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Women's Prose Fiction

Posted by on 12/9/2005 10:26:03 AM |

Women's Prose Fiction

Novels by women also form a distinct group in Nigeria's prose fiction. The important novelists are Flora Nwapa, Buchi Emecheta, Zaynab Alkali and Adaora Ulasi.


Nwapa, the doyen of women novelists, has published several novels, four of which are: Efuru (1966), ldu (1970), One is Enough (1981) and Women are Different (1986). She has sometimes been described as a 'female Achebe' in that she, like Achebe, treats the village ethos, except that in her novels, the women are in the centre of the events, instead of being peripheral and Invisible'.


A great deal of Nigerian women prose fiction is apparently a reaction against inadequate and stereotypical portrayal of womanhood in male authored novels. In such works, women are per ceived to be inferior beings to be lorded over wan tonly by the male population, or as sex objects for the pleasure of the men, or as mere mechanisms for the production of children. The women novelists have rejected this stereotype and constructed an alternative image of womanhood in which the women are in charge of their own affairs and in which motherhood is not all that a woman is creat ed or lives for. Thus in the novels of Nwapa, while motherhood is important, the point is consistently made that a childless woman can still live a fulfilling life and contribute meaningfully to the progress and upliftment of her society in whatever capacity or role she finds herself. Her principal women characters resist male paternalism and dominance and bear their misfortunes with courage and dignity.


Buchi Emecheta is perhaps the most prolific of the Nigerian women novelists. She has published at least eight novels including, The Slave Girt (1977), The Joys of Motherhood (1980), Double Yoke (1982), and Destination Biafra (1983). In these works, the Nigerian woman is presented gen erally as an oppressed person who needs to cast off the male yoke and assert her humanity and independence. Emecheta, who appears generally more radical and more alienated than Nwapa, has pursued issues like sex, politics, corruption and motherhood with greater intensity than Nwapa. For her, the joys of motherhood are grossly exaggerat ed, as if nothing else in life matters.


Zaynab Alkali, author of The Stillborn (1984) and The Virtuous Woman (1987), is the first north ern Nigerian woman novelist. It has been said that by merely writing at all, she has exploded the myth of the voiceless, faceless northern Muslim woman. Alkali is concerned, in these novels, with the place of the woman in a Moslem society, with the value of education as a support and sustenance when a woman's life appears to be falling apart, especially in a severely male-dominated society and, there fore, with the need for women in her culture to re


create themselves and find their own opportunities rather than be hide-bound by obsolete customs and sanctions. There is also the query in her work about what constitutes virtuous living; and her answer seems to be that it is not conventional, cloistered virtue or a life that succumbs to paternal istic male-domination but a new vision of equality of opportunities as between the male and female.


Adaora Ulasi, another notable woman prose fiction writer, is a novelist with a difference in the sense that she is a writer of detective (mystery) sto ries. Five of her published novels are: Many Thing You No Understand (1970), Many Thing Begin for Change (1971), The Night Harry Died (1974), The Man from Sagamu (1978), and Who is Jonah? (1978). The pre-occupation with mystery and detection sets her apart from the other women nov elists and probably makes her works less feminist and less committed. Besides, the very authenticity of her work has been questioned. It has been said, for example, that she frequently misrepresents tra ditional Nigerian culture and speech habits and that she is an expatriate African, a mediator, presenting a certain view of African culture for the entertain ment and consumption of an audience that knows nothing about it. Her characters also speak pidgin English, and she herself deals largely in stereo types.




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