literature Today” (ALT) series and other
available critical works attest to this. Many books from the stable of many renowned creative writers have been given some levels of attention by critics.

Nevertheless, much has not been done, at project level on themes of Binwell Sinyangwe‟s A Cowrie of Hope. This informs the desire to work on this project, hence the theme of struggle and survival in Binwell Sinyangwe‟s A Cowrie of Hope and Bessie Head‟s The Cardinals.

1.3 Purpose of Study:

The main objective of this project work is to take a critical look at themes of struggle and survival in our primary texts namely, Binwell Sinyangwe‟s A Cowrie of Hope and Bessie Head‟s The Cardinals. Struggle for survival is what the organism goes through in order to survive in his chosen environment. This project is subjected to critical examination of how the characters struggle to wriggle themselves out of the harsh realities life bestowed on them.

1.4 Significance of Study:

The problem of struggle for survival is as old as the human race. The issue presents myriad of questions such as: Are we having pity against ourselves? Why must man struggle in order to survive? Why must there be
much suffering and injustice? Many erudite scholars have dealt with these questions over the years. Different view and debates on the subject have tried often to offer a reasonable solution to the problems.

Apart from adding to the already existing literature, this work through its illuminating insight is very significant especially in our contemporary time, where there is quest for breakthrough. It will serve as a veritable source of material for future researchers. It is hoped that it will continue to give a critical evaluation for better understanding of the nature of struggle and survival, especially as articulated in the two novels explored here.

1.5 Scope of Study:

The problem of struggle and survival is very complex. Its complexity is to the extent that a single researcher cannot be exhaustive. It is, however noteworthy that while acknowledging that there are other evaluations and appraisal of problem by other authors which can help in understanding and solving the problems of struggle and survival as it were, we shall limit our analysis and critical evaluation in this research work to the two novels, A Cowrie of Hope and The Cardinals by Binwell Sinyangwe and Bessie Head respectively.

1.6 Research Methodology:

The basic sources of information for this project are the novels, A Cowrie of Hope by Binwell Sinyangwe and The Cardinals by Bessie Head. Secondary materials are from the internet, library and journal articles.

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