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The Travails Of The African Woman: Reflection Of Adebayo Abayomi’S Stay With Me And Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo’S The Last Of The Strong Ones


1.1  Background of the study


This study aimed to evaluate the Travail of the African woman: Reflection of Adebayo Abayomi’s Stay With Me and  Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo’s The Last of the Strong Ones. These writers use fiction to express African female oppression emanating from patriarchy and colonialism. The writers realized the need for an agency to speak out on behalf of other women to dissolve their subjugation so that both genders can contribute equally in the family and public spheres. Their construction of literary voices is a way of discussing and sabotaging the patriarchal society of oppression. Kivai (2010) states that African female writers like Flora Nwapa, Buchi Emecheta, Tsitsi Dangarembga, Ama Ata Aidoo, Akachi Adimora among others, have written stories seeking to eliminate women’s marginal positions, and that their texts give the courage to the readers to expose subjugation and inequality . It is the aim of these writers to pronounce that there should be economic, social and political equality between men and women.


In furtherance of the argument on the importance of women writing about the female experience in literary texts, Aidoo (1996) submits that, ―Women writers write about women because when we wake up in the morning and look in the mirror we see women”.


Many female writers try to bring into focus their femaleness/femininity and personal experiences in their narratives and in doing so highlight power differences between men and women. As a result, women scholars and activists have pioneered a literary canon built on sexual politics aimed at stamping gender and feminism into both criticism and theory. This is with the aim  of replacing a tradition that is viewed as masculine and domineering by female critics like Showalter (1985). She maintains that gender has become an analytic category whether the concerns are representation of sexual difference, (re)shaping masculinity, building feminine values or exclusion of female voice from the literary canon.


Gender stereotype is the attribution of character traits, behaviours and social roles to men and women in society. Women suffer most as a result of gender stereotypes, because often time positive characteristics are attributed to men whereas negative ones are attributed to women and this implies subtle gender inequality, sexism, and discrimination against women.


An African woman wants to escape the home confinement and exercise power and authority in her society so that she can actively participate in the public sphere. It is advantageous to have autonomous power because one can reach desired goals. For this reason, some women writers, as part of the “dominated individuals or groups are in perpetual search for forms of resistances, consciously and unconsciously, actively and passively” (Odiemo-Munara, 2008, p. 3).


Male dominance over women is revealed in the family set-up and how cultures and traditions are prearranged. This has resulted in depriving women access to power to exercise their actualities by contributing to the social, economic and political spheres. Some women have been limited to household roles of being mothers and wives so their contribution to the public sphere has been minimal. However, Kabira and Burkeywo (2016) state that African women have been speaking for themselves through literature, and in this way they validate the meanings of being female. Their literature can no longer be ignored, therefore their contributions started to be appreciated. In their fictional works, they exhibit the changing roles of African women in their effort to reach self-actualisation and contribute to discourses on marriage, love, motherhood and nation building by bringing their experiences to the mainstream discourses and offering new perspectives (Kabira & Burkeywo, 2016, p. 26).

It is against this background that the present study seeks to examine the travail of the African woman: reflection of Adebayo Abayomi’s stay with me and  Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo’s the last of the strong ones

1.2 Bibliograpghy of the Authors


1.2.1Ayobami Adebayo

Ayobami Adebayo’s stories have appeared in a number of magazines and anthologies, and one was highly commended in the 2009 Commonwealth Short Story Competition. She holds BA and MA degrees in literature in English from Obafemi Awolowo University, Ife, and has worked as an editor for Saraba Magazine since 2009. Adebayo also has an MA in creative writing from the University of East Anglia, where she was awarded an international bursary for creative writing. She has received fellowships and residencies from Ledig House, Sinthian Cultural Centre, Hedgebrook, Ox-Bow School of Art, Ebedi Hills and the Siena Art Institute. She was born in Lagos, Nigeria.


1.2.2 Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo

Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo was born and raised in Eastern Nigeria, but now lives in Lagos. She is the first child of Joshua and Christiana Adimora and has five siblings. Raised partially in a rural environment and partially in the city, she combines these two factors, as background and setting for her children’s stories and adult fiction. Though born in Eastern Nigeria, she has lived in different parts of the country – East, North and West. She has travelled extensively in Africa, Europe and in the USA.


She obtained her Bachelor of Arts (BA) and Masters (MA) degrees in English from the University of Lagos and her Ph. D from University of Ibadan, in Nigeria. She also has a Postgraduate Diploma in Education (PGDE) from University of Lagos.


A lecturer, writer, novelist, critic, essayist, journalist, and administrator, she was appointed a professor of English at University of Lagos in 1999. She has taught in this university, in the Department of English, since 1981. She headed the English Department in 1997 and 1998, from 2002-2005, and 2008-2009.


1.3 Statement of the problem


African women’s writing has flourished in the 21st century and these writers have interrogated practices and institutions which are patriarchally constructed (Bouziani, 2015). Patriarchy is a socio-political system that insists that males are dominant, superior to everything and everyone deemed weak, especially females, and are endowed with the right to dominate and rule over the weak, and to maintain that dominance through terrorism and violence (Hooks, 1984, p. 1). Matos (2015, p. 1) indicates that globally, in the period 2010 to 2014 women’s share of the population ranged from 49% to 53% in each country, but in most cases women do not enjoy the same representation of power and equality within the private and public spheres. Through literature women resisted patriarchal settings so that all social classes can have equal representation in the private and public spheres. Many critics have studied and analysed women’s fiction writing, focusing on gender and female oppression.

Gender discourse is an important area of literary criticism with wide spread implications for gender equality and human development across sectors. Increasing attention is being accorded the negotiation of gender relations in contemporary African literature.The study is thus premised on the following propositions:

  • Gendered hegemony is more or less mentally integrated in a vast majority of both men and women, commonly allowing patriarchy to remain unchallenged, and even defended by both
  • The gender of a person affects power-sharing and decision-making and this is manifested in men‘s control in families and public offices
  • The radical feminist theory and Max Weber ‗s Power theory posit that sex/gender difference is socially constructed and shaped by relations of power , as a result, violence is often against the female gender and it is a by product of
  • Little attention has been given to the analysis of women‘s writing with the tools that theories of Max Weber and Radical Feminism


1.4 Objectives of the study


This study has the following objectives:


  1. To examine the pains of a barren  woman in Africa tradition context
  2. To evaluate how the selected novels promote ideas of equality, immanent value and self- determination.
  3. To analyse and interpret how the selected novels employ proofs of persuasion to appeal to the

1.5  Significance of the study


This study adds to the growing number study on the travails and oppression faced by African women . It aims at contributing to the understanding of feminist context and recognises the presence of women who in history, have been ignored. This study hopes that analysing literary works of African feminist fictional writers would help others to construct persuasive arguments on the same topic that help women to redefine themselves and take charge of their own destinies. In addition, this would  also assist men to understand that it is normal for women to have autonomous power to realise their dreams. Readers of this study should understand what effective and non-effective rhetorical strategies are, and how it might be possible for women to be included in all spheres of life. This study contributes to interdisciplinary studies; particularly feminism. Interdisciplinary studies are important in opening avenues for reading and research.

1.6  Limitations of the study


The study is limited to the critical examination of the novels themselves, only of which it could have been beneficial to interview the authors – however due to time, logistical and resource limitations; this is not possible. The results obtained from this might not be generalised to all societies in Africa as the novels could have represented experiences of societies in which they are set.

1.7  Scope and Delimitations of the study


There are many women fictional writers in Africa, who have written against gender inequality, but this study is limited to two selected novels, which are set in Africa. Only fiction written in English is considered, as fictional works written in other languages fall out of the scope of this study. The two novels selected are Adebayo Abayomi’s Stay With Me and  Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo’s The Last of the Strong Ones


1.8  Methodology


Creswell (1994) defines the research methodology as the system of collecting data for a research project. Therefore, this section presents the methodology that has been used to conduct this research.

Qualitative method was the central point of this study. A qualitative study design is defined as “an inquiry process of understanding a social or human problems, based on building a complex, or holistic picture, formed with words, reporting detailed views of respondants or informants, and or contacted in a natural setting” (Cresswell, 1994, p. 2). This was a desktop study where already published sources were used. Fahnestock and Secor (1990, p. 77) indicate that qualitative is “rather deductive, since we will begin with some assumptions about argument as widely held as possible, which we then test against a body of evidence as representative as we could make it, on the way to some conclusions, as tentative as they must be”. The qualitative research design is concerned with the understanding, experience and interpretation of the social world. It is both flexible and sensitive to the social context in which data are produced (Masson, 2002, p. 3). The qualitative method is used to organise and stimulate the meaning of the content in the novels and draw conclusions from them. This method is also good in gaining in-depth understanding and providing descriptions of how characters bring forth the feminist arguments in connection with rhetoric. According to Mlambo (2013), qualitative methods are also effective in identifying intangible factors whose role in the research issue may not be easily apparent. Therefore, since a qualitative method was used in this study, there has not been any fieldwork, but rather a literary analysis of imaginative short fiction.


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