Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Objectification in Amma Darko's beyond the Horizon

Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Objectification in Amma Darko's beyond the Horizon

Article excerpt


One critical concern which is increasingly being recognised in contemporary African fiction is the issue of sex and sexuality. Sex plays a determining role in human life, drives human reproduction and nature, manifests in various forms of identity, culture, gender, and race, etc., and in other forms such as pornography, prostitution, and trafficking. Its phenomenon has been theorised, critiqued and researched upon by a host of scholars from several interdisciplinary positions. As a literary theme that is common, the issue of sex(uality) has engaged the attention of authors across various genres and still presents itself amenably to whatever figurative or literal technique that is desired (or designed) by the writer. Indeed, we cannot discount the significance of sex in understanding humanity and civilisation.

More so, we live in a world which has grown insuppressibly more sexualised than ever before; a hyper-sexualised world, as it were, where eroticised codes, symbols, messages, images, artefacts and acts saturate our sight, senses and space, making it so normal for women to be constituted as sex objects in popular cultural forms. R.M. Groothius describes it eloquently, "a woman is ... a sex object whose use is dictated by the male rules of the sexual game" (qtd. in Baloyi n.pag.). This statement echoes Immanuel Kant's views on sexual objectification, wherein he claimed that a woman is desired only because her sex is the object of a man's desires (Shrage 46).

Overview of the Action in Beyond the Horizon

Amma Darko's Beyond the Horizon tells the harrowing yet sobering story of a naive Ghanaian girl who leaves the familiarity of her village home, marries a brute of a husband, and finally ends up as a hardened prostitute in the cold bitter confines of Europe. The novel comprises fifteen chapters and its narrative structure is modelled on the "first-person narrative situation". The events are related by Mara who functions as the "narrating I". In addition, she takes part as a character or as the "experiencing I" in the action in the fictional world. Mara acts as the homodiegetic voice (Udumukwu 153). As the homodiegetic voice, she is both the narrator and also the protagonist. Further, by participating in the action she presents to the reader the different perspectives implicit in the action she is presenting. The significance of this, according to Onyemaechi Udumukwu, is that "[b]y mediating between presentation and perspective, [Mara] acquires the advantage of empathy and distance" (153). Udumukwu reasons that "empathy" enables Mara to be involved in the action, while "distance" enables her to become cynical of, and therefore, reveal the ironical situation in what she sees.

As the novel opens we see Mara sitting before her large oval mirror and painfully staring at what is left of what once used to be her body. Reflecting on her incredible transformation from a greenhorn into a whore in a German brothel, she draws our attention to the scars and damage wrought on her body by some of her ruthless clients. She informs us that she now has a new lord, master and pimp, and she is "his pawn, his slave and his property" (3). From her recollection we are able to discern that she used to be the property of another lord. It is at this point that she recounts through flashback how she was given away in marriage by her own avaricious father.

Thus, Mara is bought off very handsomely by the village undertaker for his son, who in turn takes her to the city as his wife and "property" (7). In the city, Mara following her mother's instruction to "obey and worship your husband" (13), tries to please and satisfy her husband as best she could, but Akobi refuses to reciprocate or take ample care of her, as is expected of a husband. Instead, he subjects her to various forms of ill treatment and emotional anguish; meanwhile, he is a poorly-paid clerk in a government office.

We see an instance of this when Mara informs him that she is pregnant with his child and rather than express delight he retorts: "And why did you get pregnant? …

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