Arms Akimbo: Africana Women in Contemporary Literature

By Janice Lee Liddell; Yakini Belinda Kemp | Go to book overview
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16
"A Girl Marries a Monkey"
The Folktale as an Expression of Value and Change in Society

N. J. OPOKU-AGYEMANG

As one of the most active artistic vehicles for the (un)conscious transmission of social values from generation to generation, the folktale has passed the test of time and still remains a living and integral part of the diurnal functioning of various people in the world. In his discussion of the role of the folktale, Dundes argues that it "provides a socially sanctioned outlet for the expression of what cannot be articulated in the more usual, direct way" (36). Although Dundes overstates the point by his use of the negative emphatic auxiliary, it is still clear from his argument that the folktale provides a widely accepted and approved forum through which shared values may be delivered. It is also possible to see the folktale as a powerful form through which societal values may be contested, reformed, or overthrown altogether.

This chapter examines the structure of a specific African folktale as it exists in five primary versions in order to determine how the folktale deploys received values. The folktale in question is clearly popular with collectors, but it is most prominent in modern African literature in English in its secondary version in Ama Ata Aidoo play, Anowa ( 1970). Aidoo's excellent drama helps to identify the well-known folktale in its modern context.

The storyline that informs most of the substance of Anowa is drawn from the tale that recounts the story of a young woman who, spurning all parental choices and other offers of a spouse, makes her own choice and ends badly. It is a narrative line realizable in an almost infinite number of ways. As will be shortly illustrated by five summarized versions of the tale, the names of the dramatist personae change, as do their physical

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Arms Akimbo: Africana Women in Contemporary Literature
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