Literature As An Inquiry Into The Meaning Of Life

3050 words - 12 pages

In this essay, the two novels under review are Chukwuemeka Ike’s Conspiracy of Silence and NgugiWaThiong’o’sWizard of the Crow. These novels are chosen because the authors make extensive comments on human conditions in societies. Chukwuemeka Ike uses Conspiracy of Silenceto attack the Igbo tradition which attaches undue importance to children especially the male children. This undue importance makes it possible for the society to be flooded with children who find it problematic either to live with or even to identify their biological fathers. Ike exposes different causes of fatherlessness for the general public to see and make mockery of. The Igbo tradition encourages a childless or sonless woman to marry her fellow woman, so that she will bear her children who will perpetuate her dead husband’s lineage. The questions that quickly come to one’s mind here are: How can a woman marry another woman? Can she impregnate the wife? The answers are obvious. A woman cannot impregnate another woman. The novel makes us to understand that what the “woman husband” does is to identify a man within the extended family to produce the babies, and warns the young bride not to stray. This arrangement has to be done secretly so that the man’s wife does not know about it. No wonder, then, that the children produced out of this type of arrangement are usually deprived of father-child relationship. Since they cannot identify openly with their fathers, even when they have the special grace of knowing who their fathers are, for many are not let into the secret. This makes them to grope around in ignorance. It is important to note the problem this tradition has created for such children: to deprive them of the knowledge of or the association with their biological fathers is a great sin against any child. Fathers play very important roles in the upbringing of children but these children are denied these roles. Their lives are not balanced and, as such, they cannot be happy. Life has no meaning for them.
In Igbo tradition, a woman who has not produced a son for her husband has no claim over anything in her husband’s house and compound. The tradition does not recognize her. That is why the wealthy industrialist’s wife, in Nduka’s story to Ayo, marries a wife who will bear her sons even though she has six brilliant daughters. Her husband has deserted her and married a second wife, not minding that she has been a pillar of support as he struggles from ashes to riches. This is a great injustice against the senior wife since a woman does not determine the sex of her children. Naturally, this isdone by men. For such a woman, life has no meaning any more for her because she is no longer happy. But she does not want to lose out completely. To stamp her position in the husband’s house, Nduka tells Ayo that “the senior wife married her own wife so as to produce her own sons who would guarantee a permanent place for her in her husband’s compound” (46). Ike ridicules a situation where...

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