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In today’s class, we will be talking more about reading and analyzing African prose: Lonely Days by Bayo Adebowale. Enjoy the class!
Reading and Analyzing African Prose: Lonely Days by Bayo Adebowale
THEMES IN LONELY DAYS
THE AGONY OF WIDOWHOOD:
Lonely Days relates the agonies of widowhood; it shows the effects of unjust widowhood rites and rituals on women. Yaremi, Fayoyin, Radeke and Dedewe all suffer maltreatment and deprivations because they are widows. The loss of a loved one is demoralizing on its own, adding unwarranted punishments to it is simply unreasonable. Widows suffer from discrimination and marginalization. They are made to sing dirges and confess sins that they did not commit. Fayoyin, for instance, is made to lick libation and sing a dirge. The people sprinkle cold water on her head to make it easier for the barber to shave her hair. Fayoyin’s appearance is terribly altered after the hair-shaving episode. Dewede is also made to confess her ‘sins’; she is forced to sit beside her husband’s corpse inside a dark room.
The three widows during a visit to Yaremi tell her of how they sank deep into despair when they lost their husbands and how “a thick cloud gathered in our sky covering our earth in pithy darkness”. Widowhood in kufi, as in many other places, especially rural communities, means a loss of dignity and social status. Widows have many things in common, “they shed tears for the same purposes and laughed the same hollow laughter with the tip of their tongues”. They all look the same in their black widow’s garment. The widows state emphatically that they are “the subjugated people of the world with no hope and no security!”. They face societal restrictions and maltreatment. Widowhood dehumanizes and reduces the affected woman from a high pedestal of respect which comes with marriage to the butt of every joke and topic for gossip and romantic advances from unreliable suitors. Yeremi is pestered by Olonade, Ayanwale and Lanwa, each boasting of his great ability to meet all of Yeremi’s needs. Lanwa even tells Yeremi that he is entitled to Ajumobi’s human and material property because he is Ajumobi’s half-brother. The woes of widowhood are devastating.
LONELINESS AND SOLITUDE:
The widow suffers loneliness and solitude; she is alone, from dawn till dusk, a castaway. Yaremi’s case is especially pathetic because her children are now adults and they do not live in Kufi. Segi lives with her husband at Olode; Wura with her husband at Apon; and Alani lives in Ibadan. Woye, her grandchild, whose company she enjoys, is soon taken away from her. Thus, for Yaremi, loneliness is a loyal companion.
To combat loneliness, Yaremi makes Woye, her grandchild, her companion. She tells him stories and they sing together. She also recalls her times with Ajumobi, both the good times and the seemingly bad moments. She recounts his care, his love and his tenderness. She tends his grave often. She even dreams about him.
Yaremi’s loneliness is heightened after her refusal to pick a cap at the cap-picking ceremony. The villagers after the incident begin to avoid her. They are reluctant to share pleasantries with her. Alani, her son that she had thought would stay back in Kufi and manage his father’s property, announces to Yaremi’s amazement that he is returning to the city.
Lonely Days is a testament to Yaremi’s loneliness and the fact that lonely days still lie ahead of her. For Yaremi, there is no hope that the lonely days would ever end; she is nevertheless willing to face the days that lie ahead without fear or fright.
THE DIGNITY OF LABOUR:
The narrative underscores the fact that if women would be empowered, they must have something doing, that is they must be engaged in meaningful occupation. Yaremi, the protagonist, in addition to her taffeta business, has a farm. The narrative stresses the need for women to be hardworking and diligent at work. Yaremi can stand tall and face the men of Kufi because she is self-sufficient. She stands by her decision not to replace Ajumobi with any other man because the proceed from her work can cater to needs.
Yaremi is forced to work alone. She does all the work, both the one that belongs to her gender and those that women are not supposed to in. she treks to long distance to her husband’s farm to uproot cassava root for her goats. She dries maize in the sun. She makes and sells taffeta cloth, she threshes bean- seeds, tends cocoyam, stitches her old quilts, all without complaining. She is surprised when a woman remarks that she gradually becoming a man. Her hands are harsh from the hard labour she preoccupies herself with. Even her voice is becoming authoritative and sharp and her gait has become restive.
- Yaremi: Yaremi is the heroine of the novel she once had a husband, Ajumobi, and three children. They are Segi, Wura and Alani. She is portrayed as a lonely woman in her early fifty. Though lonely, she is hardworking, generous and knows what she wants. The latter informs her decision not to marry after the death of her husband. At the end of the work, is ostracized from Kufi but determines to fight it out with her last blood.
- Ajumobi: Ajumobi was the husband of Yaremi three children. The writer informs the reader that he died nine months before the narration begins. He was a hunter and farmer. He played the roles of a husband while he was alive. We see him as a talkative and a booster especially when he’s drunk. Yaremi sees his death as a good one but the villagers see it in the other way round. From the little we could harvest from his wife, he is a hardworking, devoted and compassionate husband.
- Woye: Woye is the grandson of Yaremi and her mother is Segy. He is an innocent boy full of life and humour. He plays the role of a companion to the grandmother. The grandmother teaches him how to be hardworking.
- Describe the main character in the work.
- Describe two minor characters in the wok.
In our next class, we will be talking about Themes and Characterization of the work. We hope you enjoyed the class.
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