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MERGER OF THEME AND STYLE IN CHIMAMANDA ADICHIE’S PURPLE HIBISCUS AND ZAYNAB ALKALI’S THE VIRTUOUS WOMAN
CHAPTER ONE: Introduction
1.1 Background of the Study
The relationship between language and literature has remained a subject of scholarly debate. While language is a set of words and phrases with meaning behind them, literature is the manipulation and use of those words and phrases to communicate the intended message.
In literature, language is meticulously crafted, not just to inform a reader but to persuade him, to play and poke at his mind. Consequently, there is this question whether content can exist independent of form or form independent of content or still whether both work together in actualization of aesthetics. In this regard, language comes under form, since it is the carriage-way through which the literary artist passes on his message which is content. It is obvious that understanding content involves understanding the medium that carries it and medium exists because it has content to pass across. Valery in Todrov (30) says that “literature is and cannot be anything but a kind of extension of application of certain properties of language”. Tratigal (28) also argues that “proficiency and competence in the use of language provide effective reading and proper understanding of desired experience in a work of art”. Spitzer quoted in Leech (2) states that “the smallest detail of language can unlock the “soul” of a literary work’’, showing the relationship between language and literature.
Language is solely or totally a human method of communicating ideas, emotions, desires and feelings by means of a system of voluntarily produced symbols. Just like the senses, language offers an opportunity for the articulation of life, and because of this, a novel attempts to reflect reality. A novelist through language expresses his emotions, experiences and thoughts. It is also through language he depicts his characters and their actions. Through the same language he creates and depicts the reality in the real world in his novel. The artistic coherence of a novel, therefore, depends on the writer’s manipulation of language as the success of the writer is judged by his language.
The study of literature, on the other hand, is the study of language use. To respond to any literary work/text one must as a matter of fact, critically understand the inter-relationship between form and content based on the principles of language. A good writer is revealed in the style and language he has created for himself. That is why every creative writer struggles with words in a bid to find the best way of expressing his themes, perceptions, ideas and sensations. Chukwukere in Mgbeadichie (2) says that “the inherent literary creation results from novelist’s failure to grasp fully and articulate skillfully those aspects of socio-literary phenomenon known as sensibility”. A novelist’s success or failure depends partly on his handling of the form, but more importantly, on his awareness of the nuances of language.
This is why Chimamanda Adichie’s and Zynab Alkali’s novels are interesting. They remain skillful artists who create societies with their linguistic peculiarities as seen in the dialogue, actions and behaviour of individuals in their novels. Sincerely speaking, stylistics provides a means of approaching the beauty of language in literature which the writers explore.
Stylistics could be viewed as a branch of linguistics which engages in the scientific study of style in both spoken and written texts. It recognises the relationship between form, context and content by making use of language. The word style is derived from Latin word “Stylus” meaning “Reed”. Reed is a stick for writing. Later, stylus metamorphosed into style. The word style can be given different meaning and as such, it is difficult to give a clear-cut definition of style but what is clear is that stylistics as a discipline originates from two separate and inter-related disciplines and these disciplines are linguistics and literary criticism.
The literary scholars and linguists have accepted stylistics to be a worthwhile discipline. In view of this, one can rightly say that stylistics had secured a place for itself in the field of literature and language irrespective of the diverse opinions expressed by scholars.
However, the definition that is given to style today depends on one’s field of study. Adejare (1992) makes this clear when he says that style is an ambiguous term. Many try to define it in terms of their professional calling. To a psychologist, style is a kind of behaviour; to a literary person it is the characteristics of the writer. A linguist defines style as the varieties and functions to which language is put.
Wallork (5) sees it as “that personal element of language which marks out one speaker or writer from another”. Another linguist, Skrelka (3) considers it as “the expressive system of literary work of an artist or an epoch”. Verdonk (3) sees it as “distinctive linguistic expression”. Ricoeur (30) also sees it as “… the art of persuasion, the aim of which was the mastery of public speech …”. These views from various linguists, however, show that style is an individual’s own way of manipulating language to convey his unique vision of life. Style can also be viewed as the recurrence and consistency of design as in prose, poetry, drama, hence prose style, poetic style, dramatic style, etc. Therefore, it means something characteristic of a genre. Such interpretation could also be extended to involve periods in classical style, medieval style, modern style, etc. Style is seen as a personal thing which has given rise to issues like Achebe’s style Shakespearian style, Adichie’s style, and Alkali’s style.
Style can be seen as the relationship between form and content, language and message. And this study is made possible through a branch of linguistics called stylistics. Stylistics, which is a linguistic study of style, deals with the treatment of variables in entire text. Its sole aim is to create a science of style. It explores how readers interact with the language of literary text in order to explain how we understand, and are affected by texts when we read them.
Furthermore, stylistics according to Verdonk (4), is “the analysis of distinctive expression in language and description of its purpose and effect”. It is also a sub-discipline which grew up in the second half of the 20th century. To Missikova(15), “stylistics is traditionally regarded as a field of study where the methods of selecting and implementing linguistic, extra- linguistic or artistic expressive means and devices in the process of communication are studied”.
In addition, stylistics is, in a rather popular sense, concerned with the application of the knowledge of linguistics to literary appreciation such as: a description of the language of a given author or some authors, an examination of literary style that appears to have deviated from the norm and comparison of styles which may be based on two or more books which are written by the same author or different authors.
Central to literary criticism also is the fact that stylistics deals with the use and perceptual effect of language. We must bear in mind that linkages and formal emphasis affect meaning. But when they are inappropriate, they distract the reader; thereby obstructing the flow of communication. Thus, as the application of linguistic features in the analysis of a literary text, stylistics which is seen as a discipline exists at the borderline between linguistic resources to produce a literary piece. Leech and Short (13) explain that stylistics has “implicitly or explicitly, the goal of explaining the relation between language and artistic function”. However, language is a communal property but individually used according to need and interest. An individual user only picks from the stock appropriate for his context of use at the point of need. Perhaps, a clearer understanding here could come from Saussure’s distinction between “langue” and “parole” where the former refers to language as system of rules or codes common to every user and the latter, a particular selection from this system by a user at a point. In line with this, Harari in Osuafor (126) argues that each text obeys “the rule of texture idiolect”. This suggests another argument that stylistics is a linguistic study of style where style refers to “how” what is realised.
Some scholars have escaped into stylistic analyses of literary texts which stops at identifying only literary elements without digging deep into their aesthetic values or linguistic inputs. Hence, a compartmentalized approach to stylistics in Warren and Welleck (178), maintain that it is “all devices for securing emphasis or explicitness”. Fowler (14) defines it as “the description of patterns at the level of form, specifically the identification of patterns by the arrangement of linguistic variables”.
However, as literature and language go hand in hand, there is rather an erroneous belief that artistic beauty only comes alive from the literary perspective, hence confining the idea of linguistics analysis to traditional syntax, morphology, phonology. Scholars with such view have not discovered the aesthetic gold mine in investigating issues like pragmatic and discourse essences in language use. Such a view also falls short of realising that even in the face of literary freedom by ways of poetic license or of figurative language, describability, analyzability and interpretability are important within the framework of linguistic definitions. Otherwise how can one settle the conflict between literary poetic license, and other figurative patterns and linguistic malapropism? The pragmatic identification of context variables and functionality of language to achieve intended objectives becomes important here.
To further explain the controversy there has been this temptation to ascribe stylistics to linguistic approach and style to literary approach. This “-ICS” at the last position in the word “stylistics” has its own semantic significance. It carries the same semantic property as in mathematics, statistics, linguistics, etc (ie + noun + science). So, it goes to show that stylistics is a quasi-science which studies style using linguistic means.
Just as a stylistic analyst studies a text, isolating the features of conformity and consistency as well as embracing deviation as they contribute to the overall understanding of the text Anyanwu (256), holds that “literary diction delights in unlimited experimentation with meaning”. This is why this study aims at examining the writers’ idiosyncrasy against the background of known linguistic standards. It aims at revealing how linguistic form is used to send across the writers’ desired messages.
The function of stylistics, therefore, is to examine features in a linguistic organisation and find out why those features have been used in that particular context. “Features” in this context refer to such units of speech and writing as phonemes, morphemes, syllables and words. Stylistics also indicates the literary significance of these features in a particular linguistic organisation. This exploration has not been properly done in Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus and Zynab Alkali’s The Virtuous Woman. This study is designed to do this and show how the authors have merged their style with the content.
Each utterance spoken or written exhibits features which distinguishes it from other linguistic utterances and these features give information about a person, his personality, status and nature of his speech. Since stylistics recognises patterns formed by the arrangement of linguistic variables, it therefore, concentrates on the differences among the messages generated in accordance with the rules of the code. Linguistics on the other hand, is concerned with the description of a code. Another distinction between stylistics and linguistics is that the maximum unit of analysis in linguistics is the sentence, while stylistic analysis is based on a larger unit- the text.
A stylistic analysis covers the three levels of language-Grammar, Phonology and Phonetics and Semantics. Grammar, which comprises morphology and syntax studies words, phrases, clauses and sentences but morphology examines the internal structure and formation of words. Syntax deals with the external sentence building while semantics on its part studies the meaning of linguistic units and exposes the patterns of thematic development as well as the characteristic figures of speech. Phonology and phonetics deal with speech sound and pattern of production. Thus, the conviction of this study is that linguistic interpretation derives so much from context of use. As far as literary text treats ontology of human realities, the interpretation of its language should be done against this background. And that is the main concern of this study.
Igwedibia (9) defines theme as “the philosophical idea or the main lesson that is implied in a work of art”. In contemporary literary studies, a theme is the central topic a text treats. Kelley (2010) says that themes can be divided into two categories: what readers “think the work is all about” and “what the work says about the subject”.
However, it is worthy of note that stories differ and characters change but the basic themes remain the same in literature. This is why some themes in English literature are evergreen. Since people have different ways of looking at the same thing, interpretations of themes in literature differ from one person to another.
Almost all sorts of themes have been dealt with in English literature as a result, it is almost impossible to find a theme that has remained untouched by poets and writers of different eras. A story may have several themes. Here are some of the basic themes in literature which have been employed by poets and authors time and again.
Love Conquers All
From the ages, the theme of love is at the centre in literature. Love is often presented as something that one cannot do without therefore, he/she does not hesitate to die for it.
Family is the backbone of the relationships and so, it is one of the most common themes in literature. If you read Jane Austen, family and domesticity is at the centre and it keeps coming in all sorts of modern literature.
Human struggles are inevitable part of literature which could be against society, or even against oneself. Human being is often shown as someone who is always struggling against one thing or another.
Inevitability of Death
Most literature show that fact- that death is inevitable. The author represents different stages of life that consist of grief, struggle and survival that inevitably lead towards death.
Honesty is the Best Policy
It is one of the most commonly occurring themes in literature. In most books, it is shown that it is good which triumphs over evil. Virtue or honesty is always rewarded.
Other themes include:
Violence, Freedom from Oppression, Alienation, Cultural Conflicts, etc. We must note that apart from plot, character, setting and style, theme is considered one of the fundamental components of fiction.
1.2 Objective of the Study
The objective of the study is to show the relationship that exists between language and literature; to show how language comes to life through literature and how the essence of literature dwells in the understanding of the use of language.
Therefore, the aim of this is to deal mainly with Chimamanda Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus and Zynab Alkali’s The Virtuous Woman as they relate to grammar and semantics from a stylistic angle. The researcher will also explore other linguistic features such as linguistic parallelism, violation of selection restriction rule, graph logical devices, etc as used in the novels under study. At the semantic level, the study discusses one of the striking features of one of the novels: the foregrounding of the title Purple Hibiscus which is set in motion as one of the major themes in the novels. At the grammatical level, the researcher examines the artists’ use of context and cohesion, symbols, to represent ideas and other forms like the use of lexical equivalents, and transliterations/Africanisms.
1.3 Significance of the Study
It is believed that this study will help in showing the relationship between language and literature, the inseparability of language and message, form and content. It shall also encourage inquiry into the work of “new” writers rather than concentrating on the over flooded “old ones”. “New” and “Old” are used relatively here, not in terms of number of works published nor span of years covered as writers. Rather, they are used in terms of critical attention received. This is evidenced by the international recognition the two authors under study received. Despite the fact that Chimamanda Adichie in Purple Hibiscus presented old themes just like Zynab Alkali, yet readers received their novels with open arms because of how they handled their themes/content stylistically.
Furthermore, although stylistics study can no longer be regarded as a new area of scholarly attention, there still seems to be greater emphasis on literary stylistics at the expense of linguistic stylistics. This study therefore, aims at looking at both literary and linguistic stylistics in both Purple Hibiscus and The virtuous woman in order to provide insight to teachers, students and new literary artists to use content and form to create beauty using language. It will also add to knowledge in that readers will understand that several themes can be developed stylistically in a single prose.
1.4 Scope of the Study
The study is concerned with the merger of theme and style in Chimamanda Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus and Zynab Alkali’s The Virtuous Woman. It recognizes that the domain of use is literary text and that the text is a medium through which content is communicated. Therefore, the study shall take a look at how literary artists make wide range of choices from the repertoire of language in the communication of their thematic content.
1.5 Research Problem
Before the novels Purple Hibiscus and The Virtuous Woman were produced, there have been several other novels dealing with religious fanaticism, post independence, socio-political disillusionment, feminism, slavery, etc yet readers still received these novels with strong admiration and commendation. And because little research has been conducted in the area of merger of theme and style as a feature in literary work, the researcher decided to write on this topic in order to contribute to existing body of literature in the field. Many researchers have explored Adichie’s works and many have also examined Alkali’s novels from different perspectives but not much has been done to examine the effectiveness of their merger of theme and style as a stylistic approach. This explains, therefore, why this research is designed to explore these works from the perspectives of merger of the theme and style by the authors. Every work of Art explores the resources of language but what makes the difference between one novel and another, for instance, is usually the ability of the authors to project the theme and message of the work through a skillful manipulation of the language.