Blogposts before mine have pointed out many similarities and parallels between Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun and Okri’s Stars of the New Curfew. My view on these two works is that they both in one way or another deal with the difficult way, in which Nigerians must adapt and carve out an existence in a hostile environment. This environment was not founded by the Nigerian, but in some ways, the Nigerian is responsible for this modern setting.
Adichie sets the table for discussion of this adaptation through her character Odenigbo. When Odenigbo’s mother visits and maliciously interacts with Olanna, Odenigbo justifies her character by saying that she is only trying to survive and act in a manner that suits her for the old world. Odenigbo further suggests that his mother is ill-equipped to negotiate the new environment of the modern Nigeria, where despite advances in medicine and education, she still adheres to the herbs and rites of the traditional Igbo way.
Okri presents a more immediate and up front meditation on this subject, as the character, who I presumed to be himself, was forced into many commonplace environments of the modern Nigeria, which suggest that the people have been unable to adapt western conceptions without blatant negligence and abuse of the majority of the population. That is to say that there has not been a blending of west and east. One can easily perceive this in the occupation of the main character as a salesman. He peddles his medicinal potions and takes advantage of the collective memory of the crowd, which upholds ideas of wonder herbs and drugs for every single affliction or intent. Herbal medicines have been around for a very long time; however, the intensification of the sale of herbal remedies is modern, west-inspired system. His sale of drugs that contain harmful drugs such as Marajuana and chloroform are reminiscent of the younger days of American capitalism, where a system of checks for quality control were missing.
It is hypocritical of me to say that type of lack of regulation never occurred in the commercial and industrial development of the west. Yet, Okri seems to particularly blame the Nigerian elite, who abuse those less fortunate with seemingly zero remorse. A campaign where two old rich guys publicly try to win the crowd sounds eerily similar to the American electoral system.
I believe Okri is commenting on the Nigerian version of this public contest where the elite ignore the substance of what is done or the respect for those affected. For sake of public face, the elites of the short story disperse an unwholesome amount of coins and cash into the crowd, forcing everyone into a violent frenzy. For the sake of their egos, they placed the village of W. into disarray without even giving the respect of passing out real notes. This system was put into place by foreigners, but was taken up a notch in corruption by the country’s elite. Despite this glaringly true statement, Okri demonstrates no solutions to remedy or fix the modern Nigeria, as his character is stuck in repetitive nightmare.