Disclaimer: This is an example of a student written essay.
Click here for sample essays written by our professional writers.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of UKEssays.com.

Postcolonial literature

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 3326 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

Reference this

Postcolonial Literatures in English

Title: What do you understand by the term postcolonial within the field of literary studies? You should refer to at least two texts you have read on the course.

‘Without responsibility, straddling Nothingness and Infinity, I began to weep.’ This comment of Fanon’s about the frustration of the inability to free ones black self from the oppressive aspects of racism and colonisation echoes through much of the postcolonial literature that has been studied throughout the course. Postcolonial literature refers to texts written about the effects of colonial rule after ‘the very first moment of colonial contact’. Postcolonial authors often originate from colonised countries and, it seems to be the case that those writing about the consequences of colonisation have themselves encountered existence at the hand of the colonisers however; this is not always the case.

Get Help With Your Essay

If you need assistance with writing your essay, our professional essay writing service is here to help!

Essay Writing Service

What I aim to accomplish in this essay is to reveal the varied effects of colonisation on the colonised people in two of the texts that I have read on the course. I will be relating the experiences of those in Nervous Conditions, written by Tsitsi Dangarembga, alongside the occurrences in Miguel Street, written by V.S Naipaul. Although these two books are written by different authors and relay vastly contrasting happenings, there are significant similarities in both books which cannot be overlooked. Themes of childhood, education and struggle inevitably communicate through both novels in similar ways. What is most remarkable however is the method different characters in each narrative use in response to the strains caused, inevitably, by colonisation.

Nervous Conditions, set in Zimbabwe around the 1960s or 1970s, portrays the developing life of a young female, also the narrator of the book, named Tambu. This coming-of-age novel reveals not only the trials and tribulations of the main female character but, it shows the ordeals suffered by her surrounding family. Likewise the narrator in Miguel Street also takes on the persona of a child however, this novel is set in Trinidad and the narrator is unnamed. The reader is aware that the unidentified speaker is male and this fact presents interesting contrasts between the two Bildungsroman novels with relation to male and female experiences under colonisation. The weight of Miguel Street conveys the lives of the unnamed storyteller’s friends and neighbours, rather than his direct family. That said, both of the postcolonial authors disclose their narratives directly from the focal point of colonised communities, coincidently both of which have political conflict in their back-drops.

I found the theme of childhood very prominent throughout my reading of both Dangarembga’s and Naipaul’s novels. Both authors’ use of children as narrators created a sincere naivety – something which I do not feel would have been achievable through more experienced relaters. However, I am not suggesting that everything related in the narratives is entirely impartial. Both children, Tambu and the unnamed narrator, encounter, and illustrate to the reader, their lives after the initial occurrence of colonialism on their very different countries. Both young people also experience extreme poverty but, of course whilst Tambu is initially raised on the homestead, the latter develops in to an adult in a much more industrial area. These contrasting, yet ironically similar, lifestyles in the texts reveal the collective impact that colonisation can have on citizens oppressed by colonial rule, irrelevant of their precise locations.

Although there are definite similarities between the experiences of Tambu and the unnamed narrator, womanhood serves as an extremely prominent theme in Nervous Conditions. Miguel Street, on the other hand, focuses the reader’s main attention on the experiences of male hood. This is not to suggest that the women in Naipaul’s novel do not encompass a purpose, I am merely implying that, through my reading of the text, the male occurrences in the novel are at the forefront of the reader’s attention. The opening line of Dangarembga’s novel, ‘I was not sorry when my brother died.’ immediately insinuates that the novel will contain some aspects of struggle and resistance. What is most remarkable however is the fact that this powerful statement is declared by a female character, a character that is of a young age at the death of her sibling. Tambu is clearly seen to suffer at the hands of her brother, right up until his death. The narrator’s destitute parents use what little income they obtain to send Nhamo to school. This lack of money for educational means highlights the inability of poor, black families, living in colonial areas, of ever ridding themselves from such their current situations. However, the narrator’s destitute parent’s decision to provide schooling solely for the male child of the family reveals an awfully apparent situation of female inequality. Nhamo’s harsh words towards Tambu, after her attempts to grow maize in order to send herself to school, provide a fine example of the oppression felt by the women in the novel. Nhamo uses Tambu’s femaleness to belittle her when he remarks, ‘Did you really think you could send yourself to school?’ This satisfactory tone in Nhamo’s words, as well as his unkindness in stealing Tambu’s maize, reveals the double struggle experienced by the women in text. Ma’Shingayi, Tambu’s mother, poignantly highlights the situation of black women when she informs her daughter that life for her, ‘with the poverty of blackness on one side and the weight of womanhood on the other’, will not be trouble-free. The women in Nervous Conditions endure domination in two different ways; not only are the females in the novel subjugated for being black, they are also repressed for being women.

Further evidence in the novel of female strain is through the use of Nyasha and her mother, Maiguru. Although both women are black, they are educated and are reasonably wealthy in comparison with Tambu’s direct family. Nevertheless, Maiguru and her daughter inevitably still suffer nervous conditions. Nyasha’s personal toil becomes extremely apparent when she brawls with her father, Babamukuru. Babamukura, the head and main provider for his entire family is highly educated and greatly respected. On Babamukuru’s return from England with his family, Jeremiah, Tambu’s father, repeatedly refers to his brother as ‘Our returning prince.’ There is a great family celebration and the entire family is relieved at their ‘returning hero [‘s] homecoming. The obvious reason for the admiration of Babamukura is his educative status. Tambu, later in the novel, relates her uncle’s education with his superiority when she remarks, ‘he had made himself plenty of power. Plenty of power. Plenty of money. A lot of education. Plenty of everything.’ Unfortunately however, Babamukuru’s educated daughter and wife do not experience equivalent praise and control. Nyasha and her father, after a continuing conflict of principles, furiously exchange physical blows. Babamukuru scolds her daughter for defying his morals and eventually ‘condem[ns her] to whoredom’.

In contrast to Nyasha’s weighty presence in the novel is the heavy absence of her brother Chido. For example, Chido does not attend the Christmas celebrations with his family at the homestead. Unlike Nyasha, Chido is given full reign to do whatever he pleases and go wherever he desires. Although Babamukuru is ‘disappointed’ that his son will not be accompanying his relatives, there is no transference of harsh words between the two males. It seems to be the case that Babamukuru is gloomy at his son’s absence not for the reason of dissatisfaction but for the loss of well-educated male company. The aspect of female inferiority is all too obvious through the contrasting attitudes of Babamukuru towards his son and daughter. Nyasha, according to Tambu, is ‘a victim of her femaleness,’ a ‘Femaleness as opposed and inferior to maleness.’ Evidence of the accuracy poignant comment about female suffering in the novel is not sparse. Nyasha’s development of an eating disorder, along with her mental breakdown later in the novel, reveals that not only is Nyasha affected psychologically by her suppression but her physical self is also jeopardised. It is clear that Nyasha loses her sense of self through visiting England and then returning to her country of origin, Zimbabwe. Nyasha confesses her personal damage to Tambu when she claims that she and her brother are ‘hybrids’. Tambu also experiences her cousin’s alter ego when she is searching for Nyasha shortly before leaving to attend Sacred Heart. Tambu sadly finds Nyasha ‘reminding her of the closed girl who had come from England in a pink mini-dress, not the cousin and friend she had mellowed into in the three years since then.’ The extremity of Nyasha’s condition becomes clear on Tambu’s return from the convent school. Tambu describes Nyasha as ‘grotesquely unhealthy from the vital juices she flushed down the toilet’ and, she gives the reader a commentary of her nervous breakdown. After Nyasha ‘rampaged, shredding her history books between her teeth, breaking mirrors, her clay pots,… and jabbing the fragments viciously into her flesh’, her parents finally realise that their daughter is genuinely suffering. Nyasha’s uncertainty about where she belongs and, according to Tambu’s mother, ‘the Englishness’, ultimately leads to her downfall.

Similar to the frustrations felt by Nyasha, although not to the same extremity, are the hardships experienced by Maiguru. Maiguru, although educated, does not receive comparable respect to Babamukuru, from Tambu’s direct family. Whilst Tambu’s uncle is welcomed home with an almost royal status, Maiguru attracts little of the praise given by the relatives. Maiguru is belittled by Babamukuru’s family and Babamukuru provides her with no real support For example, Lucia remarks to Maiguru, ‘’Don’t worry yourself, Maiguru. The matter concerns Babamukuru.’ This dismissal by Lucia, along with constant disagreement with Babamukuru about the running of her own household inevitably causes Maiguru to leave her family however she is never really able to escape her situation. Nyasha solemnly claims that her mother’s homecoming is ‘such a waste’ with regards to Maiguru having the possibility to better her lifestyle. Maiguru obviously feels that inevitably she should be at home with her family however, it is clear that this believed duty is at the expense of a career of her own. Although the educated Maiguru does have an opportunity for escape, the restraints of her family life are holding her back from a desired profession. It seems to be the case that for the women in Nervous Conditions, to escape from colonial lands and male oppression, one has to leave their family life behind them.

By exploring the life experiences of Nyasha and her mother, it can without doubt be supposed that education for women does not offer the same power that it puts forward for men. It would seem that for women, irrelevant of their schooling, there really is no real escape from colonialism or their own men. Fanon, although a highly influential writer, does not tend to regard femaleness in his writings. Fanon claims, ‘My blackness was there… And it tormented me, pursued me, disturbed me, angered me.’ Although these aspects are extremely apparent to the black men in Miguel Street, Nervous Conditions reveals Fanon’s experiences being largely dedicated female characters. However, as we have already seen, Dangarembga’s women are not only imprisoned by their black but also by their femaleness, by men. Nervous Conditions, its title being taken from the introduction by Jean-Paul Sartre to Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth, is unmistakably a feminist re-writing of Fanon.[1]

Contrasting with the women as the main focal point in Nervous Conditions, it is the men’s experiences and struggles in Miguel Street which makes up the bulk of the novel. Although some of the women in Naipaul’s novel are seen as victims at the hands of men, the males in the book are often seen as equally foolish, if not more so than the women. Whilst Babamukuru is highly respected by most in Nervous Conditions, Naipaul’s George is seen as extremely idiotic and compared to a ‘donkey’. After the death of George’s wife, whom the reader is led to assume died at the hands of her husband, the unnamed narrator remarks how George ‘went about crying in the streets, beating his chest’. This mocking, monkey-like image is far from the genteel representation of Babamukuru. Another illustration of male mocking in the novel is through the use of Man-man. Laughter is a substantial theme in Miguel Street and almost everyone in the novel, at some point, laughs or is laughed at. Man-man is no exception. After it is revealed that Man-man always receives ‘exactly three votes’ when he puts himself ‘up for every election’, Hat remarks that ‘Perhaps [it] is two jokers’ that have voted for Man-man, as well as himself. The idea that this male figure only obtains electoral support from two people who are ultimately ridiculing his sense of self emphasises male weakness in the novel. The scorning towards Man-man continues when he is illustrated as the ultimate irrational fool. After deciding to ‘crucify his-self’, Man-man remarks to the surrounding people, “Stone, stone, STONE me, brethren!’ Although this behaviour is absurd, I as a reader could sympathise with Man-man for his attempt at escape from the confines of his life. However, as soon as the male extremist shouts, ‘I go settle with that son of a bitch who pelt a stone at me.’, the bafflement simply conveys Man-man as ludicrous.

Inevitably, the contempt shown towards many of the male figures in the novel could be due to Naipaul’s own personal hatred of Caribbean people. Naipaul was treated extremely badly by his Afro-Caribbean neighbours, which inevitably led to an acquired detestation for them that still remains to this day.[2] Some postcolonial countries go so far as to view Naipaul as a racist.[3] On the other hand, the use of characters such as George and Man-man may be for sympathetic devises. Man-man is conveyed as a pathetic character however, his search for a sense of self echoes the behaviour of Nyasha in Nervous Conditions. The narrator remarks, ‘The authorities kept [Man-man] for observation, Then for good.’ This occurrence highlights a double oppression. Not only is Man-man’s sense of self trapped by colonialism but it is also confined by law enforcement. Similarly, Nyasha is trapped by her femaleness as well as by colonialism. Both characters produced in me a sense of pity; both individuals act irrationally to attempt to free themselves from their surrounding restraints however there is no escape for either.

Although most of the male figures in Nervous Conditions are revealed as ridiculous, Elias, the son of the detested George, makes real attempts at bettering his life, and inevitably escaping from life in Miguel Street, through schooling. The narrator claims, ‘I was prepared to believe that [Elias] would become a doctor some day.’ Unfortunately however, the young man is unable to achieve the desired grades and is destined to life as a cart driver. The inability to escape from his disheartening destiny, without appropriate qualifications, highlights further the importance of education. Without education, men in the novel have no choice but to exist in poverty in colonial lands. Due to Naipaul’s negative judgements of Caribbean people there is some ambiguity in the narrative about whether Elias’ situation is presented by the author to generate sympathy or scorn. The fact that Elias has lost his mother generated compassion however, the use of other characters in the novel that reveal wasted chances due to lazy and brainless suggests that Elias exists in the novel just as another dim-witted black man.

Find Out How UKEssays.com Can Help You!

Our academic experts are ready and waiting to assist with any writing project you may have. From simple essay plans, through to full dissertations, you can guarantee we have a service perfectly matched to your needs.

View our services

Another possible case of Naipaul’s contempt is through the use of Titus Hoyt. Although Titus Hoyt is shown as reasonably intelligent and is regarded with an evident admiration, mainly by the narrator, his achievements do not compare with those of Babamukuru. Although both Babamukuru and Titus Hoyt eventually run schooling institutions, the latter is made to seem like a fool in front of his students. For example, when Titus Hoyt battles to teach his associates Latin Boyee remarks, ‘Mr Titus Hoyt, I think you making up all this, you know, making it up as you go along.’ The accusative statement ultimately disparages Titus Hoyt and reflects the lack of achievements of some of the more obviously senseless characters in Naipaul’s novel. Even when Titus Hoyt finally gets recognition through having his photograph placed in the local newspaper, there is a suggestion that through the anonymity of the student who apparently wrote the correspondence , he composed a letter to himself praising his own ‘virtue’. Even the description of Titus Hoyt as ‘pop-eyed’ in the photograph makes the teacher appear as a counterfeit of success. Recognition is an important factor for most of the men in Miguel Street however it seems that there is always some underlying factor which is preventing them from succeeding. Whilst the struggle of colonised lands is extremely apparent throughout this novel, it cannot be ignored that perhaps Naipaul is prohibiting the triumph of the Caribbean male figures for his own satisfaction.

Although the men in Miguel Street are shown as foolish and disaster-prone compared to Babamukuru, some of the male figures in Nervous Conditions are also portrayed as idle. Tambu’s father, Jeremiah, for example, is shown as an extremely futile man, depending on the successes of his brother to support him and his family. It emerges that whilst ‘Babamukuru had defied’ ‘the weight of his poverty.’, Jeremiah had merely ‘cringed’ ‘under the evil wizards’ spell’, the spell that is inevitably colonial rule. The use of Jeremiah as a character may be for the purpose of a mocking devise by Dangarembga to highlight Tambu’s success as a woman in comparison with her father’s failure as a man. Conversely, Dangarembga’s use of a character like Jeremiah may also be to highlight the importance of education and, to reveal that men can suffer frustration just as women can.

It becomes clear that nobody in either novel really escapes the oppressions of colonialism. Whilst the failures in Miguel Street are all too apparent, Nervous Conditions promote more subtle disappointments, mainly through women. Although the unnamed narrator gets away from Miguel Street at the end of the novel, it is only through his his mother’s bribing that he is able to do this. Furthermore, although Tambu physically breaks away from her toils through genuine personal achievement, there is a psychological part of herself that remains with her previous life.

Fanon’s comment at the opening of the essay cleverly fits in to both Dangarembga and Naipaul’s novels, as well as much of the other postcolonial texts I have encountered on this course. The frustration







Cite This Work

To export a reference to this article please select a referencing stye below:

Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.

Related Services

View all

DMCA / Removal Request

If you are the original writer of this essay and no longer wish to have your work published on UKEssays.com then please: