Utopianism And Charaterisation In Aminatasowfall’s The Begger’s Strike And Sembeneousmane’s Xala

Project and Seminar Material for English Language

Utopianism And Charaterisation In Aminatasowfall’s The Begger’s Strike And Sembeneousmane’s Xala

Chapter One


Though a lot of people have written Utopianism and characterization, but this research work is to assess Utopianism in Aminata Sowfall’s The Beggars Strike and Sembene Ousmane’s Xala through the use of characterization.

Hegel’s in the phenomenology of spirit maintains that as a warning against all forms of Utopianism, similar Observations have been made about the Russian revolution, but it would be more true to say that utopianism is an element of every progressive social change and every revolution.

Utopianism is a disposition to embrace the vision of an alternative society from which present social evils will be eradicated and in which there is a complete human fulfillment. In Thomas more’s book (1516), He described the Island as one whose social, economic and political arrangement are marked by high degree of communism, undoubtedly inspired by more’s own religious (catholic) convictions and his monastic ideas.

Literature And The Concept Of Utopia

The relationship between literature and utopia as a concept is seen as the renaissance gave a renewed impetus to utopian thought and authors such as ‘Campanella in the city of the sun (1602) and Bacon in New Atlantis (1627) began to infect a new spirit of modernity into political theory by describing societies transformed by the application of Knowledge and economic-technological developments.

The utopian impulse found its way into movements of social protest, revolutionary sects and parties and unto the new all-embracing political categories of the age of the industrial and democratic revolution.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau in Discourse on the origin of inequality among men and the social contract (1762) provided the principles of reasons on which the constitution could be founded. The terror which was the outcome of such an utopian project has been taken by many thinkers. H.G wells also in A modern utopia (1905) states that “A modern Utopia not only presents the virtues of socialism but is a reflection on the tradition of utopian socialism”.

Thomas more in his utopia (1515) states that in utopia, where everyman has a right to everything, they all know if care is taken to keep the public stores full, no man can want anything for among them, there is no unequal distribution so that no man is poor. None in necessity and though no man has anything, yet they are all rich, for what can make a man so rich as to lead a serene and cheerful life free from anxieties.

Some African writers have also employed the concept of utopianism or utopia seen from the perspectives of the African writers. Among these African writers include, Aminata Sowfall and Sembene Ousmane using their two texts The Beggar’s Strike and Xala.

Characterization is the process of conveying information about character in any narrative or dramatic work of art or everyday conversation. Characters may be presented by means of description through their actions, speech or thoughts. In any performance, an actor has less time to characterize and so can risk the characters coming across as underdeveloped.

The great realists of dramaturgy have relied heavily on implicit characterizations which occupy the main body of their character driven plays. Examples of these playwrights are Henrik Ibsen, August Strindberg and Auton Chekhov.

A well developed character is one that has been thoroughly characterized with traits shown in the narrative. A well developed character acts according to past instances provided by its visible traits unless more information about the character is provided. The degree of success in direct characterization in order to swiftly get to the action varies from play to play and often according to the use of the character is put to.

Twentieth Century Communes.

The Great Depression (1930-1939) put millions of workers on to the scrap heap. Many became itinerant bums, others turned to petty crime, but many took the opportunity to build an alternative. In Australia and other countries where land was available, hundreds of communes were set up, based on communist ideals and a substance Economy.

During the 1960s and 70s, Hippy communes (international communities) were set up in many parts of the world. The Majority of these were not serious social experiments, and most feel victim to personality clashes or exaggerated dependence on one individual but some were successful and survive in good health to this day. The younger generations, educated in the ‘new social movements” have been brought up with sophisticated techniques for conflict resolution and consensus decision-making and work well.

Most international communities in existence today are based on varieties of political-economy, varying from little more than gated villages to LETS (Local employment trading schemes) barter systems to warker co-operatives like mondragon. The principal difference between these projects and communism is that they suppose an “Opting-out” from the problems of modern society rather than any attempt to challenge the power of multi-national capitalism.

Early Utopian Imaginings

Plato (428-347 BCE) wrote The Republic in 360 BCE, an idealization of a slave society with a rigid class system, divided between philosophers, warriors and commoners. Justice and social stability were ensured because everyone was assigned to a station in life appropriate to their interests and virtues. The structure of the republic was an image of Plato’s conception of the structure of the human being reasons, spirit and desire.

Thomas More wrote Utopia in 1515, looking forward to a world of individual freedom and equality governed by Reason, at a time when such a vision was almost inconceivable with the reformation in Germany and numerous independent republics enjoying freedom in northern Italy, modern, egalitarian ideas were spreading and a number of utopian ideas were published in the sixteenth century.

Socialist Utopian Expeiments

Robert Owen (1771-1851) set about putting Utopian Ideas into practice by building a model township called New Lanark based on his own mills. Owen persuaded a group on the way o America to abandon their journey and come to work in his mill instead. The environs, the wages and the conditions and the education provided for the children was more than a century ahead at his time.

Robert Owen’s New Harmony founded in the U.S in 1825 was a co-operative rather than communist society, sponsored the first kindergarten, the first trade school, the first free library and the first community-supported public school in the U.S Engels described Harmony Hall in the chartist papers in 1844.

There were other such settlements in the 1890’s inspired by Lawrence Gronlund’s The co-operative commonwealth (1884) and Bellamy’s Looking backward but with rapid expansion of the second international in late 1880’s utopianism gave way to political, social-democratic socialism.


Dystopia is the opposite of utopia (as in dysfunction). Dystopian visions are used to issue warnings about dangers within the society or to demonstrate the absurdity of the dominant ideology of the day by following the idea through to its “logical conclusion”.

H.C walls’ Time machine (1895) warned of the dangers of growing inequality and demonstrated the dangers of class society by projecting class divisions forward to their limit. Dystopian Novels appeared throughout the twentieth century. Among these are The iron Hell (1907) by Jack London, My (1924) and we 91925) by tergeny Zamyatin, Brave New World (1932) by Aldous Huxley and Nineteen Eighty-four (1949) by George Orwell. The concept of dystopia is a frequent theme for movies such as matrix, mad max etc.

Dystopia is an effective ideological weapon, while the post modern distrust of progress makes utopias unconvincing to people in modern capitalist societies. This was not always the case however and utopian visions have been powerful levers for action in the past.

1.2 Aims and Objectives

The aims of the research work are to pay adequate attention and focus on the concept of utopianism and characterization in Aminata Sowfall’s The Beggar’s Strike and Sembene Ousmane’s Xala. This research work will also focus on how utopianism and characterization is seen and visible in the two texts.

1.3 Justification

While Thomas More, Campanella and Bacon gave in to their monastic ideas and wrote about utopia, this research is to dig out the importance of utopianism using characterization in Aminata Sowfall’s The Beggar’s Strike and Sembene Ousmane’s Xala. It will also dig out the types of characterization and how they contributed to the success of Aminata Sowfall’s The Beggars’ Strike and Sembene Ousmane’s Xala.

1.4 Scope and Delimitation

This research work will be based on the concept of utopianism and characterization embedded in Aminata’sThe Beggar’s Strike and Sembene Ousmane’s Xala. The plot structures in the novels will also be discussed. This research work will also cover the characters in the Novels and the features of the novels of past experience to which Aminata Sowfall and Sembene Ousmane’s novels belong.

1.5 Scope and Delimitation

This research work will be a detailed analysis of concept of utopianism and characterization in Aminata Sowfall’s The Beggars’ Strike and Sembene Ousmane’s Xala. This research topic in review needs no interview or questionnaire for data analysis purposes. The selected data will be subject to quantitative analysis.

The novelist narration will be the major and primary source of data while published books, journals, articles, materials sort from internets, already concluded project works on this research topic or related ones will be consulted as secondary sources of data.

Utopianism And Charaterisation In Aminatasowfall’s The Begger’s Strike And Sembeneousmane’s Xala

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