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A FEMINIST READING OF MOBOLAJI ADENUBI’S EMPTY ARMS AND HILARY ROUSE-AMADI’S AMINA
In the society, women are always reminded of their roles as wives and mothers in such derogatory manners. They are saddled with the responsibilities of producing, nurturing children and taking care of the home. Over the years however, women have embarked on a struggle aimed at affirming their identities, while at the same time, doing all they can to transform the societal, cultural or traditional perceptions of their gender. Women are striving very hard to change these perceptions through education and by creating awareness.
Female writers have helped greatly by making the female characters in their works more prominent. Their aim is to have female characters that are powerful and outspoken. This is because women in most male writings are often portrayed as subservient and dull. This is evident in some works of male writers like Chinua Achebe and Wole Soyinka among others, in whose works female characters are present, only to serve the image of African manhood, especially in Things Fall Apart and The Trials of Brother Jero respectively.
Eventually, this female silence was broken by Flora Nwapa in 1966, when she published her first novel, Efuru, which served as a kind of inspiration to other female writers. These women used literature to explain the state of their societies, either good or bad. They also use literature to explain the importance of female existence in the society. Some of these feminist witers include: Zaynab Alkali, Buchi Emecheta, Mobolaji Adenubi and Hilary Rouse-Amadi.
It has been established by critics that there are cultural practices that are oppressive to women. Such critics believe that culture is a social construct, a way of subordinating the female gender, to make the male gender dominant. Lewis (1995), as cited in Mama (1997) states that:
…African cultural practices have been weapons for enforcing
women’s obedience …culture has been seen as an edifice of
unchanging institutions, traditions and identities…
Also, Meena (1989), as cited in Walker (1991) says ‘women oppression has been located in some practices in traditional African societies’. She further states that 'in the literary world, fictions of undiluted African culture bolster patriarchal goals and desires, while perpetuating the servitude of women’. It is important to examine some cultural practices that are oppressive to women because these form parts of the themes in the selected texts for the study, which are Mobolaji Adenubi’s Empty Arms and Hilary Rouse-Amadi’s Amina.
One of the cultural practices in Nigeria is the issue of bride price. In some parts of the country, a lady’s bride price is inflated in such a way that it would seem the bride is being sold. Although some African feminists do not see any evil in this practice, some feminist authors have expressed their displeasure, through characters in their works. Some of these writers include Buchi Emecheta in The Bride Price, Hilary Rouse-Amadi in Amina, Mobolaji Adenubi in Empty Arms among others. These writers try to prove that a female child is not a commodity. In Empty Arms,Auntie Pat refused to accept a bride price from Jide. She informed Mrs. Lawal that she was not selling off her niece. Mrs. Lawal also commented:
…Your Nike is being given away practically. Don’t
we know the amount of money usually demanded
of the groom’s families by the bride’s families as
In The Bride Price, Akunna was allowed to stay on in school until she completes standard six after her father’s death because according to the narrator, ‘the longer she stays in school, the higher the bride price that is expected on her’.
Also, in Amina, Amina could not further her education because her father said it was time for her to get married. Amina was so sad that she asks her mother:
Why was I sent to school?
Was it a mere excuse
To swell the bride price?
Is money all the honour
That my laboured father seeks?
In some families, a female child is seen as an avenue of getting money. Such girls are usually married off at tender ages, sometimes against their will. Some of them who have the courage to protest against such arrangements are usually cursed by families and rejected by the society. Apart from being literally sold off by her family, the husband also sees her as one of his possessions, an object he has bought with a huge amount of his money and could treat as he pleases. Such wives are often subjected to different kinds of marital oppression and they are expected to take everything in good faith. Hilary Rouse-Amadi points this out in Amina. According to Amina:
It seems we are marketable objects
To be disposed off with speed
To the highest bidder and when
We have been sold into marriage,
It seems we are expected to sit
Meekly in the houses of our lords
Nursing our thoughts and feelings
Within the enforced privacy
Of a silence we have never asked for…
There is also female subjection to oppression in widowhood. In some parts of Nigeria, especially in the Eastern parts, a widow is compelled to mourn her husband officially, by going through some dehumanizing rituals. In these parts of Nigeria, a widow mourns her husband by having the hairy parts of her body shaved. After that, she is forced to drink the water that was used in bathing her dead husband. She then mourns her husband by wailing publicly at the top of her voice for days. According to Nzewi (1931):
…Widowhood practices in certain parts of Imo state begins
after the burial ceremony. A woman becomes a widow
(Isi nkpe) when her husband dies. It is from the point of
death that a woman begins to go through the rituals
associated with widowhood.
While interviewing widows, a widow a widow revealed to Nzewi (1931 :
When my husband died, the Umuokpu took me to the
back of the house. They first of all put their left and
right fingers into my mouth… They gave me food in a
broken calabash and fed me with their left
and right hands simultaneously… I was required to cry
in the morning and at night for four days…
Any widow who refuses to be subjected to this kind of treatment is tagged a witch, she is blamed for her husband’s death, she is exempted from social privileges and she is not allowed to transact in the market.
Also, in Nigeria, some husbands forbid their wives from working. It is believed that a woman’s place is in her husband’s house and as a result, she is not allowed to engage in any form of work. Such women are forced to be dependent on their husbands for survival. In most cases, the man is expected to have provided her with the basic necessities and anything else she after that would be considered immaterial. Such women find it difficult to survive on their own when the marriage turns sour or the husband dies. Feminist writers have tried to create awareness in their works on this issue. Many women now refuse subservient roles and are now seen in offices and other places of work, combining marriage and motherhood with work. This makes them less dependent on their husbands.
Feminists are doing all they could to point out that cultural practices that are oppressive to women should be changed, that women should be treated as humans and respected. So far, feminist writers have succeeded in this quest, because women around the world are now struggling to liberate themselves from all forms of oppression. They are now raising their voices to fight for their rights.
Many feminists believe that education is a major agent in the liberation of women. With Western education, more women are now empowered to express themselves. Unfortunately, in some parts of Nigeria like the Eastern and mostly the Northernparts of the country, female education is still considered irrelevant. Women in these parts are usually subjected to early marriage or other means of preventing them from being properly educated. This research work examines the struggle of an African woman to gain better access to formal education in Hilary Rouse-Amadi’s Amina .
Also, women are mostly seen as being good only for reproduction in the society. In a childless marriage for instance, the woman automatically assumes the role of the barren party. This is irrespective of the fact that the man may be responsible for the couple’s inability to bear children. This research work explores a situation where the barren party in a marriage is the man, in Mobolaji Adenubi’s Empty Arms.
1.2 PURPOSE OF THE STUDY
This study has been embarked upon, to present the feminist perspectives, as shown in the works of two writers, which are Mobolaji Adenubi and Hilary Rouse-Amadi. It is hoped that the analysis in this research would create awareness in writers and help them realize that there is still much to be done on writings, to better the lot of women in the society. This work will contribute to the body of knowledge in the society, by helping to raise the female consciousness in the quest for liberation from all forms of oppression.
1.3SCOPE OF THE STUDY
Having agreed that the selected texts have feminist potentials, this work will analyze the books, using radical feminism and also brig out some special qualities of the female characters in the texts. This research will also limit its scope to some materials from libraries, internet and the two selected works of Mobolaji Adenubi and Hilary Rouse-Amadi.
1.4 JUSTIFICATION OF THE STUDY
Numerous works have been done on feminism. Previous works have attempted to focus on feminist perspectives of other works. If works have been done on Mobolaji Adenubi’s Empty Arms and Hilary Rouse-Amadi’s Amina, they are not known to the researcher. Based on this, this research work will attempt to pay attention to feminist perspectives in Mobolaji Adenubi’s Empty Arms and Hilary Rouse-Amadi’s Amina.
This study will employ a textual analysis of feminist perspectives inMobolaji Adenubi’s Empty Arms and Hilary Rouse-Amadi’s Amina. The sociological approach to feminism will be employed in the analysis of the texts. In the bid to collect data for this study, textbooks, materials and published articles on feminism were consulted. This means that primary and secondary sources were consulted in collecting data for this study. The selected African texts are the primary sources, while other sources from libraries and the internet serve as the secondary sources.
Adenubi, Mobolaji. Empty Arms.Lagos: Topcopy Nig. Ltd, 1997.
Emecheta, Buchi. The Brideprice. London: Fontana/Collins, 1976.
Mama, Amina. Shedding the Masks and Tearing the Veils.
Dakar: CODESRIA, 1997.
Nzewi, E. Widowhood Practices: A Female Perspective. Retrieved from
Rouse-Amadi, Hilary. Amina. Zaria: ABUP, 1997.
Walker, Alice. The Colour Purple. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich,
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