Academic journal article The Journal of Pan African Studies (Online)

Critical Reflection on Values in Nigerian Literature: Pathways for Igbo Society

Academic journal article The Journal of Pan African Studies (Online)

Critical Reflection on Values in Nigerian Literature: Pathways for Igbo Society

Article excerpt


The study focused on critical analysis of the Igbo value system and how it was represented or misrepresented in Chinua Achebe's 'Things Fall Apart', 'Arrow of God' and 'No Longer at Ease '. Igbo culture which is known as (Igbo: Omenala ndi Igbo) are a system of the customs, practices and traditions of the Igbo people of southeastern Nigeria. It comprises archaic practices as well as new concepts added into the Igbo values either by cultural evolution or by outside influence. These values form a system of customs and traditions including the Igbo people's visual art, music and dance forms, as well as their attire, cuisine and language dialects.

Because of their various subgroups, the variety of their culture is heightened further. Therefore, to understand the values of the Igbo of Nigeria, there is a need to interrogate the way it was represented in Chinua Achebe's work. With my personal knowledge and experience as an Igbo person accompanied with the early works of Chinua Achebe selected for this study, the concern of this paper will enjoy a deep scholarly reflection.

In the light of the above, before engaging with the nature of value systems in Chinua Achebe's works as this topic stipulates, it is imperative to further attempt a clarification of the concept of cultural values and put the way cultural values was portrayed in these selected Nigerian literature on trial. From a literal perspective, cultural values could be synonymous to inheritance, legacy, birth right or even custom and tradition. It is necessary to note that the presence of value systems as manifested in culture in the books has not eliminated some of the controversies and the contestations about cultural values.

Rationale and Motivation for the Study

The pertinent question this research is trying to answer is why are Igbo in Nigeria so interested in western values and not on Igbo or African values? How values systems represented in the works of Chinua Achebe became a necessary choice is because some of his writing has become like a bible to schools and curriculum in Nigeria. The findings of this research will help to understand in the words of Achebe "where the rain started beating us" as African people. Recent findings has shown that the over importation of foreign ideas and culture is eroding Igbo values in modern Nigeria. Nigerians in general and Igbo in particular have gone through enough trials and transformation in the nation's values that younger generation should know about through literature.

However, the opposite is the case, the more people read these literary stories which were based on traditional African stories, and the more they lean towards western values. Therefore, in the context it is necessary to understand how African literature has the potential to play a significant part in the paradigm shift in Igbo society. This makes these Achebe's work a critical element in this discourse because its depiction of Igbo values and cultural heritage greatly affects or enrich the views of readers in the African society.

Furthermore, I am also keen to look beyond the selected works of Achebe and extend my search to what extent to which these neo-colonial influences have had on authors of these selected novels in the representations of Igbo value system as topics in these particular literature which situates the purpose here as a parameter to gauge how Igbo values are represented in Chinua Achebe's work.

Significance of Study

Igbo values were never an intended outcome of the study of literature under colonial rule. It was only after 1960 that issues of Igbo values started to be part of the public debates in education and other circles but in a neo-colonial manner. Therefore, this led to criticisms of biased interpretation of values and geopolitics by various authors. Looking closely at the content of the Nigerian literature reveals how Igbo value were represented in a negative light within a western narrative which always dehumanise African culture. …

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