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Proverbs, Proverbials, Characterization and Meaning: Towards a New Taxonomy of Reading Patriarchy in Achebe’s Things Fall Apart

Nelson O. Fashina


In this paper, I suggest that since literature is contemporaneous, Achebe’s Things Fall Apart remains a cultural and meaning producing artefact whose textual meanings cannot be exhausted without leaving a residue. I endeavor to counter earlier readings that consign the work to the limits of phallocentric discourse, which privileges the hegemony of patriarchy and alterity of female energy. I aver that within the spirit of the narrative (as revealed in Achebe’s psychic introspection of the characters’ repressed Id, and the veil of alternate masculine ego, the use of pro-gender proverbs, proverbials, cross-referencing, self-referencing, lexical reiteration and ironic castration of male energy), is Achebe’s insidious agenda, namely a systematic subversion and annihilation of patriarchy. The novel presents a people well equipped with wisdom-studded corpus of verbal reasoning and indigenous folk science through proverbs, who are never the less afflicted by gross, inept eruption of the human Id, which overwrites the ego-conscious level of identity. I construct a draft theory of negative/positive permutation schema which is sensitive as a compact generative principle (or grammar) of asymmetric paradigms of new masculinity or surreptitious subversion of patriarchy.

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JENdA: A Journal of Culture and African Women Studies. ISSN: 1530-5686 (online).
Editors: Nkiru Nzegwu; Book Editor: Mary Dillard.

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