[Analyses]–Before I mustered up the strength to completely read Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, I had views about it. I saw it as a racist story that defines African as savages without a past, extol the virtues of European imperialism in Africa and also led Chinua Achebe to write back in Things Fall Apart to show that Africans does have history.
I kept this opinion despite the fact that in my four attempt at reading the story, I came across Marlow the main character describing London as once being the darkest place on earth and Roman imperialism in Britain. I didn’t consider it racist that Marlow considers the Romans to be more civilised than the British but I considered it racist because he called Africans savages. Till I just decided to read the story just for the sake, and discovered that despite all those tags it was the story of a whiteman telling his friends about his journeys to Africa during the early days of European imperial drive. The story was not actually all those things that I have read about it, it was just an ordinary story.
This was what came to my mind as I read the brilliant essays and arguments spurred on by Pa Ikhide Facebook post about Tram83. Everyone was arguing whether the novel is misogynist or not; about the portrayal of women in African literature; about male writers and female prostitute characters; about poverty porn and about the literariness of the novel. I haven’t read the novel but I could grok that it was the story of two men. I think the story should be judged as that, the story of two men.
A story of two men is just about two men: their worldviews, their actions, their inactions, and their lives. The two men are the primary characters with the story revolving around them and any other character is secondary or tertiary. If the two men have misogynist tendencies then so be it. But does that makes the novel or the author misogynist? No. Things Fall Apart has the theme of low self esteem running through it but does that make it a psychological work? No, it is just a story about a man suffering from low self esteem. Since Tram83 is about two of them, then if they see things in ways we don’t like, so be it. We can infer what we want but our inference should not diminish the story or the author when our inferences does not suit our ideologies. If the story is about two men hanging out in a night club, do we expect them to meet nuns there? If Things Fall Apart is full of strong amazon like women who joined during human sacrifice, then it might not be what it is today.
Another important consideration is the objectivity of such tags like misogynist, homophobic, feminist, racist, and even poverty porn. How much of poverty is poverty porn? If I write about a junior school mate of mine who dropped out of school and was killed in a bottle fight, does the abject poverty of it makes it a poverty porn rather than the story of a poor boy? If I write about the pastor who said it is his ministry to deliver gays, does the character of the pastor makes the story homophobic along with the writer? Or if I write about a character that believes that God is dead, does that rob away my christianity? One would argue that it all falls to methodology and delivery but since writing is an art and not a ‘science’ then the claim to methodology is null and void. If author A achieves a disconnect from his characters, must author B aspire to such disconnect in his work? The story of a dog biting a man can be told in as many ways as there are writers. What matters is that each of the stories, the dog will always bite the man.
A writer should have the creative license to choose his characters and the characters develop their own worldview. That’s what a story is at the basic level – just a story.Please Follow Us @ThePageNg