Childhood as a Prefiguration of Adulthood in Soyinka's Aké

Sage Wilson '98, English 27 (1997)

In Aké, young Wole Soyinka possesses in immature form most every quality that makes an author: the intelligence, the daydreaming, the brainstorming, and the sense of being something special. But Aké constructs childhood as a prefiguration of more than just Soyinka's adult vocation; childhood experiences also anticipate Soyinka's adult opinions on a whole host of issues. As a young boy, Wole marvels at the ever-present fact of change, at how unpredictably this "CHANGE" arrives (93), at how inconsistently it acts (95). Wole also learns at a young age about the stupidity of the British (46-49), and childhood memories of a less culturally compromised Aké lead to Soyinka's reflective adult bitterness about Westernization and Afro-pop. Soyinka as a child even prefigures adult political commitments with his celebratory account of the women's strike.

The narrative structure of Aké enables this kind of prefiguration in part because the story entirely locates itself in Soyinka's childhood years (hence the subtitle, "The Years of Childhood"), with the narrative moving forward as Soyinka matures into young adulthood. Furthermore, we as readers are well aware of basic biographical information about Soyinka's later life (and if not, the Vintage edition handily provides a brief run-down). We know, for instance, that as an adult Soyinka has become a world-renowned, Nobel Prize-winning author. This biographical fact and the text's narrative structure work hand-in-hand, then, and we read the story of his childhood as a progression necessarily and inevitably building to a glorious present; in other words, we read the young Wole as prefiguring the adult Soyinka.

Main Overview for Postcolonial Web Africa Nigeria Wole Soyinka Ake