Myth, legend and ritual as narrative dimensions | Daily News

Myth, legend and ritual as narrative dimensions

“Everything that can be said, can be said clearly.”

It is now believed that more than half the modern English literary contributions have emerged as a result of the variant types of African creative influence. This was initially felt in the American context, but later on spread into other parts of the globe with the wide gamut of African scholars contributing not only in their respective languages such as Swahili and Somali and Hausa but in their own English usages, that came to be transplanted in the literary and creative soils of countries such as America, England, Canada, Australia and the entire Latin American and Caribbean countries.

Several names in this context emerged as stalwarts in the literary field, contributing in English with their birth heritage as a legacy.

James Thiong’o Ngugi, Chinua Achebe, Cyprian Ekwensi and Wole Soyinka are a few. The Nigerian writer of excellence to my mind among a few others is Chinua Achebe whose influence could be seen even in the modern oriental literary scene. It is believed that Chinua Achebe, out of the list of others, is the most widely popular creative writer as well as the media person, a well-known BBC broadcaster who, for some time, was employed in the Nigerian Broadcasting Channel, attached to the BBC World Service. He was, and still is, widely known for his most acclaimed novel titled Things Fall Apart (1958).

The work was first published by William Heineman. Later, as African English works gathered ground, it came to be printed in the series known to the English reader as African Writers’ Series that triggered off in 1962. For quite a number of reasons, the particular narrative came to be widely discussed among those who were interested in the study of African writing in English and its impact on the global patterns of narratives. His first two novels Things Fall Apart and No Longer at Ease have been translated into German, Italian, Slovene, Russian, Hebrew, French, Czech and Hungarian. As several Indian scholars were interested in the original works of Achebe, I am sure that the two works are now available in several Indian languages as well.

Having read the original English work as written by Chinua Achebe, I tried to rediscover the creative pulse of creativity that lay beneath the narrative Things Fall Apart.

The main issue in the reading process is Achebe’s ability to feel the pulse of a generation of Nigerians who led a tribal life with their own laws and customs as an inherited entity. This tradition with the customary leadership of a tribal leader known by the name Okonkwo is observed sensitively as a changing aspect of mighty and noble livelihood to a mundane life of a just a human being devoid of much power and majesty. How did this greed change enter the tribe? Is it as shown by the writer Achebe? It is mainly due to the advent of a foreign or alien trait of a living style which is known as missionary influence over a tribal lifestyle.

The advent and the influence of the foreign regime greatly injected the lifeblood of the tribal way of living. For the betterment of life or not is the cross-questioning that goes on in the 25 chapters, neatly compiled, comes to be with the change of leadership and the rituals and customs too tend to change.

But the point of illumination that Achebe tries to spotlight is left for the discerning reader to gauge at his own will. As the writer records in his work, he was greatly influenced by his father who happened to be a church agent. This means that he had the chance of studying at a missionary school. From there onward, he grew up with the church impact that enabled him to enter the New University College, Ibadan in 1948. This happened to be a turning point in his life. He had the chance of knowing his own cultural traits and how they had changed over the years from several points of view.

As anthropology happened to be learnt by him, he had the chance of perusing his own folklore linked to the nation of Nigeria at large. This too enables him to feel the pulse of his own way of seeing the human spirit in myth, legend and ritual.

He made use of these factors as salient elements in the gradual development of his own creative flux. Chinua Achebe had the chance of being a widely read person as well as a widely-travelled person, as a result of obtaining a Rockefeller grant, he had the additional impetus.

In Things Fall Apart, Achebe depicts how the gradual fall in the lifestyle of a leader falls that influenced the fall of the rest of his clan members. For the narrative, he selects two lines from a celebrated poem of WB Yeats that go as follows:

Things fall apart
The centre cannot hold
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.

Out of many tribes that reigned in the African content, Achebe selects one such tribe to which his inheritors belonged. The word he uses goes as follows.

“Among the Ibo, the art of conversation is regarded very highly, and proverbs are the palm oil with which words are eaten.”

The reader of the novel feels that Achebe, making use of the skill to the maximum possible level.


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