Symbols Of Decadence In Ayi Kwei Armah’s The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born

Project and Seminar Material for Linguistics and Communication

Symbols Of Decadence In Ayi Kwei Armah’s The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born


This work introduces the major variable in this research topic as well as gives a brief background of the text adopted for critical analysis. The text selected for the study, therefore will focus on the concept of symbol and decadence as well as its relevance to the novel. This research examines symbols of Decadence in this novel: AyiKwei Armah’s: The Beautiful Ones Are Not Yet Born. This work focuses on the theory of Marxism. The theory will then focus on the thematic concern of symbols and decadence of the text selected for the study. Armah has successfully shown in the text above how the political independence of 1957 in Ghana has failed to lessen the yoke of colonialism from the common people in Ghana.

Chapter One

1.0 Introduction

This chapter introduces the major variable (Symbols of Decadence) in the research topic as well as give a brief background of the text adopted for critical analysis.

The text selected for the study therefore, focuses on the concept of symbols of decadence as well as its relevance to socio-economic and political cleansing of the Ghanaian society.

A symbol was defined according to Northrop Frye in his book “Anatomy of criticism” is something such as object, picture, written word, sound or particular mark that represents something else by association resemblance or convention for example, a red octagon may be a symbol for “stop”. On map crossed sabres may indicate a battlefield. All language consists of symbols personal numberals are symbols for numbers names are symbols representing individuals.

Swiss Psychoanalyst Carl Jung, who studied archetypes, proposed an alternative definition of symbol distinguishing it from the term sign. In Jung’s view, a sign stands for something known, as a word stands for its referent. He contrasted this with symbol which he used to stand for something that is unknown and that cannot be made clear or precise. An example of a symbol in this sense is Christ as a symbol of the archetype called self.

Decadence according to Oscar Wilde; he gave a curious definition “Classicism in the subordination of the parts to the whole, decadence is the subordination of the whole to the parts”.

It can also be the state of being degenerate in metal or moral qualities. A state of moral or artistic decline or determination decay. It can be refer to a personal trait or to the state of a society (or segment of it).

Often decadence a literary movement especially of last 19th century France and England characterized by refined aestheticism artifice and the guest for new sensation. The state reacted through such a process.

Symbol is totally different from an Anecdote, Metaphor, Figure of Speech and Imagery. Symbol is different from Anecdote which is a short and amusing or interesting story about a real incident or person. It may be as brief as the setting and provocation of a bon mol. An anecdote is always presented as based on a red incident involving actual persons, whether famous on not usually in an identifiable place, also figure of speech is use or a phrase with a specialized meaning not based on the literal meaning of the words in it, such as a metaphor, simile and personification etc. Figures of speech often provide emphasis freshness of expression or clarity. Clarity may also suffer from their use as any figures of speech introduce an ambiguity between literal and figurative interpretation. A figure of speech of sometime called rhetoric or a locution.

Moreover, Metaphor on the other hand is a figure of speech, in which an implied comparism is made between two unlike things that actually have something important in common. Metaphor is a Greek word meaning ‘to transfer’ or ‘carry across’, quality or state can be compared without using the words like or as. It is thus a condensed form of simile. Imagery is different from Symbol, it is a form of mental images, figures or likeness as of some images. Collectively the imagery or a dream, pectoral images collectively, especially those produced by the activity of imagination.

1.1 theoretical Frame Work and Methodology

The Marxist theory will be adopted for the critical analysis of the text, out of all the theory, Marxism is a modern theory where dialectic materialism is emphasized. When literature began to be recognized as a weapon for social change, as a struggle of the individual for economic and political power.

Marxists tell us about past and present social relations and implications of an author’s work; what they should have been or ought to be.

The ideological aspects are of interest to Marxists who operate on the theory of political economy. Attention is paid in the main to the struggle of opposites (dialectics) and to the examination of social contradictions in the society. These is an emphasis on class propaganda and revolutionary didacticism as well as the ideological specification of the total state. There is also emphasis on the deterministic origin of art, the economic and social status (proletarian, pseudo-bourgeois or aristocratic) of artists and artisans in various past eras.

Marxism was originated by Karl Marx in 19th century, a political thinker. Hence this text aims at an analytical application of the traditional mode to indicate the ideological exegesis of the various schools indicated, (Ibrahim & Akande, 2000,21). Marxist approach aims at an analytical application of the traditional mode to indicate the ideological exegesis of the various schools indicated for Karl Marx himself “Combines traditional materialism with the critical analysis of development bringing out the conflict between the original direction, its direct opposite and their unification”. The African write pre-occupation is to negate the happening in the growing urban cities include Festus Iyayi, Zaynab Alkali, Olu Obafemi, Niyi Osundare, Odia Ofeimum, Tanuri Ojoide etc.

Symbol and decadence are related because decadence in the society is a symbol, a machinery of oppression in the human society. These symbols of decadence therefore constitute a problem that the Marxist writers seek to address in the Marxist theory.

The research findings here revealed that there is decadence, oppression and corruption in the society, but the problem of this research is now encountering is the issue of how these vices of the society which can be termed as basically ‘Symbols of decadence’ affect the larger human society that make up the proletariat. The psychological and emotional trauma of Sigmund Freud (1967) of the effect of these channels of depriving the society their rights is a major issue that this research addresses.

The methodology of this work focuses on the theory of Marxism theory. The theory will then focus on the thematic concern of symbols and decadence of the text selected for the study. The thematic concern incorporates sub-themes in the story that will revolve around this major theme to develop the elements in the theory for the analysis.

The population for the study is textual population under study are not real human being, but characters that are rigid in a story are accessible. The text used which represent the struggle of individual in The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born. We have some characters that share different perspective on the view of symbol and decadence. The author pick-out some character to represent the corrupt society, Armah create a gap between the haves and have not.

Joseph Koomson also known as Joe Koomson represents the rich and ‘The Man’ represent the poor in the society.

We can then imply that the author have stratified the population the text, thus the stratified sampling will be adopted for study. The discourse of the major character will be used to focus on the major theme of the text alongside the elements identifiable in the Marxism theory.

1.2 Statement of Research Problem

The research problems are areas of concern that affect the human society. The questions to be focused on, in order to overcome this problem therefore, are these research questions:

  1. What are the symbols of decadence in the society?
  2. How has decadence cause trauma and loss of hope in the human society?
  3. What are the ways in which decadence can be overcomed in the society?

The decadence in the society is a symbol or vices that have been affecting the human society, especially Africa for decades. The research hypothesis therefore would be that decadence, corruption and oppression can be wiped out, if man would change for the better, if people can be more contented and have the fear of God. If this could happen, the present today will give birth to a better tomorrow when the Beautyful Ones will be Born in Africa and the world as a whole.

1.3 Authorial Background

Ayi Armah was born at Sekondi-Takoradi a place now called Ghana in 1939. He attended Secondary School at Achimota College and Groton, he went to Harvard to get a degree in Sociology and Columbia to get an MFA in creative Writing. He has worked as a translator and a teacher at Amherst and the University of Wisconsin at Madison as well as several African Institutions.

Armah was also an editor of Jeune Afrique in 1968-1969 and it shows the intense concern with social and political commitment which was further energized by the atmosphere of increasing political activism, he encountered in United State especially among African and American.

His first novel The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born was published in (1968). It is still in print and is considered a Modern African classic. He has written numerous novels which include Fragments (1970) Why Are We So Blest? (1974) and Two Thousand Seasons in (1979).

1.4 Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this research is to examine symbol of decadence in this text: Ayi Kwei Armah The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born. TH

he study also aims at examining the elements in the story that constitutes the data.

1.5 Scope of the Study

The scope of the study is very wide, as the research variables symbols of decadence is a concept that is interrelated and wide in scope but the research limits its scope to the issues of symbol and decadence in the text adopted for the study.

The symbols of decadence are issue that require of relevant and adequate attention as they affect the human society. Ayi Kwei Armah addresses the ills of the society and all the channels of perpetrating these vices in the community.

These issues are those that the study addresses and the limit will be on the vices as they eat into the deep core of the society.

1.6 Justification

The justification of this work is that symbol and decadence is simple to study and according to the findings researchers have dealt with the novel that have only limited their study to either class differences or oppress. This research will therefore examine how the authors have addressed the issue of symbols of decadence in his work.

Symbol and decadence are the key vital image that constitutes the problems that affect the masses. These symbols will be areas of focus that will be addressed in the course of the study. Government, citizen and the entire human society will benefit from this study. The notion of the people about oppression and corruption will change if people can be truthful and also live a corrupt-free life.

Chapter Five

5.0 The Effects of Symbolic Decadence in the Ghanian Society

From the beginning of this research work, the topic is by defining the variables, that is symbols of decadence. The study discusses how the novelist apprehends the ills of the society.

Furthermore, the research the main concern of the author’s message as contained in The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born. Of course the message revolves around the factors which made possible the post-independent economic and socio-political problems in both the author’s society (Ghana) and African nations as a whole.

The relevance of the symbols chose are examined in accordance to the theme of the novel, in this chapter, full summary and conclusion will be made by exploring ‘aesthetic effect’ of the socio-political and economic maladies as they affect the post-independent life of both the Ghanaian and African nations. Here, The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born remains our primary reference text.

According to Gabriel Ajadi in his essay ‘The Dialectics of filth and beauty in AyiKweiArmarh’sThe Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born. He observes that:

Armah ushers into an imaginative world that is almost completely infected by insensitivityof a world in which internal uncleanliness informs the people’s character and behaviour, the bus driver thus, finds it a normal action to have cleared his throat and spot out a generous job of mucus against the tyre… a nauseating attitude that symbolises the decadence and putrefaction of the conscience of the society. Here, the author’s objective is to present the rottenness of the people’s heart as reflected in their physical environment (pp. 238-239).

The observation in the paragraph is vivid to the point and it does capture the author’s intention in the TheBeautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born.

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