Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Kinship and Friendship in Hardship: A Comparative Analysis of Aminata Sow Fall's le Revenant and John Francis Scott Fitzgerald's the Great Gatsby

Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Kinship and Friendship in Hardship: A Comparative Analysis of Aminata Sow Fall's le Revenant and John Francis Scott Fitzgerald's the Great Gatsby

Article excerpt


The two novels we are analyzing in this article have a profound sociological orientation. In that, they demonstrate a particular interest in human relations and their range of potential impacts on human condition. They opt for an exposition of the facets of kinship and friendship in hardship through different contexts. Hardship, in this analysis, can refer to a situation of misery, i.e. economic precariousness, incarceration or death. These circumstances constitute the sample of hard moments chosen by the writers in their specific cultural contexts to disparage the falseness of human beings and human relations or to chant their true-heartedness. It is possible to notice that poverty, imprisonment and death are endowed with the potential to produce different attitudes on the part of kin and friends towards the suffering agent.

The typology of behaviors, in these novels, is a dictate of the type of relations between individuals and the nature of hardship endured by some characters. The cultural environments in which the stories are rooted are also of paramount importance, not to mention the evolution of societies and mentalities which showcases new and different perceptions of human relations.

The representation of kinship and friendship relies, in The Great Gatsby and Le Revenant, on a narrative technique consisting of two main phases in the lives of the heroes. There is a prehardship phase and a post-hardship phase which allow the writers to lay bare the evolution of interpersonal relations in the novels. However, depending on the background against which each novel is set, there is a visible difference in the importance attached to each phase. In Le Revenant, for instance, the negative change in mentality that marks the post-independence Senegalese people informs Sow Fall's insight. The continuing decay of human relationships in Senegalese modern society inspired almost a whole generation of female and male writers as the destiny of the people and the future outcome of this process is more than scary. The greed for money and material goods that characterize the Senegalese society spoils all appetites for human relations. Kinship and friendship have received a heavy coup which has turned them into easilybroken relations.

Aminata Sow Fall, in opting for this sociological bias, steps a route that diverges from her African counterparts' pathway. Le Revenant came out in a context where women's literature is meant to denounce male chauvinism and deconstruct the patriarchal schema that governs almost all African societies. Female writers like the Senegalese Mariama Ba, the Nigerians Buchi Emecheta and Flora Nwapa, to list but a few, had shown something referable to a complicity in their approach to gender relations in many African societies. Their writings were nothing else but a collective attack on male dominance and an attempt to restore social justice and women dignity. Sow Fall's inclination looks exceptional among her peers and, in the eyes of many feminist critics, she was deferring the dream to see all women writers castigating the subaltern status that was unfairly allotted to the female "subject".

Sow Fall's choice is the polar opposite of the current ideological tendency. The deterioration of human condition is the outcome of the lingering scorn that human relations in Senegalese modern society are the butt of. To Sow Fall's great astonishment, women are looked on as culprits. The unyielding appetite for money and worldliness that characterizes women in the novel gives birth to a severe tone that charges them with being responsible for the social decadence and the degradation of human condition. And, because she is considered to be mischievous by parting from the track charted by women writers of the moment, Sow Fall appears as the unloved child of the feminist literary criticism. Athleen Ellington (1992) accuses her of representing a tarnished image of post-independence women in Senegalese. …

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