The Predominant Devices Used by Ngugi Wa Thiong’o in His Novel Wizard of the Crow
OBJECTIVE OF THE STUDY
The objectives of this study is to identify the predominant devices used by Ngugi wa Thiong’o in his novel Wizard of the Crow and what he achieved by using those devices.
MEANING OF STYLISTICS AND STYLE
Stylistics is the study or interpretation of the linguistic elements or distinctive elements in a writing, group of writing, or a text. It explores how readers interact with the language of texts, literary and non-literary, in order to explain how we understand and are affected by texts when we read them.
Stylistics according to H.G. Widdowson in Stylistics and Teaching Literature is:
An approach to literature which attempts to show specifically how elements of a linguistic text combine to create message, how in other words a piece of literary writing function as a form of communication (qtd in Ogbu)
Stylistics is not creativity, but it studies creativity in language use. It is an analytical study which means that stylistics assumes that there is linguistic relations which means that no language is bad except its context makes it bad.
According to Toolan Michael in his introduction in Language in Literature: An Introduction to Stylistics, “stylistics is the study of language in literature”.
He further states that the chief features of stylistics is that it persists in the attempt to understand technique or the craft of writing. In the study of stylistics, we should be able particularly by bringing to the close examination the linguistic particularities of a text, an understanding of the anatomy and function of the language. It is crucially concerned with excellence of technique.
According to Onwukwe Ekwutosi, stylistics is defined as:
A branch of linguistic which studies the features for the distinctive uses or varieties of language in different situations. It tries to establish principles capable of accounting for the particular choices made by individuals and social groups in their use of language (26)
According to Afam Ebeogu, style is defined as:
A distinctive way of saying, writing or doing things, as in the style of an address, a book or a carving. Style is therefore a kind of art, both inherent and acquired, and is often associated with the creative imagination (206)
He further maintains that “style” as a field of scholarship can be traced back to the Greek and Roman scholars, though this is not to say that oral cultures had no articulate views as to how their poems, stories, rituals, arts, etc, could be produced with the high degree of expressive distinctiveness that identifies such works for what they are. He states that stylistics is the scientific study of the style of a text. The scientific nature of the study arises because of the association between stylistics and linguistics.
He says that linguists claim to be scientists who apply the method of application of facts to the study of language. And that any language text must obey the rules of linguistic analysis and the study of style must necessarily be scientific. It is this scientific study that has come to be called stylistics. And so, linguistics is to language what stylistics is to style.
He goes further to identify three concepts of style which include:
- Style as choice
- Style as difference
- Style as iteration
Ebeogu states that the proponents of style as choice look at style from the perspective of an author who makes a choice as to how he is to use language in a way different from the normal use (211). He gave two aspects of this style as choice thus:
- Preverbal and
- Verbal choices
On the preverbal choice, he states that it comes from cultural, psychological and inspirational choice, or all the three combined. In explaining these three levels of style as choice, he states that culturally, preverbal choice arises from the fact that an author belongs to a speech community which owns a langue which is the use of language in relation to a particular linguistic group, a culture that constitutes a definite speech community. It is different from parole which is language as used by individuals. This language already has rules of communication, rules that are phonological, lexical, syntactical and semantic.
Furthermore, he says that there are many psychological factors that predetermine a writer’s use of language such as the writer’s early experiences in life which helps to determine his repertoire that he draws some of his expressive references without a conscious choice of verbal categories (212).
This chapter presents an account of the methodology used to collect data for the study and the ways the researcher used in carrying out the analysis.
The method of analysis used by the researcher in the stylistic analysis of the novel Wizard of the Crow is quantitative analysis. This entails counting and writing down the number of times each of the selected stylistic devices: ellipses, rhetorical questions, parenthetical expressions, italics and long sentences appeared in each of the 30 selected chapters of the novel using Tables. Finally, the research used a Bar Chart to summarise the total frequency of occurrence of the selected devices in the selected 30 chapters.
In the course of reading the novel, the researcher came across many stylistic devices used by Ngugi such as hyperbole, rhetorical question, simile, metaphor, long sentences, parallelism, italics, irony, ellipsis, allegory, parenthetical expression, euphemism and allusion. But out of these devices, the researcher decided to select ellipses, rhetoric questions, parenthetical expressions, italics and long sentences which occurred more frequently for detailed analysis. Also, one example of each of the selected stylistic devices are taken from each book for illustration.
THE POPULATION FOR THE STUDY
The population of the study was the whole chapters of the six books that make up the novel. The novel has a total of 264 chapters made up as follows: Book 1 – Power Daemons – 15 chapters, Book 2 – Queuing Daemons – 56 chapters, Book 3 – Female Daemons – 60 chapters, Book 4 – Male Daemons – 74 chapters, Book 5 – Rebel Daemons – 45 chapters and Book 6 – Beard Daemons – 14 chapters.
Out of these 264 chapters, the researcher selected a sample of five chapter from each book making a total sample of 30 chapters.
DATA PRESENTATION AND TEXTUAL ANALYSIS
This chapter deals with the presentation of the data and stylistic analysis of the novel. In presenting the data, tables were used for clarity. A total of 30 chapters of the novel were used and analyzed for the frequency of occurrence of the selected stylistic devices.
Foremost, among the devices identified is the division of the novel into six Books. The tables of frequency were presented according to the Books of the novel.
As stated earlier in chapter two by Buffon “style is the man” (qtd in Ebeogu 217), that is, the author’s feeling about his subject, his reader and how his reader sees him. The predominant stylistic devices used by Ngugi in Wizard of the Crow are ellipses, rhetorical questions, parenthetical expressions, italics and long sentences. Ngugi by his choice and manipulation of these various stylistic devices in Wizard of the Crow portrayed in a subtle way his rejection, disgust and opposition to the political economic and social conditions that have plagued African States since after independence which have resulted in the poor development of African States.
Wizard of the Crow, according to Ugwuanyi is “the most voluminous and ambitious novel ever written by an African writer (80). It was written after 20 years of his last novel Matigari which he wrote from 1983-84, first in Kikuyu and then, translated it himself into English. Wizard of the Crow in the same vein, was also written in Kikuyu Language and then translated into English by Ngugi himself. This may have probably been the reason for the predominance of long sentences in the novel.
His division of the novel into six books could be in order to give him enough room to explore deeply and expose in one novel, the themes of the various intricacies in the governance of African people, the poverty suffered by the African masses, and the resistance and opposition to the rule of dictatorship and sit-tight syndrome of the African rulers.
In conclusion, these stylistic devices, ellipses, rhetorical questions, parenthetical expressions, italics and long sentences used by Ngugi served the purposes for which they were chosen as they helped in depicting the author’s innermost feeling about post-colonial African states.
It is therefore recommended that more writers should adopt this style of compiling more than one Book into a novel. Since one of the reasons of studying style is to improve one’s style and also increase one’s sensitivity to the use of language.
Secondly, it is recommended that Ngugi should reduce his predominant use of long sentences.
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- Dada, P.O. English and Literary Stylistic. Makurdi: Abagom Press, 2004.
- Ebeogu, Afam, and Nwokocha, Uzoma. Issues in Humaninities and Social Sciences. Enugu: Fasman Communication, 1998.
- Fromkin, et al. An Introduction to Language. Boston: Thomas Higher Education, 2007.