Jameson states, ” The story of the private individual destiny is always an allegory of the embattled situation of public third-world culture and society” (69).  I agree with Jameson after reading Things Fall Apart and Half of  a Yellow Sun because in both novels the main characters represented something else, something larger than themselves, which is allegory.  And in both novels capitalism changed if not destroyed the lives of two of the main characters.   The same is true for the Senegalese novel Xala in which the protaganist The Hadj suffers from a serious affliction-sexual impotence.  He represents the colonial history of corruption that many Africans fall prey to in order to succeed.  Capitalism has had a devestating influence over the lives of Africans during and after post colonial times.  It’s turned Africans into cannabals as Jameson remarks about the Chinese and their willingness to see their fellow man suffer, even if it means stealing land from another clan as is the case with The Hadj who not only useses corrupt means through other powerful men in high places, he also has the man whose land he stole put in jail.  I’m glad that West African writers have not avoided telling these horror stories because it gives me a sense of pride amd unwavering respect for the writers who dare tell the ugly truth about how not only about the corruption of the Europeans who colonized Africa but also the legacy of corruption that they left behind after African countries won their independece.  The minds and souls of many Africans were soiled by greed.  And there comes a time when you can’t use the master’s tools to dismantle his house.  In the novel Things Fall Apart the main character refuses to change his tribal traditions and it is the colonists who he watches destroy his old communities and who ultimately cause him to destroy himself.  The novel Xala reflects the consequences of inheriting the corruption and greed that was spawned by the Europeans when The Hadj discovers that it was a ritual curse or karma that is responsible for his misfortune.  It is encouraging to know that there are African writers brave enough to write about their nation’s history.  Nigeria is suffering from its own bad karma.  It is time for Nigerians and other Africans to do some heartfelt soul searching if they are ever going to tear themselves from the destructive influence of capitalism.

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One response »

  1. Steve B says:

    Though I understand your points and your cry for action, I find this post problematic, and have a few questions. First, in Half of a Yellow Sun, who are the characters whose lives are destroyed (or changed) by capitalism? It seems, in my mind, that the importation of capitalism, however pronounced in the real world, is actually less prevalent in both novels than your claim seems to assert. Which brings me to my second point, namely, that taking capitalism to task should, I think, be true in both Western and Third World literatures. Furthermore, if it is such a destructive force (which it arguably can be) then First World authors who struggle under its auspices can, and should for Jameson, be read allegorically. Lastly, attributing the corrupting influence of the West, and the scourge of capitalism, within Nigeria seems to free Nigeria from its “bad karma.” If it does not, if the Nigerians are indeed complicit in their own degradation, then Nigerian literature is less an investigation against imperialism (as Jameson may suggest) and more an interrogation of an interior ambivalence of colonial occupation, which seems more likely.

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