Distributive Justice and the Blind Continent: A Study of Cross of Gold by Lauretta Ngcobo and Osiris Rising by Ayi Kwei Armah

By Akhuemokhan, Sophie | ARIEL, October 2008 | Go to article overview

Distributive Justice and the Blind Continent: A Study of Cross of Gold by Lauretta Ngcobo and Osiris Rising by Ayi Kwei Armah


Akhuemokhan, Sophie, ARIEL


The search for justice is archetypal, a timeless all-encompassing human urge which finds expression in creative literature. Consequently, it is of no surprise to find justice a major preoccupation in the novels of black Africa. From the earliest communal works of Chinua Achebe, to current works written by Chika Unigue and other African authors living in the metropoles of Europe, the archetype has been explored in relation to locale, age, gender, religion, class and race. It is a topic that allows for unending debate because of its complexities, its controversies, and its foothold on philosophies stretching back into the period of the ancient Greeks. With regard to the ancient nature of the subject, for example, M.D.A Freeman, editor of Lloyd's Introduction to Jurisprudence, alleges: "Some of the earliest thinking about justice is found in Aristotle. It was he who distinguished between 'corrective justice' and 'distributive justice'" (523). Expounding on the first of these, corrective justice, Freeman goes on to identify it with "the law of tort"; that is, laws relating to "crooked" conduct (Rutherford and Bone 326), or civil wrongs such as breach of contract between persons, institutions and so forth. He proceeds to make an interesting observation: "Most contemporary writing about justice is about distributive justice, about the appropriate distribution of goods" (523, emphasis added). Of course the "writing" he refers to is the expository type, produced by professional lawyers like himself, but it is engaging to think that his observations could apply also to creative writing. One can easily imagine the legal minds poring over the minutiae of an equitable distribution of resources, while the literary minds seize upon the kernel of the idea and render it in terms of fantasy, highlighting those themes that are of most importance to their own societies.

A number of black African writers are actively engaged in this pursuit, and in many cases an absorbing theme is the link between distributive justice and knowledge. Reading through many African novels, one is struck by the regularity with which the degree of justice obtainable in a situation is allied to the balance of knowledge between the parties involved. Where there is an equitable distribution of knowledge, with both parties being relatively equally informed, there is a proportionately equal distribution of other social advantages, but where knowledge is one-sided then other things tend to follow suit. In fact, knowledge, or the want of it, appears to be critical in matters of fair play.

This may not be news in itself, but it is revealing to see how African writers re-cast it. Two novels provide elaboration. The first is Cross of Gold by the South African novelist Lauretta Ngcobo, which appraises justice for the African in the well-known colonial context; and the second is Osiris Rising by the Ghanaian author Ayi Kwei Armah, which appraises the same subject but within the modern forum. There is no evidence that the texts have been studied in this light before, or even studied as a pair. On the contrary, Cross of Gold seems to have successfully concealed itself from reviewers. The Companion to African Literatures, edited by Douglas Killam and Ruth Rowe, provides the only information that could be found aside from biographical details. It states: "In her first novel, Cross of Gold, Ngcobo laments the lack of options open to young black South Africans. Set in the 1960s, the narrative traces the progress of a young Zulu man, Mandla, through a chilling catalogue of institutionalized oppression towards his violent end as a freedom-fighter" This is plainly more of a summary than a critique, but it suffices to show that the issue of justice is paramount in the novel, even if researchers have failed to comment on it.

Osiris Rising is Ayi Kwei Armah's sixth novel. His earlier works are regularly attacked for their negativism and individualism, but Osiris Rising is evidence of a new vision first detected by the critic, Robert Fraser, some years back. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Distributive Justice and the Blind Continent: A Study of Cross of Gold by Lauretta Ngcobo and Osiris Rising by Ayi Kwei Armah
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.