Specific Contexts, Specific Styles, Specific Themes -- A Specific Turn Towards the Future

Sage Wilson '98, English 27 (1997)

The idea of detailed specificity, of thick historical context, underlies the humorous style and homey theme of Anthills of the Savannah, "Home, Sweet Home," and Slave Girl. The humorous style (or lack thereof) of these works amounts to not just a general "big African laughter," but rather to a smirking laughter which comes from an abundance of knowledge, from a love tempered by knowing the details all too well. The theme of these works is not that Africa is Africa, but that home is home, with great amounts of energy and space dedicated to constructing as precise a picture of home as possible. Certainly, we see both these demands for specificity in "Home, Sweet Home" and Anthills. But more convincing evidence can be found in Slave Girl with the disappearing specificity of the characters (Ma Palagada's slave girls are largely undifferentiated), and even of institutions (marriage and slavery are much the same), a disappearing specificity at the heart of the tragedy Emecheta decries. This stands in stark contrast to the reductive generalizations which mark paternalistic colonial discourse about Africa. In that discourse, problems are the same everywhere, the people are the same everywhere, and the tragedy is the same everywhere. But in these three postcolonial works, tragedy occurs precisely when things are the same everywhere, because this means that no people or peoples have places truly their own. Having a specific somewhere, a home you know, a home you can smirk at -- this is key to reclaiming the future, in this lies the real potential of postcolonial communities according to Achebe, Saro-Wiwa, and Emecheta.

Postcolonial Web Nigeria OV Anthills OV Buch Emecheta