AD's English Literature : Beatrice, Achebe’s New Nigerian Women Mouthpiece in Anthills of the Savannah

Beatrice, Achebe’s New Nigerian Women Mouthpiece in Anthills of the Savannah



"An angry man is always a stupid man."
Chinua Achebe (1930 - )


One of the significant themes in Anthills of the Savannah is the way people particularly women reacts to with political handicaps of Nigeria. The women in Achebe’s Anthills of the Savannah shun and resent political handicaps of Nigeria. Educated mass of Nigeria who become impotent and corrupt of ideas, either through lack of vision or will, and who are ideologically with political imperfections are almost always condemned to misery in the nations through frequent coups and unrest. There seems to be no compassion or sympathy for the nation. The people seem only concerned with their own well-being and survival. As Achebe goes through the narrative, he points to corresponding ideas on the political vision of the fictional Kangan which is none but his beloved country, Nigeria where the story is embroidered. In the book he demonstrates a never-ending pattern of ruin and rebuilding, perpetuating the way and validating the role and the authority of the women.

Even before Europeans arrived during the colonial period, Achebe's native Nigeria was a patriarchal society. Ikem explains to Beatrice that their culture initially regarded women as lowly and unworthy of respect and then elevated them to a pedestal, where they could remain beautiful and admired but inconsequential. Similarly, the worship of goddesses was an important part of a village's spiritual life but had little to do with decisions regarding power structures. Stretching those points, it can be said that the colonial period widened the gender equality gap by providing African men with educational opportunities while African women received schooling in utilitarian skills to prepare them for domestic work. Anthills of the Savannah came at a time when women around the world had made great strides in asserting their relevance in and value to society. The story also contains a female trinity in the characters of Beatrice, Elewa, and Amaechina. Beatrice is well−educated, sophisticated, and independent, and she holds an administrative position in the government. Beatrice represents the positive aspects of the present. Elewa is a common woman who is highly emotional and uneducated. She supports herself by working in a small shop. Elewa represents the past. Amaechina is Elewa's infant daughter, and although she does not appear until the end of the novel, she is potential embodied. As Ikem's daughter, she represents the meaning of her name, "May the Path Never Close." She is hope for the future, even though the future currently looks grim.

Beatrice and Elewa do not seem to have much in common, and is very surprising in their friendship. Their commitment to each other, however, is undeniable. Despite their differences, Beatrice and Elewa have a few important qualities in common, most notably that they have lost the men they loved deeply yet remain connected to each other and to the spirit of the community. Amaechina's naming ceremony is significant because it demonstrates the women's unwillingness to allow tradition to die simply because the father is not present to conduct the ritual. Beatrice resists the trappings of ceremony and takes the place that would normally be filled by a man, that of naming the infant. When Elewa's drunken uncle witnesses this, he responds not by reprimanding the women but by cheering for them. He says, "Do you know why I am laughing like this? I am laughing because in you young people our world has met its match. Yes! You have put the world where it should sit. . .You gather in this. . .house and give the girl a boy's name. . .That is how to handle the world!" (Chapter 18) The women signify the refusal to let go of the traditions so critical to their culture and in doing so they honor their heritage and maintain meaningful link to the spirit of the people.

Again, Beatrice is the novel's single most spiritual character. Achebe identifies her strongly with the goddess Idemili, who was sent to Earth by the Almighty to moderate Power. When the Almighty saw how Power was raging across the Earth, he decided to send Idemili "to bear witness to the moral nature of authority by wrapping around Power’s rude waist a loincloth of peace and modesty." (Chapter 8) She was sent to Earth in a Pillar of Water connecting heaven and earth and has been worshipped ever since. On the night Ikem visits Beatrice and they discuss his newfound respect for the important role women should be given in society, Ikem tells her that it was not raining at his house but that when he started out to see her, it "was literally like barging into a pillar of rain"—a clear reference to the goddess. In another scene, Beatrice is summoned to the palace for a dinner. As the evening progresses, she notices that an American reporters becoming overly familiar and suggestive with Sam. Although Beatrice is not an admirer of Sam's, she is a patriot to her country and cannot stand to see its leader the object of such shameless overtures by a foreigner. In order to avert his attention, she throws herself at him, dancing with him. Once Sam is fully aroused and no longer thinking of the reporter, Beatrice leads him outside and explains her actions to him. Sam calls her a racist and sends her home immediately. This scene shows that Beatrice, like Idemili, is compelled to uphold peace and morality by wrapping a loincloth, so to speak, around Power's rude waist. 

There are other, more subtle clues that Beatrice is much more than an everyday government employee or citizen of Kangan. The name Beatrice comes from the Latin root "beatus" meaning "happy," from the past participle "beare," meaning "to bless."Other words with these roots are "beatify," "beatific," and "beatitudes," all related to blessedness and joy. Beatrice is known by this name, not the name her father gave her, Nwanyibuife, meaning "A Woman Is Also Something." We can easily match her with another well-known Beatrice in literature is Dante's guide through heaven in Paradiso, the last of the three books in his Divine Comedy. As Achebe's Beatrice grows into the fullness of her identity, she acquires wisdom and a presence that commands respect. Her experiences have shown her that the real strength of her people is in their unity and enduring spirit because these are not crushed, even when the land is ravaged by political instability and social upheaval.



Ref:


Killam, G.D., The writing of east and central Africa. Heinemann International Literature & Textbooks, 1985.

Arthur, Gakwandi, Shatto. Novel and Contemporary Experience in Africa. Holmes & Meier Publishers Inc, 1981.
E. Modupe Kolawole, Mary. “Mutiple Inscriptions and the Location of Women in China Achebe’s Novel”. Chinua Achebe An Anthology of Recent Criticism. Ed. Mala Pandurang, Pencraft International, Delhi, 2010.
- See more at: http://ardhendude.blogspot.in/2014/09/chinua-achebes-things-fall-apart-1958.html#sthash.G1jFSFJC.dpuf





Ref:



Killam, G.D., The writing of east and central Africa. Heinemann International Literature & Textbooks, 1985.

Arthur, Gakwandi, Shatto. Novel and Contemporary Experience in Africa. Holmes & Meier Publishers Inc, 1981.

E. Modupe Kolawole, Mary. “Mutiple Inscriptions and the Location of Women in China Achebe’s Novel”. Chinua Achebe An Anthology of Recent Criticism. Ed. Mala Pandurang, Pencraft International, Delhi, 2010.

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