‘It Was As Silly As All Women’s Stories’: Female’s Marginalisation and the Duality of Gender in the 20th Century West African Novel


When the simple act of talking is considered ‘silly’, or worst ‘madness’, here we should stop and look back at such a situation. This was my reaction when I first came across African novels. Novels, such as Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart (1958) and Gabriel Okara’s The Voice (1964), both have a limited number of female characters, whom their roles are limited to serving males. The stories of Okonkwo’s mother in Things Fall Apart is reflected on as ‘But it was as silly as all women’s stories” (Achebe, 1958: 55), while Tuere in The Voice is considered a witch and casted outside the village, only because she opposed to the elders (males) by speaking her mind. These two characters (females), and despite their limited words, are always looming in the background, casting a source of protection and reminder of the past through their folktales and night stories. In the Ghanaian novel, Obeng’s Eighteenpence (1943), however, Konaduwa is a female character who turns the village upside down by her harsh words and continuous talking. Basing the analysis on Carl Jung’s image of the female and on the duality of gender (male/female) in the African mythology, the work investigates how these marginalised female characters, through their inclusion/exclusion, are able to influence, in one way or another, the fate of male protagonists. In so doing, the paper studies the idea of resistance using these secondary characters (females) and through their silence/voice (using Signification as a speech act), influence the development of the novels’ events.

Author Information
Zohra Mehellou, Lancaster University, United Kingdom

Paper Information
Conference: LibrAsia2017
Stream: Literature - African Literature

This paper is part of the LibrAsia2017 Conference Proceedings (View)
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon