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To Discuss the Relationship Between Structure and Meaning in the Palm Wine Drinker by Amos Tutuol

To Discuss the Relationship Between Structure and Meaning in the Palm Wine Drinker by Amos Tutuol

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Published by Shivana Allen

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Published by: Shivana Allen on Aug 09, 2010
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To discuss the relationship between structure and meaning in The Palm WineDrinker by Amos Tutuola and The Beautiful ones are not yet born by Ayi KweArmah.
African Prose fiction has adopted a variety of prose styles because of theexperiences of respective writes. Such writers use stylistics to determine the structure of their discourse as it could most effectively and often economically relate their intendedmeanings [issues].The Palm Wine Drinkard by Amos Tutuola and The Beautiful Ones Are Not YetBorn by Chinua Achebe are both political commentaries on post colonial Africa; thewriters present their respective themes via a range of structural elements that work tocreate a coherent piece of meaningful discourse.Works of prose fiction employ narrative structures to achieve specific aestheticeffects in their discourse. Both works listed can be categorized as having narrativestructures. The narrative is an integral part of African society as African literature hasevolved from oral traditions of story telling where the narrator was often relating anexperience of his own or another. Though both works may be considered as narrativesthey employ two stark variations of narration.The Palm Wine Drinkard is primarily told in the first person context. The reader is taken along with the drunkard himself as he journeys through the discourse. The use of the “I” persona allows for the thorough discussion of the novels themes through thecharacters unique perspective. The novel presents its main persona form the very first
word; it begins
“I was a Palm wine drunkard since I was a boy of ten years of age.”(Tutuola pg1)
However in Achebe’s there is a third person narrator present, namely “the Man”,in the case of Armah’s novel, there is the exploration of the Mans psyche as he looks atthe demoralization and corruption of the Ghanaian society. Armah’s novel constantlyslips into the stream of consciousness technique that further explores the man’s psyche.Beyond the narrative point of view, the narrative has specific structure; thenarrative is defined by its structure consisting an abstract, orientation, complication,resolution and Coda.Achebe’s novels follow this pattern to a point, there is however no real abstract tothe novel and he uses the orientation unconventionally, whereas the orientation isexpected to introduce his setting, context and characters directly. The context, of a Ghanafilled with greed and corruption of power is introduced very subtly, in the coursedescription of a bus conductors business transactions along with his appetite for moneyand power*the cedi. The bus that is held together by too much rot to ever fall completelyapart foreshadows his further descriptions of a Ghana so immersed in filth its seemsimpossible to ever be free of corruption.The main character of the novel is furthermore introduced very passively on thethird page of the novel
“The man was sitting in the back of the bus”
.(Armah pg3) He isnot named, especially notable in the earlier parts of the novel is the fact that a majority of his characters are not named compared to later on in the novel when characters areafforded names ad Koomsoon. Achebe here creates a universally valid character the man becomes like everyman he represents the mass of people that are exploited by political
corruption the unnamed masses. The novel further experiences complicating action at the point where Nkrumah regime is overthrown, the reader as been prepared for this via theuse of foreshadowing throughout the novel.The Palm wine drinker however, does not share the same narrative structure of the beautiful ones’, it does n fall into the general grouping of continuous prose it is on theconverse episodic and fragmented. The novel begins with an orientation that culminatesin the statement “
One fine morning, I took all my native juju and also my fathers jujuwith me and I left my father’s home own to find out whereabouts was my tapster who had died” (Tutuola pg 7).
Because of the episodic nature of the novel that is not divided intochapters. There occur throughout the narration a number of orientations at the beginningof each episode that give information as to the where the specific episode would be set,and about which character it now concerns. The first episode on his journey, the drunkardmeets and old man and his wife the beginning of the episode describes the bush and thefirst two characters he encounters. Each episode is marked by what at the end constitutesthe Coda; they all end very resolutely “this was how I brought death to the old man….”Or “This was the end of the story of the bag which I carried from the bush to the “wrongtown”. Each individual episode stands on its own.
“Tutuola undoubtedly followed a form of narrative structure first employed by D. O. Fagunwa, in his stories written inYoruba and published in the 1930's and 1940's. During this period Fagunwa was the best knownWriter of fiction in the Yoruba language. His sophisticated narratives drew inspiration from such diverse sources as The Bible, classical texts, Christian religious literature, aswell as from Yoruba folktales. Tutuola's early tales all adopt a similarly consistent 

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