Narrative Method in Works by Achebe, Saro-Wiwa, Ayoda, and Emecheta

G. Elissa Popoff, '99.5, Brown University English 27

Apart from Anthills of the Savannah, which utilizes a Faulknerian narrative approach, an omniscient third-person narrator relates the stories of these works. Characterization, the production and transmission of a character's personality, thus occurs by way of direct description, dialogue, and characters' actions. Narrating and characterizing in this manner gives the authors greater scope and descriptive capacities; minds can be read, ulterior motives discerned, sufferings more fully probed. In turn, this allows the reader to either vicariously experience the reactions of every character the author wishes or to deeply experience a single character. Subjecting the reader to all of these experiences or to the intensified experience of one character can produce the effect of prolonged horror, as in "Workday" or The Slave Girl, or can abruptly, climactically shock, as in "Robert and the Dog" or Anthills of the Savannah.

The type of narration present in Anthills of the Savannah, which alternates between omniscient third-person and first-person narration, highlights clashes among different perspectives, indirectly drawing attention to their subjects, hopefully leading to analysis thereof. Occasional use of the omniscient third-person narrator reveals more, and can produce the aforementioned results, yet, since his credibility is not certain, also raises more questions to ponder. Indeed, it is the omniscient third-person narrator who relates one of the story's most blatant clashes between elite and underprivileged: the incident between Beatrice and Agatha in the kitchen in which Beatrice finally manages to muster up some understanding and compassion for Agatha. This incident is a realignment of reality for Beatrice and for the reader by revealing the shocking disregard of the elite for the majority and the almost cultural gap between the two. Optimistically, it also offers a possibility of rapprochement between the two classes.

It was Agatha's habit to cry for hours whenever Beatrice said as much as boo to her; and Beatrice's practice to completely ignore her. But today, after she had deposited the used plates in the sink, Beatrice turned to where Agatha sat with her face buried in her hands on the kitchen-table and placed her hand on her heaving shoulder. She immediately raised her head and stared at her mistress in unbelief.

"I am sorry, Agatha."

The unbelief turned first to shock and then, through the mist of her tears, a sunrise of smiles. (169-170)

The use of similar narrative and descriptive techniques in order to create a certain tone and effect which readjust the perspective of characters, and through them, that of the reader, as well as the shared socioeconomic context of these four postcolonial works link them together.

Postcolonial Web Nigeria OV Saro Wiwa OV Anthills OV Emecheta OV Awuor Ayoda OV