Original Research

‘An augury of the world’s ruin’ and the making of the tragic hero in Chinua Achebe’s Arrow of God

Ignatius Chukwumah
Literator | Vol 37, No 1 | a1192 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/lit.v37i1.1192 | © 2016 Ignatius Chukwumah | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 02 March 2015 | Published: 30 June 2016

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Ignatius Chukwumah, Department of English and Literary Studies, Federal University, Nigeria


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Abstract

Chinua Achebe’s Arrow of God has been adjudged by critics as a tragic work with Ezeulu as its tragic hero. However, none of these studies has paid detailed attention to the framing of Ezeulu in the historical context of his age. How he appears when compared to a classical Greek tragic hero has also been ignored. A major context giving rise to Ezeulu becoming a tragic hero is the period leading to the synthesis of two contrary histories, juxtaposed discourses and the collision of opposites and contraries in the sociocultural and political sphere of the villages of Umuaro and Okperi. This circumstance is captured by the narrator as ‘an augury of the world’s ruin’, by Nwaka as ‘the white man turned us upside down’ and by Ezeulu as ‘the world is spoilt and there is no longer head or tail in anything that is done’. Allen, an earlier District Commissioner in Things Fall Apart, but textually implicated in Arrow of God, terms it ‘great situations’. The above historical context requires more than mastery and acknowledgement by the tragic figure, in the absence of which he, a self-professed knowledgeable person, becomes a victim of what he failed to take into account. Consequently, he is set aside as a specimen for history and other men. This article will use Hegel’s and Aristotle’s theories of history and of tragedy, respectively, to explicate the above. It concludes that the tragic hero of Chinua Achebe’s Arrow of God is substantially the victim of the clash between Umuaro’s history and Hegel’s History.

’n Teken van die wêreld se ondergang en die skepping van die tragiese held in Chinua Achebe se Arrow of God. Chinua Achebe se boek, Arrow of God, word deur kritici beskryf as ’n tragedie met die karakter Ezeulu as held. Niemand het egter noukeurige aandag geskenk aan hoe Ezeulu inpas in die gapings van botsende geskiedenisse soos vergestalt in die mens ten opsigte van hulle optredes, houdings, vrese en begeertes nie. Hoe hy voorkom in teenstelling met ’n klassieke Griekse tragiese held, is ook geïgnoreer. ’n Belangrike onderlinge verband wat aanleiding gee tot Ezeulu se status as tragiese held is die tydperk wat lei tot die samevoeging van twee verskillende geskiedenise naas diskoerse en die botsing van teenoorgesteldes in die sosiokulturele en politieke sfeer van die dorpies Umuaro en Okperi. Hierdie omstandighede is deur die verteller uitgebeeld as ’n teken van die wêreld se ondergang: deur Nwaka as: ‘the white man turned us upside down’ en deur Ezeulu as ‘the world is spoilt and there is no longer head or tail in anything that is done’. Allen, ’n vorige distrikskommissaris in Things Fall Apart, wat aansluit by Arrow van God, noem dit ‘great situations’. Bogenoemde historiese konteks vereis meer as die bemeestering en erkenning deur die tragiese figuur, ’n selfverklaarde kundige persoon, in die afwesigheid daarvan dat hy ’n slagoffer word van wat hy versuim het om in ag te neem. Gevolglik word hy tersyde gestel as ’n voorbeeld vir die geskiedenis en ander mans. In hierdie artikel sal Hegel en Aristoteles se teorieë van die geskiedenis en van ’n tragedie, onderskeidelik, gebruik word om bogenoemde uiteen te sit. Die gevolgtrekking is dat die tragedie held van Chinua Achebe se Arrow of God wesenlik die slagoffer van die botsing tussen die geskiedenis van Umuaro en Hegel is.


Keywords

Arrow of God; Chinua Achebe; globalization; history in Nigerian literature; tragic hero in Nigerian literature; (post)colonialism.

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