GENDER VIOLENCE IN CHIMAMANDA NGOZI ADICHIE’S PURPLE HIBISCUS AND HALF OF A YELLOW SUN

GENDER VIOLENCE IN CHIMAMANDA NGOZI ADICHIE’S PURPLE HIBISCUS AND HALF OF A YELLOW SUN

 

ABSTRACT

 

Gender-based violence is not a new problem in the Nigerian society or other societies of the world. Violence against an individual on the basis of his /her gender is common place and is becoming endemic. Various studies have been carried out on what fosters gender violence and what makes it thrive with a view to putting an end to the problem. This has opened up various arguments as to how the problem can best be tackled. This study looks at the analyses of gender violence in the Nigerian novel and how Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie presents this problem in her novels; Purple Hibiscus (2003) and Half of a Yellow Sun (2006).This research interrogates how Adichie presents gender violence in these novels and how it affects the female gender. This study demonstrates that the texts selected by its thematic preoccupation and character delineation show culture and tradition as strong factors in sex differentiation, creation of gender identities and power sharing. It also shows that socially constructed roles and identities contribute to domestic and social violence in patriarchal societies. The study examines the themes, metaphors and symbolic representation of characters through the feminist perspective and Max Weber‘s power theory. This is because the analyses of gender relations must take into cognizance theories of a person‘s biological sex and gender identity and how it affects power sharing and the role of tradition, laws and the dominant ideology in the perpetuation of gender-based violence. Adichie‘s writings portray a strong call against gender violence and the treatment of women as commodities.

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

Title Page…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. i

 

Declaration……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… ii

 

Certification……………………………………………………………………….………….iii

 

Acknowledgements…………………………………………………………………………… v

 

Dedication……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. …………..…….vi

 

Abstract……………………………………………………………………………..…….….vii

 

CHAPTER ONE………………………………………………………………………………1

 

1.0   Introduction ………………………………………………………………………………………. 1

 

1.1   Sex, Gender and Violence…………………………….……………………………………. 1

 

1.2   Statement of Problem…………………………………………………………..…………5

 

1.3   Aim and Objectives of Study…………………………..…………..………………………………. 6

 

1.4    Significance of Study………………………….……………………………….…………7

 

1.5    Scope and Limitation of Study……………………………………….………..…………8

 

1.6   Methodology………………………………………………………………….……….….9

 

1.7    Background to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie………….. ………………………………..9

 

1.8    The Novel and Gender Discourse in Nigeria………………………. ……….. …………. 11

 

1.9   Theoretical Framework………………………………………………………. ………….20

 

1.9.1 Radical Feminism as Theoretical Framework…………………………………………………… 21

 

1.9.2 The Emergence of the Theory………………………………………………..………… 21

 

1.9.3 Max Weber‘s Power Theory…………………………………………………..….…….24

 

1.9.4 Radical Feminist Theory and Max Weber Power Theory..………………………….. ..…27

 

 

2.0 CHAPTER TWO ……………………………………………………………………….28

 

2.1 Review of Related Literature…………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 28

 

 

3.0    CHAPTER THREE: Purple Hibiscus………………………………………………..41

 

3.1 The Reconstruction of Childhood Character in Purple Hibiscus………………………………………….. 41

 

3.1.2 Gender and genre; A Feminist Exploration of the Bildungsroman in Purple

 

Hibiscus………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. ……………………….…42

 

3.2 The Weight of Religion in Purple Hibiscus……………………….………………..……45

 

3.3 Violence as a Metaphor for Silence in Purple Hibiscus…….………………………. …….51

 

3.4 The Good Wife in Purple Hibiscus…………………………….…………..………..….. 57

 

 

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4.0 CHAPTER FOUR: Half of a Yellow Sun………………………………………………………………………………… 62

 

4.1 The Redefined Image of Women in Half of a Yellow Sun………………………………………………………. 62

 

4.2 The role of Women in the Nigerian Civil War in Half of a Yellow Sun.………………………………. 69

 

4.3 Sexual Violence in Half of a Yellow Sun ………………………………………….………75

 

  1. 4 Patriarchy and Marginalization in Half of a Yellow Sun …………………………………… 77

 

5.0    CHAPTER FIVE

5.0 Conclusion………………………………….………………………………………….….84

BIBLOGRAPHY………………………………………………………………………. ….87

 

CHAPTER ONE

 

INTRODUCTION

 

 

1.1    Sex, Gender and Violence.

 

In recent years, increasing attention has been paid to women writing in Africa. Consequently, gender studies dominated the literary scene and the representation of women in male authored works precipitated many critical debates. In other words, there has been more interest in examining the ways in which men behave, particularly in relation to women. Consequently, a literary canon was developed in which women writers give a re-presentation of the female experience by depicting a different image of women in their works in variance wih the earlier works by male authors.

 

In furtherance of the argument on the importance of women writing about the female experience in literary texts, Aidoo (1996) submits that, ―Women writers write about women because when we wake up in the morning and look in the mirror we see women”. Many female writers try to bring into focus their femaleness/femininity and personal experiences in their narratives and in doing so highlight power differences between men and women. As a result, women scholars and activists have pioneered a literary canon built on sexual politics aimed at stamping gender and feminism into both criticism and theory. This is with the aim of replacing a tradition that is viewed as masculine and domineering by female critics like Showalter (1985). She maintains that gender has become an analytic category whether the concerns are representation of sexual difference, (re)shaping masculinity, building feminine values or exclusion of female voice from the literary canon.

 

Many African female writers like Nwapa (1966), Emecheta (1981), Dangaremgba (1988), Mugo (1988) and Aidoo (1977) among others in their narratives attempt to recast women in more positive roles away from their marginal position(s). As a result, their texts are described by Nfah-Abbenyi (1997) as ―spaces of strength within and between which they fluctuate”. Concurring, D‘Almeida (1994) considers writing by women as a ―weapon to destroy the ideas that perpetuate subjugation and inequality”. Many literary scholars on African literature such as Stratton (1994), Steady (1998), Ogundipe- Leslie (1987), Emenyonu (2004), Oyeronke (2009) agree that works by African women writers are rarely discussed and seldom accorded space in canon formation thus making much of the African literature appear male-centred. This makes Leek (1999) argue that African women have been indoctrinated to envision the world from a patriarchal perspective.

 

It is not surprising therefore, that African scholars have now begun to include the concepts of sex, gender and violence in gender studies in order to understand how they play out in gender relations (Lindsay & Miescher 2003:1-3). Consequently, in the analyses of women authored work, amongst other themes, there is the need to explore gender-based violence and its portraiture in these works. This is beacause gender -based violence is a serious problem in many societies today and and a new area of investigation in literary criticism.This study therefore interrogates the depiction of gender-based violence in the Nigerian novel with reference to fiction by women in general and to Adichie‘s novels in particular and the role of gender in the propagation of violence. The study explores how the gender of a person contributes to inter /intra-gender violence in the selected novels.

 

Gender issues in every discourse are often divisive because of its sensitive nature and because the term ‗gender‘ is often used interchangeably with ‗sex‘.There is a clear dichotomy between both terms and scholars have since established the difference between them. While the term sex is the ―biological characteristics that define humans as female or male‖, gender is the ―economic, political and cultural attributes and opportunities associated with being male or female‖ (USAID, 2007). Gender is therefore socially constructed roles, behaviours, activities and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for men and women. While sex and its associated biological functions are programmed genetically, gender roles and the power relations they reflect are a social construct ,they vary across cultures and through time, and thus are open to to change. While sex refers to the anatomical difference between man and woman, in contrast, gender refers to the ―social aspect of differences and hierarchies between male and female‖ (John Macionis & Ken Plummer, 2005:309).

 

Thus, gender-based violence is violence that is directed against a person on the basis of gender. It therefore constitutes a breach of fundamental right to life, liberty, security, dignity, equality between women and men. Gender-based violence occurs in many parts of the world, within a home or wider community in general and it affects women and girls disproportionately (Bloom 2008:p.14). Although there are different types of violence like punching, bullying physical fights etc, gender-based violence includes domestic violence, rape, sexual violence during conflict, harmful customary or traditional practices such as forced marriages, genital mutilation etc.

 

A report by the British council titled ‗Gender in Nigeria in 2012‘, concludes that violence against women is not a new problem in Nigeria. Rather, it is found to be deeply rooted in many cultural and traditional values which is regarded as normal behaviour or remains hidden or tacitly condoned (Nnadi, 2012; Zimmerman, 1997). Hence, violence against women is perceived as the most pervasive violation of human rights (United Nation Secretary General, 2009; Heise et al., 2002)). In 1998 The Convention on the Elimination on All Forms of Discrimination (CEDAW), raised concerns about the prevalence of violence against women and girls ―including domestic violence and sexual harassment in the workplace‖. It is also important to state that gender -based violence is practiced against everyone, but it affects mainly women and girls (Jekayinfa, 2011; USAID, 2008).

 

Consequently, this research focuses on the depiction of violence in the writings of Chimamanda Adichie because various sociological studies have shown that women, more than men, are often the recipients of various forms of violence. But this problem has not been foregrounded in the literary sphere and this is what this study sets out to find in the works of Chimamanda Adichie. World Bank data shows that up to seventy percent of women experience violence in their lifetime and concludes its findings by saying that the root of all violence against women lie in persistent discrimination against women and girls ( World Bank Data:2014). There is a close relationship between gender equality and violence and studies have shown that gender inequalities increase the risk of gender- based violence (World Health Organization: 2009). Consequently, this study is based on the assumption that a discussion on violence is an integral part of gender discourse and focuses on how Adichie presents these acts of violence in her novels Purple Hibiscus and Half of a Yellow Sun. Although the issue of women’s oppression and empowerment has been one major theme in African literature and research in the last few decades, little attention has been paid to gender-based violence as a form of oppression against women in these writings.

 

Despite the disparity in the ideological standpoints of male and female writers, female writers still continue to write and produce works which portray the female gender in more positive and active roles. In these writings, gender politics is interrogated and the contributions of both genders to conflict and power sharing, but in all these, emphasis is on the protagonist‘s experiences, thoughts and feelings. Hence in her writings, Chimamanda Adichie centres on the dynamics of gender relations and other issues affecting the socio-economic life of the society. Her work incorporates themes of political and domestic violence, tolerance, loyalty, family, national identity, self-realization, and the effects of colonialism on the collective consciousness and individuals. In Purple Hibiscus and Half of aYellow Sun for example, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie depicts contemporary issues affecting the Nigerian society through the eyes of female characters.

 

As a social advocate for the oppressed female in a society suffering from a myriad of problems which include bad leadership, poverty and unemployment, Adichie emphasizes the role of the female in society and the problems she faces in her works. Her writings portray gender conflict as a vital aspect of social experience and the struggle for power. Her works shows a feminist position which strongly argues that male to female violence cannot be separated from patriarchal ideology, normative foundations and institutional arrangements in society (Dobash and Dobash, 1992). Consequently, in her novels, Adichie portrays that freedom and individual rights are ideals the women should not compromise for they are essential in being a voice in the social context of development.

 

Although literatures abound on various forms of gender-based violence in Nigeria and the world in general (Greig, A with Edstrom,J 2012, Jekayinfa,2012) , there is a dearth of critical works exploring gender-based violence in Nigeria women writing and specically in Adichie‘s fiction despite the large body of works on her novels. Literary critics like Ogwude (2010), Ouma (2011) and Corneliussen (2012) among others, have concentrated on the issues of religious ideology, gender conflict, use of symbolic figures and images, influence of colonialism on African women‘s fight for emancipation, racism, sexual oppression, religious fanaticism and cultural alienation in post colonial Africa in Adichie‘s novels but there is an absence of works interrogating gender violence as a central theme.

 

The above mentioned works look at different facets of Adichie‘s fiction and even mentioned some aspects of domestic violence in her novels but none specifically dwells on gender-based violence as a serious and predominant theme in her novels. Thus, a careful re-evaluation of gender violence is made using the Radical Feminist theory and Max Weber‘s theory of power as analytical framework for the novels of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

 

1.2         Statement of the Problem

 

Gender discourse is an important area of literary criticism with wide spread implications for gender equality and human development across sectors. Increasing attention is being accorded the negotiation of gender relations in contemporary African literature.

 

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However, there has been a limited account of the nature and historiography of gender-based violence in the fiction by women writers in Nigeria. This form of violence has been an under researched issue in gender studies in many societies and often analysed alongside other issues affecting gender relations. Despite the growing body of works on Adichie‘s novels, there is an absence of an analytical framework for analysing violence as a tool of oppression and the role of power in perpetuating gender-based violence. Consequently, this study investigates the depiction of gender violence in the Nigerian novel and the different forms of gender-based violence and how Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie treats this phenomenon in her novels: Purple Hibiscus and Half of a Yellow Sun. The study is thus premised on the following propositions:

 

Gendered hegemony is more or less mentally integrated in a vast majority of both men and women, commonly allowing patriarchy to remain unchallenged, and even defended by both sexes.

 

The gender of a person affects power-sharing and decision-making and this is manifested in men‘s control in families and public offices.

 

The radical feminist theory and Max Weber ‗s Power theory posit that sex/gender difference is socially constructed and shaped by relations of power , as a result, violence is often against the female gender and it is a by product of patriarchy.

 

Little attention has been given to the analysis of women‘s writing with the tools that theories of Max Weber and Radical Feminism provide.

 

1.3         Aim and objectives of study

 

The aim of this research is to portray the existence of gender violence in the Nigerian novel and its depiction in Chimamanda Adichie‘s writing. This research is premised on the fact that literature is a chronicler of society through which societal issues are analysed with a view to making the society better. Gender- based violence is an endemic problem in the Nigerian society but under represented in many literary works about women despite the fact that it impedes the growth and psychological well being of the female who most women writers are preoccupied with in their works. Thefore, this research interrogates how this problem is depicted in the two selected novels of Chimamanda Adichie and necessitated the impetus for this study which captures the essence of gender discourse. Therefore, these research objectives will show that:

 

In women writing, the female gender is often a victim of various forms of violence.

 

The texts selected for this study by the thematic preoccupation and character delineation show culture and tradition as strong factors in sex differentiation and the creation of gender identities.

 

Socially constructed roles and identities contribute to domestic and social violence in patriarchal societies.

 

The dialectics of gender- based violence can be better understood when approached from the theoretical perspectives of Max Weber‘s Power and Radical Feminist theories.

 

1.4        Significance of Study

 

Gender violence is a serious problem confronting many societies of the world today and it is a problem that is almost as old as mankind itself. Also, studies have shown that in most societies where violence happens there is a code of silence involving the victim and perpetrator(s) when it is perpetrated (Walby: 1990). There are diverse reasons why gender-based violence continues to thrive and these include unequal power relations between men and women, biological differences between males and females, negative traditional and cultural practices etc. But despite the increase in the number of victims of gender-based violence, no conclusive findings have been made concerning this problem (WHO: 2015).

Furthermore, in literary criticism, the area of gender violence has not received much attention in the Nigerian novel. Therefore, this study takes a close look at Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie‘s Purple Hibiscus and Half of a Yellow Sun as they depict various forms of gender-based violence and how they occur. It seeks to show the dialectics of gender relations and how gender-based violence is portrayed through the eyes of a female writer. The work specifically seeks to interrogate the issue of violence as it affects the female. Although there are diverse scholarly works by many African writers on issues affecting the African continent like bad leadership, crime, poverty, illiteracy, urbanization etc, not much has been said about the festering problem of gender violence in the works of Nigerian female writers

 

Therefore, the choice of the novels of Chimamanda Adichie is premised on the fact that her novels capture many issues of gender conflict and violence hence the justification for this study. Also, her works provide an insight into the world of violence as suffered by women in the midst of other issues threatening the growth of the Nigerian female. Since there is a dearth of publications which interrogate gender violence in the novels of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie as the researcher‘s findings show, there is the need for this study since little attention has been given to the analysis of women‘s writing with the tools that the multi-theories of Max Weber on Power and the Radical Feminism provide. The study will show the literary tools, devices and strategies Chimamanda Adichie use in the portrayal of gender violence and how these techniques and devices shape the representations of power relations between men and women in the novels.This study therefore contributes to a more balanced field of gender criticism in Nigeria.

 

1.5         Scope and Limitation of Study

 

Although Chimamanda Adichie‘s works can be interpreted from different perspectives, this research interrogates the nature of gender-based violence as depicted in her two novels; Purple Hibiscus and Half of a Yellow Sun. The study cross examines Adichie‘s

 

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treatment of gender relations and violence in these novels. Furthermore, the research explores how Adichie uses characterization and other literary devices to depict some of the social ills facing the society. The two novels treat different dimensions of violence in the private and public sphere and they form the primary texts that will be used for analysis; also articles and journals with related contents to the study will be analysed. Consequently, the radical feminist theory and Max Weber‘s theory of power will be used as analytical framework because issues affecting the female gender often have to do with conflicts over domination and suppression.

 

1.6         Methodology

 

This research follows a textual and descriptive method based on a combination of traditional library research and textual analysis. The primary sources include Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Purple Hibiscus and Half of a Yellow Sun while secondary sources include several academic articles, E-books, journals and books related to feminist and power theories. The novels of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie‘s form the basic material for this research. In addition, an interdisciplinary approach was used while drawing from the fields of Literature, Philosophy, History and Sociology. The analytical framework for this study is the Radical Feminist literary criticism and Max Weber‘s Power theory.

 

1.7    Background to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

 

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was born in 1977 in Enugu, Nigeria. She studied medicine and pharmacy at the University of Nigeria then moved to the US to study communications and political science at Eastern Connecticut State University. She gained a Master of Arts Degree in Creative Writing from John Hopkins University, Baltimore. After initially writing poetry and one play, For Love of Biafra (1998), she had several short stories published in literary journals, winning various competition prizes. Her first novel, PurpleHibiscus, was published in 2003 and is set in the political turmoil of 1990s Nigeria. This

 

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book won the 2005 Commonwealth Writers Prize (Overall Winner, Best Book), and was shortlisted for the 2004 Orange Prize for Fiction. Her second novel is Half of a Yellow Sun (2006), set before and during the Biafran War. It won the 2007 Orange Broad band Prize for Fiction. She also has a collection of short stories: The Thing around Your Neck (2009), shortlisted for the 2009 John Llewellyn-Rhys Memorial Prize and the 2010 Commonwealth Writers Prize (Africa Region, Best Book). Her latest work is her third novel, Americana and was published in 2013.

 

Adichie‘s writings cover the three genres of Literature; drama, prose and poetry. Like many African writers, she shows great commitment to happenings in her society. She represents fictional reality through true to type characterization and graphic use of language. Osofisan describes her thus on the back cover of her novel Purple Hibiscus; ‗she beautifully manipulates syntax and trope, as well as controls irony and suspense‘ to achieve great aesthetics and heighten effects. Her ability to manipulate language and apt analysis of her environment calls scholarly attention to her work. Her first two novels set in Nigeria discuss many issues affecting the Society and in Purple Hibiscus takes a look at an intricate family life with events happening in Nigeria under the ruler ship of a military president as a backdrop. Using a fifteen year old girl, kambili as the narrator, she discusses the strained relationship between Eugene and his family members. The depiction of domestic violence a tyrannical father exhibited against his children and spouse allows for some criticism of both British colonialism and traditional patriarchal powers for their influences on the oppression of marginalized groups including women and children.

 

In her second novel Half of a Yellow Sun, she discusses the Nigerian civil war and the attendant violence associated with war. Half of a Yellow Sun is set in the 1960s. The title refers to the Biafran flag of independence and the narrative is divided into four main parts. It is written in the third person and each of the 37 chapters gives the reader the perspective of

 

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one of the main characters: Ugwu, Richard or Olanna. In this novel, Adichie claims to write about women as the true heroes of war about whom nobody writes books, especially the Biafra women who showed remarkable bravery in keeping families together. The critical paradigms of this work stem from the postcolonial conditions that define African women‘s lives today. Adiche‘s postcolonial writing about Nigeria demonstrates a capacity to look at the public sphere with equal regard. Her fiction asks questions about the roles played by colonialism and present day corruption in the conflicts of the land of her birth, and she refuses to simplify the problems or solutions. She also interrogates salient issues like rape, Infidelity, loss of personal freedom and so on.

 

1.8        The Novel and Gender Discourse in Nigeria

 

Some Critics (Johnson 2000, Gray 1987,and Connell 2000) opposed the traditional view of foregrounding gender differences on social hierarchies between men and women by questioning the conventional assumption that gender differences (and subordination) are rooted in biological differences between women and men. Rather, they claimed that all the characteristics associated with masculinity such as rationality, aggression, domination and public life, are a result of social construction as well as the characteristics associated with femininity such as weakness, vulnerability, submission and privacy. The characteristics associated with masculinity are attributed a meaning which is desirable while in contrast, qualities associated with femininity such as weakness and submission becomes values which are undesirable. Therefore, feminization of someone or something is defined as subordination of ―that person, political entity, or idea, because values perceived as feminine are lower on the social hierarchy than values perceived as neutral or masculine‖ (Connell: 2005) .In that context, gender is seen as a reflection of cultural as against biological differences and the interpretation of sex differences is linked with social construction of meanings attributed among people.

 

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Inspite of the various theories on gender, this study is based on the assumption that gender is the culturally constructed social roles assigned to men and women in the African society. It means that notwithstanding the biological differences between males and females, it is the culture of a society that exerts more influence in the creation of masculine and feminine behaviour. Though the sex of a person can cause him/her to behave differently from the other sex, this can be overridden by cultural factors that determine appropriate behaviour. Among most Africans, men have been culturally constructed as natural born leaders and head of the families while the woman is seen as the ‗other‘ sex, the subordinate one in the relationship. These constructions are produced by the patriarchal culture prevalent in most African societies. Patriarchy itself is a social system based on male domination over women. It is a culture that promotes a sexist ideology, which designates women as inferior beings and men as superior beings. Johnson (2005) explains that patriarchy is simply another term for male domination. He posits that it does not mean that all men are powerful or all women are powerless but that the most powerful roles in most sectors are held predominantly by men and the least powerful roles are held predominantly by women. But for Gray (1987) patriarchy is a culture ―that is slanted so that men are valued a lot and women are valued less, or in which man‘s prestige is up and woman‘s prestige is down.‖ This can be easily seen in many African societies where decision making and headship is naturally assigned to the man without recourse to intellectual ability or any other requirement to carry out the assignment.

 

In contrast to the male, based on gender the female has been made to face many acts that are against her fundamental human rights such, as girl-child discrimination, forced marriage, widowhood purification rites, genital mutilation, rape and sexual abuse, wife battering, lack of right to inheritance, leadership discrimination, physical abuse, marginalization in education. The African man, like the African woman, is also a victim of different forms of oppression; dictatorship, poverty, ethnicity and neo-colonialism among

 

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others, but few men suffer violence on account of their gender. In their works therefore, the argument of some female writers like Buchi Emecheta and Ifeoma Okoye is that, in male authored works, gender issues are subsumed under social concerns with little or no mention of how these problems affect the female. But for some other women writers, apart from the little or no role the ‗muted female‘ play in nation building, there is the general issue of the collapse of the societal structure.

 

Consequently, in their writings Nigerian women convey an active desire to change the woman‘s position as the second sex in the society. Omolara Ogundipe- Leslie illustrates this when she talks about the commitment of the African woman writer with regards to their art; she declares that women issues border on social ones. She expands on the specific implications of commitment to their womanhood. She says that; ‗it would mean delineating the experiences of women. Women telling what it is to be a woman, destroying male stereotypes of women (Omolara: 1987). Omolara Ogundipe- Leslie makes this call because she believes that African male writers have long dominated the literary scene in Africa and have not clearly depicted the female experience. Ogundipe-Leslie believes there should be a female literary tradition where women actively taken part as canon makers – either as critics or writers. As a literary critic, Chikwenye Okonjo Ogunyemi in her article titled Women andNigerian Literature in ‗The Guardian‘ of 25 May, 1985 , criticised Nigerian Literature as being ‗phallic‘ dominated with male writers and critics dealing almost exclusively with male characters and concerns naturally aimed at a predominantly male audience. In a similar vein, Mabel Segun in an article in ‗The literary Contribution of the Nigerian female‟ decried the lack of publicity given to Nigerian female writers. To correct this imbalance she called for studies that would enhance the image of the Nigerian female writers in order to bring them to the limelight of the Nigerian literary Scene.

 

 

 

 

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Consequently, the need to give voice to the woman experience gave prominence to female authored novels in Nigeria .In these writings; emphasis is on the protagonist‘s experiences, thoughts and feelings. The protagonist does not conform to masculine ideologies but allows herself to have her own experiences .One of the basic intentions of women writing is to recreate the image of women as opposed to the one in male authored work which the female writers claim is non-representational of the true female experience. The works of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie also focus on the female protagonist and how she carries out her role first as a female and secondly as a member of the society. In Purple Hibiscus, she talks about the abuses of a father turned cruel by a fanatical brand of Catholicism and how he uses the church as a tool of oppression against his wife and children. Adichie also explores the abuses of a military regime against the Nigerian citizenry. In Half of a Yellow Sun, she recounts the political events that led to the Nigerian civil war and the role of women in that difficult period. She also illustrates the nature of violence in war time and how it affects women differently from men. In her novels Adichie looks at different issues confronting society like violence, unemployment, poverty, and lack of press freedom and so forth and how they affect women in the society. Therefore, the two texts of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie under study interrogate the various faces of violence as it affects the female and society in general.

 

In response to assertions made by writers like Omotola Ogundipe-Leslie about the invisibility of women writers on the Nigerian literary scene, Helen Chukwuma (2000:101) explains that:‘‘ the men wrote about themselves, their wives, homes, their ideals aspirations and conflicts, their confrontation with the white man and his ways, in sum, their society at large. They were the masters and the traditionally accepted mouthpiece of their women folk. But did they say it all? Can any being overtake the place of another? Can a male writer feel the depth of a woman‘s consciousness, sensibilities, femininity, impulses and indeed her

 

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weaknesses? ‘‘. Chukwuma sees many male authored works as having an unbalanced view of

 

society and one sided in their narration. Therefore, for a literary work to be authentic and

 

realistic for a woman writer, she should be able to identify with her characters from a new

 

perspective different from how they have been portrayed in male authored works which many

 

female writers have claimed to be chauvinistic. Many female critics of male authored works

 

tacitly agree that there is an inaccurate portrayal of the image of womanhood in literary

 

works  by  men.  Therefore  women  writers  try  to  give  a  balanced      view  of  the  female

 

experience. As a result, Ketu H. Katrak states that;

 

Women writers‘ use of oral traditions and their revisions of Western literary forms are integrally and dialectically related to the kinds of content and the themes they treat. Women writers‘ stance, particularly with regard to glorifying/denigrating traditions, vary as dictated by their own class backgrounds, levels of education, political awareness and commitment, and their search for alternatives to existing levels of oppression often inscribed within the most revered traditions. Their texts deal with, and often challenge, their dual-oppression-patriarchy that preceded and continues after colonialism and that inscribes the concepts of womanhood, motherhood, traditions such as dowry, bride-price, polygamy and a worsened predicament within a capitalist economic system introduced by the colonizers. Women writers deal with the burdens of female roles in urban environments (instituted by colonialism), the rise of prostitution in cities, women marginalization in actual political participation (2006: 240).

 

 

Some women writers have already gained high visibility as a result of the kind of critical

 

attention they have gained so far from writing about the oppressions of women on the

 

continent. Writers like  Ama Ata Aidoo, Buchi Emecheta, Flora Nwapa, Bessie Head,  Nawal

 

el Sadaawi, Nobel laureate-Nardine Gordimer and new entrants to the literary scene like Seffi

 

Attah, Chimamanda Adiche and Akachi Adimora Ezeigbo. These female writers have among

 

other issues in their novels; discussed the gender problem through the eyes of a woman with a

 

view of depicting problems they can easily relate to based on their gender.

 

This makes Emecheta (2010) to opine that: ‗‗Being a woman, and African born, I see

 

things through an African woman‘s eyes. I chronicle the little happenings in the lives of the

 

African women I know‘‘. In her works which include, Second Class Citizen and Joys ofMotherhood she talks about the female experience in a society dominated by patriarchal views and how women coped in the harsh environments they found themselves.Buchi Emecheta in Joys of Motherhood (1994), traces gender inequality in the Igbo society as hinging on the tenets of the gender socialization process, customary and traditional practices. For instance,Oshia the son of Nnu Ego refuses to fetch water for his step mother emphasizing that he is a boy ―why should I help in cooking? That is a woman‘s job‖. In that society, it was the norm for girls to be forced into early marriage and the bride price used in educating the boy child. Another illustration in the novel is where Adankwo, the widow inherited by Nnaife declares that Oshia is equal the worth of five girls put together. The patriarchal nature of many African societies foster the belief of the male child as superior to the female hence the relegation of the females to the background.

 

The patriarchal nature of the African tradition is also visible in the marital institution. The importance attached to marriage in the sociology of African life both in real life and fiction, is perhaps, the most defining factor in the existence of an African woman. A woman is seen to be incomplete until she is married to a man. Marriage is meant to confer on the woman a shroud of respectability. Now, since the man is to pay a bride price for the intended wife, she becomes his property, bought and paid for. Thus, marriage becomes an avenue for violence and a plethora of injustice in this kind of society where the woman is seen as belonging to her husband. In the novels of Buchi Emecheta, there are many illustrations of this when in Second Class Citizen Adah‘s hope of fulfilment as a woman revolved round making a life with Francis who later turned her into a punch bag. NnuEgo fared no better in Amatogwu‘s hand who beats her for breast feeding the child of his younger wife and made Nnuego to work on the farm because of her inability to bear children. In this novel, Buchi Emecheta breaks the myth of motherhood when her valued male children turned out as disappointments. In Achebe‘s Things Fall Apart (1958) one of Okonkwo‘s wives Ekwefi, was battered for not serving his food on time and he displayed his total disregard for the Week of peace by flogging his youngest wife Ojiugo. In this novel, women are viewed mainly as child bearers and helpmates for their husbands. This is due to the phallocentric notion that it is only a fertile woman who is able to bear many children especially males and she will be valued within her cultural milieu. Ekwefi is thus considered a cursed woman because after ten live births, only one child-a daughter-survives (Strong-Leek 2001). Against this backdrop, Anowa in Ama Aidoo‘s play Anowa, is ―worried of not seeing signs of a baby yet‖ (p.25) and considers herself a ‗wayfarer‘ without any belongings and family. Her sense of void and emptiness is re-emphasized by Kofi Ako who states ―women who have children can always see themselves in the future‖ (p.36)

 

Buchi Emecheta in her novels describes how the Igbo traditional culture exploits women through a system that reduces the woman to nothing. Chimamanda Adichie also treads this path when she pits the character of Beatrice a diminutive woman against the brutish and domineering figure of her husband Eugene, who violently attacks her and their children at every opportunity. The under representation of positive females in past narratives by male authors like Chinua Achebe, Cyprain Ekwensi, Elechi Amadi etc highlighted the need for a re-examination of how the image of the female is represented in literary works. The need to study texts which border on gender conflict gave rise to a woman based literary canon known as Feminist Criticism.

 

A critic, Carole Davies (2007:565-567) observes that African feminist criticism grapples with the politics of male literary domination, as both textual and contextual criticism .She describes it as textual in the sense that it engages ―close reading of texts using the literary establishment‘s critical tools‖ and it is contextual in the sense that it locates the text in ―the world with which it has a material relationship‖. She sees the text as having a social value

 

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because no writer creates from a vacuum. Besides, she submits that African feminist critical activities is developing a canon of African women writers, examining stereotypical images of women in African literature, studying African women writers and the development of an African female aesthetics, and examining women in oral traditional literatures which leads to gender identity, role and performance (Kehinde Amore, Gabriel Bamgbose & Abisola Lawani, 2011:204). This is because the African male writer is accused of writing from a culture that is biased against the female gender. Concurring, Jaggar (1983) asserts that ‗Culture is male…what it does mean (among things) is that the society we live in, like all other historical societies is a patriarchy and patriarchies imagine or picture themselves from the male point of view‘. She opines that, there is a female culture, but it is underground, unofficial or a minor culture occupying a small corner of the human experience. According to her, culture is conceived from a single point of view; the male. But writing as a self– conscious male critic, Biodun Jeyifo (1993), called on women writers and critics to ―delegitimize the under-textualization‖ of the stories of these foremothers of women‘s creativity by male writers and critics.

 

This desire to recreate the woman‘s experience through fiction has led to a proliferation of literatures on women by different writers, especially women writers . Therefore, women writing about women is not a new phenomenon on the Nigerian literary scene, in fact as far back as the seventies ,many writings like Flora Nwapa‘s Once is not Enough ,Buchi Emecheta‘s Second Class Citizen all addressed issues affecting females in patriarchal societies. In a typical writing by a female, there is often a flaw in the portraiture of both female and male characters. Male characters are often depicted as brutes and villains who relegate the female to the background .Characters such as Francis in Buchi Emecheta‘s Second Class Citizen ,Moudou Fall in Mariama Ba So long a letter ,Habu Adams in Zaynab Alkali‘s The Stillborn are few in this category of writing. In contrast, female characters are often over glorified and portrayed as long suffering and patient, willing to bear any sacrifices and play the second fiddle. This nature of writing is subjective and paints an exaggerated picture of reality. In some situations some males can be described as effeminate because of their physical stature, so also are some females described as masculine because of their physique. While some women can thus be bullies and villains at home, so also are men given to being at the receiving end of domestic violence. Paradoxically Chimamanda Adichie treads the path of the old generation of female writers in her negative portrayal of male characters like Eugene in Purple Hibiscus.

 

In her novel Purple Hibiscus, Aidichie talks about a violent father Eugene, who has turned cruel by practicing an extreme brand of Catholicism and the parallel abuses of a military government on it citizenry; while in Half of a Yellow Sun she recounts the political events that led to the Nigerian civil war and the role of women in that difficult period. In her novels, Adichie looks at the different issues confronting society like, unemployment, poverty, lack of press freedom, violence etc and how they affect women in the society. The character of Beatrice and Ifeoma in Purple Hibiscus are contrasted to show women asserting their positions in their societies and challenging patriarchy with its several manifestations through different methods. According to Weber, (1947) most oppressive systems draw much of their strengths from the compliance of victims, who accept their image and get paralyzed by a sense of helplessness.

 

Adichie in her novels, create positive female characters that are not submissive to exploitation but active in an effort to revolutionize their situation .In Purple Hibiscus Adichie analyses the concept of power in the hands of a figure of authority, Eugene.She illustrates how he enforces dominance by using violence on his wife and children to bend them to his will. This is in concordance with Max Weber‘s theory on power where he linked power with concepts of authority and rule. He defined power as the probability that an actor within a social relationship would be in a position to carry out his will despite resistance to it. The activation of power is dependent on a person‘s will, even in opposition to someone else‘s (Weber: 1947). Weber was interested in power as a factor of domination, based on economic or authoritarian interests. This means that Eugene, who wields economic power as the bread winner of his family, an employer of labour and a respected leader in his church, was able to bend the will of members of his family by not just using force, but by sheer power of his economic might and social position. In contrast, his wife Beatrice for a long time allowed herself to be victimised by her husband, until she took matters into her own hands for change to come. In her second novel Half of a Yellow Sun, Adichie talks about sexual violence .This aspect of sexual violence against women is often a taboo subject in many literary works and Adichie exposes this ugly aspect in her work as one of the forms of oppression against women.

 

1.9 Theoretical Framework

 

  • The aim of this study has been carried out using a multi-theoretical dimension related to structural violence. Max Weber‘s first theory of power was used by means of the structure of traditional authority and the Radical feminist theory. Although feminists have often used a variety of terms to refer to this kind of relation, including ‗oppression‘, ‗patriarchy‘, and

 

‗subjection‘ etc, the common thread in these analyses is an understanding of power not only as power-over, but as a specific kind of power-over relation, namely, one that is unjust or illegitimate. Therefore, this thesis takes on a postmodern approach to knowledge where focus lies within the context that knowledge is produced and that truth itself is flexible and something that undergoes continuous productions.

 

1.9.1 Radical Feminism as Theoretical Framework

 

Many theories have been developed concerning gender inequality but this thesis is concerned with the theory of the radical feminists. Hydén & Månssojn (2007, p. 267) explains that the radical feminist theory is based on an analyses of society’s power structure. The theory argues that the existing power in place is a polarised patriarchy which means that women get subordinated because societal‘s structure is patriarchal. Furthermore, the authors explain that men’s oppression of women is the primary form of oppression. According to Valerie Bryson (1999), radical feminists see women as ‗an oppressed group who had to struggle for their own liberation against the oppressors; that is against men‘. Pamela Abbott, Claire Wallace and Melissa Tyler (2005) argue that radical feminism is ‗concerned with women rights rather than gender inequality‘. That is why radical feminists wish to challenge the prevailing gender power structure and overturn it, the authors conclude.

 

1.9.2       The Emergence of the Theory

 

There are many theories on feminism which try to explain the woman experience and how women can overcome the problems they face in society. Some of these theories include; social and Marxist feminism which see capitalism rather than patriarchy as the source of women‘s oppression and capitalists as the main beneficiaries. Although they agree that women suffer exploitation, but this exploitation is attributed to lack of ownership to the means of production and economic dependence. They believe that women‘s unpaid work as housewives and mothers are some of the ways women are exploited. They see the inferior position of women as linked to class based capitalistic system and family structure within the system. They want to see a society where the means of production will be communally owned.

 

Another type of feminism is Liberal Feminism which takes a liberal stance on the gender issue. First, it posits that all people are created equal and that culture and attitudes of individuals are responsible for promoting gender conflict and nobody benefits from making one gender subordinate to the other. Rather there should be the creation of equal opportunities to both male and females in all spheres of life. It sees education as a means of change. Critics view liberal feminism as failing to properly situate problems of exploitation of women into structural sources of inequality. The radical feminist theory which is the analytical framework for this thesis, posits that women‘s oppression is the fundamental oppression at the root of all other societal problems. It sees sexism as the core of patriarchy especially in the family and it focuses on violence against women in form of rape, sexual harassment, incest, domestic violence etc.

 

Other strands of the radical feminist theory include, the ‗female Supremacists theory‘ which argues that women are not just equal but are actually morally superior to men. They wish to see patriarchy replaced by matriarchy (male rule replaced by female rule). From such perspectives, men are blamed for most of the problems of the world and seen as stumbling blocks to the wheel of progress of the female. Some radical feminist groups call themselves ‗Separatist feminists‘ and they argue that women should organize independently of men outside the male dominated society. But the argument of this group can be faulted on the premise that no man is an island for no sex can live in isolation of the other due to the complex nature of society.

 

A different school of thought of the radical feminist is the radical cultural feminists who believe in the superiority of the feminine. They believe that it is better to be a woman and feminine than be a man and masculine. Therefore, femininity and characteristics associated with it like emotion, sharing, interdependence is glorified while traits associated with masculinity like independence, intellect, domination are treated with hostility. This school of thought is subjective in the sense that there must be a harmonization of both traits for any individual to function well in any society.

Gemzöe (2002) explains that the radical feminist theory grew out of the radical feminist movement that was formed in the 1960s in the U.S., Europe and Australia. The theory argues that women are oppressed due to their sex and that women’s oppression is the most widespread fundamental form of oppression. Radical feminist theory is a theory of women’s position in the world, designed and made by women for women. The oppression manifests itself as men’s control of women in families, sexual oppression within and outside the family, violence against women and contempt for women. Gemzo further clarifies that according to radical feminism, all women are exposed to oppression by just being a woman, and thus, it comes natural for a common movement. But also a common enemy which is known as ―the patriarchy‖, a social system based on male domination over women. Radical feminism questions why women must adopt certain other roles based on their sex. It attempts to draw lines between biologically determined behaviour and culturally determined behaviour in order to free both men and women as much as possible from their previous narrow gender roles.

 

Radical feminists believe that women have always been exploited and that only revolutionary changes can create a lasting solution to the oppression .But there has been diverse criticisms of the radical feminist theory and these include the generalization of the woman experience without taking cognizance of the variations of women experience in terms of race, religion, class and ethnic background. Bryson (1999) also observed that radical feminism has a blind view of the women experience. It focuses only on negative experiences of women and deny other relationships between females and males like happy marriages, motherhood etc. Also, there is also the over glorification of the innate goodness of the female while the male is often painted negatively and this gives a picture of the male and female forever at war, which is an untrue representation of life. Some see radical feminism as promoting a male hating ideology which invariably leads to tension between the sexes. While most of the observations about radical feminism are true, it is also pertinent to note that the theory puts women at the centre of focus.

 

Another positive aspect of the Radical feminist theory is that it addresses the issue of gender- based violence as product of existing patriarchies. Also, radical feminism strives for recognition of the rights of women and emphasizes that the core of women problems lie at socially constructed constraints against women based on their sex and that if these barriers are removed, the growth of the female will be accelerated. Oakley (2002) argues that a summation of the different theories of feminism ends on the same note; the claiming of rights and opportunities on a non gendered, non discriminatory basis. Therefore, this study is premised on the theory that gender-based violence occurs because of the unequal power relationship that exists between men and the women. Although as Mohanty (2006:244) observes, ‗male violence must be theorized and interpreted within specific societies, in order to effectively organize to change it’. Mohanty thus opines that male violence may vary from society to society; therefore critics and writers need to respond to and interpret this issue in their own ways in order to effectively work towards change. In this regard, Mohanty further asserts that sisterhood cannot be assumed on the basis of gender; it must be formed in concrete, ―historical and political practice and analysis” (244). Consequently since the primary focus of this work is gender violence, the radical feminist theory will be applied as an analytical framework.

 

1.9.3 Max Weber’s Power Theory

 

Many theories of power abound in modern industrial societies and two basic forms of power have been distinguished; authority and coercion. Authority has been defined as that form of power which is accepted as legitimate and obeyed on that basis e.g. the legislature. The second form of power is by coercion and this is not legitimate but obtained by force. Michel Foucault’s highly influential analysis presupposes that power is a kind of power-over; and he puts it, ―if we speak of the structures or the mechanisms of power, it is only insofar as we suppose that certain persons exercise power over others‖ (1983, 217). It is noteworthy that there are two salient features of this definition of power: power is understood in terms of power-over relations, and it is defined in terms of its actual exercise.

 

Lukes (2006) defines power thus; ‗A‘ exercises power over ‗B‘ in a manner contrary to ‗B‘s interest‘. In other words, Lukes argues that power is exercised over those who are harmed by its use, whether they are aware they are being harmed or not. According to Marx (1974) power is concentrated in the hands of those who have economic control within a society. In social and political theory, power is often regarded as an essentially contested concept (Lukes 1974 and 2005, and Connolly 1983). Although this claim is itself contested (Haugaard 2010; Morriss 2002,199 -206 and Wartenberg 1990, 12–17), there is no doubt that the literature on power is marked by deep, widespread, and seemingly intractable disagreements over how the term power should be understood.

 

One such disagreement pits those who define power as getting someone else to do what you want them to do, that is, as an exercise of power-over, against those who define it as an ability or a capacity to act, that is, as a power-to do something. Accordingly, Weber (1947) defines power as an individual‘s or group‘s ability to enforce its own interests in situations characterized by resistance. The power is about to subdue and force obedience, and it is a zero sum game where you get power by reducing someone else‘s. In other words, it means the ability to enforce your own way despite the opposition. Weber believes dominance arises when people choose to submit to it. Those who get exposed and are vulnerable to domination accept this supremacy. Weber believes people may be willing to accept inferiority when the person concerned believes in achieving his/her goal. Thus, the power does not arise by a superior force crushing an inferior force, but by people choosing to become subject of the power.

 

According to Weber (1983) the concept ―authority‖ stands for legitimate forms of domination, which is accepted and seen as natural by those governed by the same. Max Weber divides the authority into three different types. The first one is known as ―traditional authority‖ and this type of dominance has a historical culturally defined structure. In this case, authority is invested in the belief of the ‗rightness‘ of established customs and traditions. Those in authority command obedience on the basis of their traditional status which is usually inherited. The power structures are created and maintained by myths and other cultural symbols, thus, is seen as a natural part of the social system. Weber explains how systems, such as monarchies or a religious organizations, cannot question the authority without the whole system getting questionable. This is a way to create and maintain inequalities in societies, and this shape prevents changes and development in societies, thus, prevents emergence of other modern forms. ―Charismatic authority‖ is the second type of dominance where authority is based on unique existing or attributed characteristics of a specific individual, making people want to follow the person concerned. This person already has an informal leader role, thus, automatically gets authority (Börjesson & Rehn 2009).

 

Weber (1983) presents the third type of dominance ―legal authority‖ which does not rely in a person, but in a system. Max Weber argues that cultural development leads to an increasing of power stipulating, making structures and institutions. Moreover, Max Weber argues that in modern societies the power is in bureaucratic structures, making behaviours, processes and thus, the power is separated from the people but on transparent regulations, and the power relies in a legal system rather than individual leaders. The idea is everything should be the same for everyone, concludes the author.

 

This research therefore adopts Weber‘s theory of ―traditional authority‖ which establishes that dominance over people has to do with authority invested in the belief of the ‗rightness‘ of established customs and traditions. The analyses of the relationship between

 

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power and gender-based violence have been done using Max Weber‘s theory of power as

 

analytical tool.

 

1.9.4     Radical Feminist Theory and Max Weber’s Power Theory

 

In analysing the theme of gender violence in Chimamanda Adichie‘s novels, Max Weber’s power theory and Radical Feminist theory will be applied since they both examine

 

people’s ability to enforce their will in social relations, even if other people are resisting. Max Weber‘s power theory creates interesting analyses since it argues that all power differences needs to be justified and gain legitimacy in order to persist (Engelstad, 2006). But since power may appear in different forms and operate in different directions (Hydén & Månsson, 2007, p. 267). Furthermore, the radical feminist theory provides a women-centred critical perspective and bringing a deeper understanding of the gendered implications. The theoretical involvements with gender violence are mainly found within gender and feminist research. This is why this study is using the radical feminist theory as one of its analytical tools. This will illustrate why violence occurs and what enables such violence to occur, and how it takes its gendered form; why most, but not all, perpetrators are men and victims are women.

 

 

 

 

 

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