This essay will provide a brief overview and personal opinion of the Modern African Literature of "Things Fall Apart", "Efuru", and "So Long a Letter". These books directly identify the transformation required by each individual for their survival within the groups / clans where they resided. The main characters identified in each book were faced with making decisions that would alter and impact the course of their lives. These difficult decisions not only required them to regard their own well being but the well being of the community as a whole. In "Things Fall Apart", we have a group of people that are an extension of each other. Their society has a set of rules that each person must follow in order to be accepted and fit within their community.
Therefore, this creates a social construct where individualism is over shadowed due to the rigid society that exists. The men in this group were powerful whereas they controlled everything. The men would take several wives and treated each as possessions. The women's primary role was to give birth, care for the men and remain silent. This reminds me of the old clich'e of "children are to be seen and not heard". The main character Okonkwo was viewed by his group as a strong, firm, and ridged individual.
However, they did not see his inner being which was quite the contrary. Okonkwo had a fear that overwhelmed every aspect of his life. This fear was the thought of being like his father; who in his eyes was a failure and disgrace to the community. Unoka (father) played a flute and borrowed money from many people in the community; and cared less when or if he would ever pay it back. This was not the only problem that Okonkwo faced; he also had a son who decided to become a Christian convert that went against everything that he believed in. Herein lays the inter generation crises of Unoka (father) musician; Okonkwo (son), warrior / farmer and politician; Nuove (grandson), educated Christian convert.
In "Efuru" the women are empowered through the art of "gossip". The women from this village use gossip as an instrument of social relations. This type of instrument is used as a mechanism for consoling and providing support to each other. The female bonding that takes place in this community enables them the tools for socio-economic, personal, and political survival. The main character of this book is Efuru who has qualities of being a strong, smart, family oriented, energetic, loyal, independent, successful, and non-conformist woman. She came from a very distinguished family and the people of her village found her to be distinguished as well.
She was beautiful for the eye to behold and people of the village always remarked about her beauty. However, regardless of her beauty Efuru seemed to have bad luck when it came to the men in her life. Efuru married twice, first to Adizua and then to Gilbert. Both of these men disappeared leaving Efuru alone. Unlike the women in the book "Things Fall Apart" who resided in a polygamous village and had to sustain everything their husbands did; Efuru had the right to leave her husbands in order to begin a new life. The departure from her husbands took strength and courage but Efuru knew she could care for herself.
The women in this era had more rights than the women in the book "Things Fall Apart". Though Eu fur was an independent thinking women in her village she still followed the cultural traditions of circumcision, polygamy, which included attitudes towards infertility and wifehood.