Academic journal article Tydskrif vir Letterkunde

The Displaced Male-Image in Kaine Agary's Yellow-Yellow

Academic journal article Tydskrif vir Letterkunde

The Displaced Male-Image in Kaine Agary's Yellow-Yellow

Article excerpt

The male-image is a regular feature in Nigerian narratives. In an earlier work such as D. O. Fagunwa's The Forest of a Thousand Daemons (1946), the image of the male is that of the chilvarist or a procurer of public good. In Amos Tutuola's The Palm-wine Drinkard (1952), he quests for his dead beverage-supplier, whose beverage he is so incurably addicted to and for which he is ready to risk the whole of his life; in Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart (1958), we observe the image of a hero who by dint of hard work achieves success and a place amongst the elders and custodians of his clan's ageless traditions against which he must zealously guard and before which he will fail to successfully so do; he is a profligate person, who sets aside a people's sacred trust, in A Man of the People (1966); and, later, when he is encountered in Arrow of God (1964), he is someone who is so inebriated with his exaltation by the stranger, the white man, and the familiar, his people, that he tests his prestige and arrogates to himself a rare status in an uncommon manner. The same male-image is evident in Anthills of the Savannah (1988) in the form of a dictator before whom all must bow or genuflect, as the aura of his ego exudes from him. In Chukwuemeka Ike's Sunset at Dawn (1982), S. O. Mezu's Behind the Rising Sun (1972), Festus Iyayi's Heroes (1986), and indeed, in all the so-called 'war novels' of Nigerian literature, the image articulated is that of an individual weaving intrigues in which he becomes caught while being bogged down by the carnage and pillage he helped stoke. Interestingly, Ifeoma Okoye's Chimere (1992) offers him as one who is willing to love but unwilling to accept the responsibility brought on by the consequences of his actions of love. He rejects being called and accepted as 'father'. By the time we chance upon him in Chimamanda Adichie's Purple Hibiscus (2004), having come a long way, he is none other than a male whose staunch religious beliefs have helped to make a domestic dictator. He is a ravisher in Jude Dibia's Unbridled (2006), who ravishes not only the person he is ostensibly permitted to, his wife, but one where this act is tabooed, his daughter. A related image is posited in Sefi Atta's Everything Good Will Come (2006), where an excessive penchant for sexual delights is the source of break-ups amongst certain couples. And now, judging from his displaced career in Yellow-Yellow (2006), my sense leads me to affirm that he is almost a conglomeration of all the above shades of the image.

I shall explore a number of these shades through material interpretation and analysis. The displaced male-image, the figure which the male characters, irrespective of age and race, embody in Yellow-Yellow, is like the biblical coat of many colours. Since no major male character draws more critical attention than the other, they will be analysed in relation to their degrees of impact on Yellow's (also known as Zilayefa) fate, her young consciousness, and on the environment, all of which we access through her views. The manifestation of these varied strands of the male-image is linked to the turn of Yellow's destiny. It accounts for her sexual behaviours, subsequent torture and the novel's tragic form. Yellow's anxieties, stimulated by the presence of not only the displaced father-image, but also the other strands of the male-image--the lover, friend, deliverer, and seductive autocrat--will be examined. How do these anxieties come about, how do they manifest themselves, or are they repressed in Agary's Yellow-Yellow?

Since it is a new work on the Nigerian literary landscape, one should contextualize Yellow-Yellow. Like Wale Okediran's Dreams Die at Twilight (2001), Ezeigbo's Trafficked (2008), Abani's Becoming Abigail (2007), Bisi Ojediran's A Daughter for Sale (2006), and Jude Dibia's Unbridled (2007), Kaine Agary's debut is a Nigerian novel published in the first decade of the twenty-first century. Members of this subset of Nigeria's 'twenty-first century voices' are said to posit a heated polity yielding the discursive formation that constitutes the background for the behaviour of their principal characters. …

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