Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Palm Wine Drinkard

          Amos Tutuola's Palm Wine Drinkard hits on two major ideas in Afircan Lit that have cropped up in my research, a) that the personable and earnest voice that I found apparent in Achebe's work, both critical and novelistic, is also weaved intentionally throughout this book and b) how many differing viewpoints cropped up very quickly in the critical outlook of African literature and how vastly opposed they could be.
          Much to the chagrin of many academics and critics, Tutuola writes in a very simplistic manner on the surface level, to the point that many refer to this book as a children's story; however, I believe that this is a vast simplification of the book as a whole based on the earnest, straightforward voice that he uses.  This book is a creation of the author's society and in service to it, as the issues of rising indivuality and focus on Western material wealth was, and is, an issue in modern African society.  Instead of hiding the morality and satire of this book under witty lines and Dickensian on the nose names like the Veneerings, Tutuola names his main character after his primary flaw, over indulgence. The Palm Wine Drinkard would supposedly drink about 150 tankards of palm wine in the morning and about 75 at night and all of this is paid for by his rich father, as such the Drinkard does not work. The indulgence goes so far as to have his father hire a man to tap the wine for the Drinkard instead of him doing it himself.  Though Western academics may call it one the nose, I believe this is overthinking what the author was trying to do, as Tutuola was writing in service to the people to address a rising issue, not to create the next great world novel.  This attitude, which is very much steeped in African culture, of writing in service to the community, as mentioned with Achebe's works, is Tutuola's goal and what not only makes this a great book, but a great African book.  Furthermore, the simplicity of the style is not only a stylistic choice that I believe fits the book well, but also one of necessity.  Many people could not read and those that could, could not necessarily read at an "academic" level, especially in English, thus Tutuola was trying to reach the most people that he could.  This leads in to the second point, this being the ways that critics attempt to legitimize African literature in their own ways, many times creating a lot of tension.
          This is a subject that I will go into more at I write about The Empire Writes Back and African Literature, African Critics: The Forming of Critical Standards, 1947-1966, but African Academics split into many different camps very fast in order to uplift African Literature.  The reason several camps disliked this books, as mentioned, was because of the supposedly childish manner, but more specifically because of the attention it was getting and academics did not want the Western world to see Africa as childish and hyper focused on, what the West would relate this to, folk tales.  Many had different specific opinions, but the more Western focused African academics, especially those in France, rallied against this as a symbol of their culture, thus they wanted a Westernized African style, whereas Tutuola and Achebe were more traditional in thinking of art in service to the African people's.  

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