Satire in Daniel Inyang’s The Revolts of the Hoi Polloi and Emeka Nwabueze’s The Parliament of Vultures
1.1 Background to the Study
From the days of the Greek philosopher, Socrates, writers have been in the vanguard of social change, challenging the mores of oppressive societies. One of the artist’s modes of assessing the socio-political system in the society is satire: a form of writing which makes fun of the evil or foolish behaviour of people, institution and the society in general (Pollard).
In the same vein Ojo opine that African Playwrights like Wole Soyinka, Femi Osofisan, Efua Sutherland, John Pepper Clark, Ola Rotimi etc have made use of satire as an artistic mode of expressing the societal and political realities in the contemporary Africa. The African society for them is obviously a chaotic one, where dreams and aspirations of the people remain unrealized. They have seen with shock the endemic corruption, moral decadence and political exploitation that have become part and parcel of the society.
In the society which we found ourselves things happened and literary writers uses many literary devices to projects the brutality of government officials against their subjects and also mock the actions their actions. Satire devices are need by a writer to save them from the rod of law and the hands of the corrupt leaders.
Satirists use humor not only to ridicule their subject, but to gain the attention and trust of their leaders while readers might not always respond to a highly-conceptual, advance argument for change laid out in a dense manifesto or academic essay, they can easily and enjoyably recognised societal problems targeted by satirical writers. Some scholars argued that the popular appeal of satire helps to bring about actual social reforms, since the use of humor makes it easier to disseminate political and societal critiques more widely.
As a literary manner, Satire is concerned with ridiculing human and institutional follies with the intension of correcting them. Satire may be represented in the mode allegory and also mode of imitation through pictures and caricatures. It is insidious treatment of subject in dramatic fashion, also in mode of lampoon which an individual is represented in a vinslent way, this make it subject of laughter. Therefore, Satire is employed to mock or censor the action of man or his belief.
It is also use to assess the state of man in his society and to create a difference between the present situation and the ideal situation. Samuel Johnson opines that: satire is a poem in which wickedness or folly is censured (91). Nathaniel West also stated that “satire is a mocking spirit or tone that manifests itself in many literary genes and can also enter into almost any kind of human communication (161)
According to See, the term “Satire” is derived from the Latin word “Satura” meaning “dish of mixed fruits” (24). It is a “mode of writing that exposes the failings of individuals, institutions or societies to ridicule and scorn (LeBoeuf, 1). It is known to have been alive to the socio-political realities of its time; a kind of court where the economics, social religious and political issues of the society are outlined, evaluated and judged to bring about a better society.
Satire is also a theatre, where all its practitioners are artists who are all vanguards of social change in their respective capacities keeping watchful eyes and attentive ears on the happenings in the society. Satire can be traced back throughout history. Whenever organized government or social categories has existed, so has satire. The oldest example that survived till today is Aristophanes. In his time, satire targeted top Politicians like Cleon and religion at the time headed by Zeus (Stephanos Etal, 207- 208).
“Satire and derision progressively attacked even the fundamental and most sacred facts of faith leading to an increasing doubt towards religion by the general population” (Tamar, 1). From ancient times, Satirists make shared a common aim to expose foolishness in all its guise, vanity, hypocrisy, pedantry, bigotry, sentimentality and to effect reform through such exposure (Ehrenberg, 263).
Due to lack of political freedom of speech in many ancient civilizations, covert satire was more useful than overt satire in ancient literature of political liberalism. Historically, the public opinion in the Athenian democracy was remarkably influenced by the Political performance of the conic poets at the theatres (Anderson, 307- 319).
Since ancient time, watching and reading satire has been considered as one of the best ways to understand a culture and a society. It is categorized into Horatian, Juvenalian and Menippearn Satire: Horatian Satire is a named after the ancient Roman satirist Horace who playfully mocked the societal norms of his day; and the satire named after him is clever, yet gentle, instead of attacking evil. Horatian Satire ridicules universal human folly so that the reader might identify with what is criticized and laughed at (Chen & Sun, 24).
Equally, Juvenal Satire is a type of satire that attacks public officials and governmental organizations. Juvenal regarded their opinions and actions not just as wrong, but instead as evil. This type of Satire is more contemptuous and abusive, and uses strong irony and sarcasm. Polarized Political Satire is more often of this nature, and aims to provoke change. Juvenalian Satire is not often as humorous as the others. Menippean Satire criticizes mental attitudes rather than social norms or specific individuals.
Satire in Daniel Inyang’s The Revolts of the Hoi Polloi and Emeka Nwabueze’s The Parliament of Vultures
This type of satire ridicules single-minded people, such as bigots, misers, and braggart, among others. . Its tone may vary from tolerant amusement, as in the very satires of the Roman poet Horace to bitter indignation, as in the verse of Juvenal and the prose of Jonathan Swift. Juvenalian satire is the kind of satire that bitterly condemn human vices and folly; in contrast with the milder and more indulgent kind known as “Horatian satire” (Jeffrey, 39-41).
During the 20th and 21st centuries, Satire is found in an increasing number of forms in literary genres for instance, Gulliver’s Travels and Animal Farm, in cartoons as Political cartoons with very healthy caricature and exaggeration, among others, a number of William Shakespeare’s plays can be seen and performed as Satire, including Richard III and The Merchant of Venice. Other example includes Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal which was more outright in its satirical nature. (Young, 12-14)
Political Satire is a part of satire that specializes in gaining entertainment from politics; it neither is usually distinguished from political protest as it does not necessarily carry on agenda nor seeks to influence the political process. While occasionally, it may be used commonly to provide entertainment. In Nigeria for instance, virtually all the new generation satirists are committed to issues of social and political concerns of their time.
The relevance of any satire is dependent upon how well it is able to address the pressing issues of its society. As such, the political satirist is merely, a respondent to such issues of social essence. Therefore, it will only amount to man’s inhumanity to man, a sin against oneself and the nation, should a Nigerian satirist, writing for a Nigerian audience today, choose to merely play to the gallery in the face of the numerous perceivable injustices in the immediate society.
This perhaps, is why Chinua Achebe posits that “any writer who tries to avoid the big social and political questions in his or her society will end up being irrelevant, like the absurd man in the proverb who leaves his burning house to pursue a rat fleeing from the flames” (11). It is in this light that the political satirists believe that the level of injustice, corruption and other forms of malpractices and moral decadence in contemporary society have got to a point where the art of speaking with the “tongue in the check” on the stage alone is no longer enough, but rather there is an urgent demand for a more direct representation for an immediate social reform in our society.
Femi Osofisan, one of the pioneer proponents of radical theatre movement in Nigeria believes that “if we warned ourselves often painfully enough with the reality around us, if we refuse to bandage our sensitive spots away from the hurt of truth, then we can attain a new and positive awareness” (14).
The radical satire in Nigeria, just like its prototypes around the world, as a matter of necessity it is expected to be committed to issues that will provide direct and fact evaluations and brings them to the consciousness of the audience who would then begin to do something to sensitize the entire society and initiate an attitudinal change. A review of the developmental trends in Nigerian satire shows that from the post independent era to the present day, there has been a noticeable change in the tone of Nigerian satires, both in content and form.
From the seventies, for instance, Nigeria playwrights no longer write to entertain alone, but also to express certain ideological positions or condemn certain societal ills. Saint Gbilekeaa believes that:
The contemporary Nigerian playwright bears a mark of ideological commitment and patriotism. The text of his play will durably reflect the Socio-political situation under which he writes. His themes and subject matters naturally emerge from issues of tropical within his demand (3).
The radical satirist either writes in favour or against existing political system especially, when it is anti-social and dictatorial. Wole Soyinka’s The Trial of Brother Jero, for instance, mirrors the misappropriation of the Christian religion by dubious Nigerians as morally opposed to the original intensions of the early missionary who brought it into the country.
In the same manner, Ola Rotimi’s Our Husband Has Gone Mad Again, satirizes the never – do – well Nigerian Politicians of the Second Republic in their political antics. The duo of Tess Onwueme and Emeka Nwabueze in Then She Said It and A Parliament of Vultures are Nigerian playwrights that have accepted the obligation of dramatizing the ugly political realities of the Nigerian terrain.
Whereas, Tess Onwueme dramatizes the political situation behind the exploitation and abuse of the Niger Delta region through oil exploration, Emeka Nwabueze ridicules with humour, the corrupt and absolute inefficient tendencies of Nigerian, politicians, especially the Nigerian law makers.
It is universally conceived by many literary scholars, that literature mirrors the society. However, literature goes to depicts various aspect of human life. The social, political religious, economical and historical aspects of human lives are expressed through literature. For the sake of this study, we shall concentrate on dramatic generic from the literature and the social control.
From the above, Satire seeks to expose something foolish in the society. Through the use of Satire, the study investigate how the two authors chosen for this research exposed the ills and vices in the Nigeria socio – political system in the post independence era. It also focuses on the awareness of the people to the policies of the government, the tyranny and evil that pervaded his role and the bridge of justices and misrepresentation of the truth.
It can be said that Daniel Inyang and Emeka Nwabueze use satire in the two texts as a literary device to express the made fun of Nigeria institutions or individual by drawing the attention of the people to their vice with the aim of making amendments. This makes Satire a major tool in bringing about social transformation.
Satire in Daniel Inyang’s The Revolts of the Hoi Polloi and Emeka Nwabueze’s The Parliament of Vultures
1.2 Statement of the Problem
After the departure of the colonial masters, Africans have faced a lot of problems as a result of foreign culture they left behind such as; corruption, exploitation; class struggle etc has been the order of the day. All these societal ills have hindered growth in the African society.
This socio-political and economic disorder committed playwrights towards restoring order to their communities which have been engulfed in a myriad of ills. The playwrights discovered that this ill prevalent in African could be best eradicated through the application of satire.
This really helps to ridicule the activities of people that do not bring growth to the African society. It is on this backdrop that this study seeks to examine satire in Daniel Inyang’s The Revolts of the Hoi Polloi and Emeka Nwabueze’s The Parliament of Vultures.
1.3 Objectives of the Study
The objectives of this research are:
(i) to emphasis the use of satire by African playwright.
(ii) as a means of exposing societal ills playing in the society
(iii) to examine satire as a corrective instrument for socio–political problem in Nigeria contemporary society.
(iv) to create awareness to people the autocratic policies and evil pervaded its rule.
(v) expose the ills and vices in the Nigeria sociopolitical system as well as drawing attention to the weakness of social institutions as explored in the texts
1.4 Significance of the Study
The study of this magnitude will be significant in the following ways: It will reveal some of the corrupt practices in Africa societies perpetuated by political office holder; equally, the study shall also attempt to reveal forms of oppression and its effects in African literature as a whole.
It will also boost other researchers to be acquainted with the use of Satire to reveal corrupt practices in African Literature. It will prompt Nigerians to refrain from the act of oppression. However, the study will also help to portray what is happening in the corridor of power to the masses and lastly, the study will serve as stock for literature review on topics related to satire.
The methodology for this research work is a qualitative research which relies on the analysis of some extrapolation of the primary texts. The research will also avail itself of some critical works. Magazines and other periodical drawn from the library. This research will also exploit the internet space for some online materials related to the subject of the research.
1.6 Scope of the Study
This scope of this study is limited to satire in Daniel Inyang’s The Revolts of the Hoi Polloi and Emeka Nwabueze’s The Parliament of Vultures. This is to enable the researcher complete the work within the stipulated time. Therefore, all conclusions are based on textual analysis of the selected texts.
1.7 Theoretical Framework
The theoretical model adopted as theoretical frameworks for this study was the Stephen Greenblatt’s New Historicism. A critical approach developed in the 1980s in the writings of Stephen Greenblatt, New Historicism is characterised by a parallel reading of a text with its socio-cultural and historical conditions, which form the co-text.
New Historians rejected the fundamental tenets of New Criticism (that the text is an autotelic artefact), and Liberal Humanism (that the text has timeless significance and universal value). On the contrary, New Historicism, as Louis Montrose suggested, deals with the “texuality of history and the historicity of texts.”
Textuality of history refers to the idea that history is constructed and fictionalised, and the historicity of text refers to its inevitable embedment within the socio-political conditions of its production and interpretation. Though it rejects many of the assumptions of poststructuralism, New Historicism is in a way poststructuralist in that it rejects the essential idea of a common human nature that is shared by the author, characters and readers; instead it believes that identity is plural and hybrid.
A New Historicist interpretation of a text begins with identifying the literary and non-literary texts available and accessible to the public, at the time of its production, followed by reading and interpreting the text in the light of its co-text. Such an interpretative analysis would ideally begin with a powerful and dramatic explication of the “anecdote”, which is the historical context or the co-text.
Thus the text and the context are perceived as expressions of the same historical moment. Stephen Greenblatt’s Renaissance Self-Fashioning: From More to Shakespeare (1980) does a New Historicist reading of Renaissance plays, revealing how ‘self-fashioning was an episteme of the era, as depicted in the portraits and literature of the time.
The discipline of New Historicism has been influenced by Althusserian concept of ideology; the Derridian deconstructionist idea that a text is at war with itself; Bhaktinian dialogism which posits that a text contains a multiplicity of conflicting voices; and most prominently by Foucauldian Power/Knowledge and discourse.
Analysing the nature of power, Foucault expounds that Power (for instance, in the form of the panoptic surveillant sate), defines what is truth, knowledge, normalcy. New Historicism believes in the Foucauldian idea of the “capillary modes of power” which like Althusser’s Ideology interpellates the lives and actions of the citizens.
Foucault’s archeological concept of history as archive, informs yet another tendency of the New Historicists, in that they consider history as fictionalised and as a “co-text” while traditional historians consider history as facts and as the background to the text, which is the foreground.
Foucault observes that history is characterised by gaps and fissures contemporary historicists highlight the discontinuities and conflicts of history, rather than write in a coherent manner. He does not like traditional historians, write history as a unified, continuous story. Thus New Historicism applies the poststructuralist idea that reality is constructed and multiple, and the Foucauldian idea of the role of power in creating knowledge.
1.8 Authors Bio Data
1.8.1 Bio- Data of Daniel Inyang
Daniel Inyang Jnr, is a native of Ekpene Obom, Etinan, Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria, holds NCE and a Bachelor of Arts degree (Second Class-Upper Division) in English from the University of Uyo. He combines his story-telling career with teaching as he has taught English language in various classrooms ranging from high schools to colleges, the latest being Topfaith International Secondary School, Mkpatak.
He has presented several scholarly papers nationally in academic conferences. Daniel is a Member, Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA); he takes delight in creative thinking with the following published works: Rhythm of the Drums (2006), The Aftermath (2006), The Seeing Blind (2008), Mama (2009), The Tortoise Stage (2012), Who Killed Grandpa? (2012), The Revolts of the Hoi Polloi (2012) and Dearest Daniella (2013).
His intellectual muscle is unrivalled, and ambition inordinate. All hurdles are obliged to succumb to the tsunamic consequence of his tread… but the hands of nemesis swiftly circle in on his neck… the scrawny limbs of the hoi polloi squash his spinal cord… justice triumphs
1.8.2 Bio-Data of Emeka Nwabueze
Emeka Nwabueze B.A, M.A, Ph.D; lecturer, administrator; DOB: September 13, 1952; Pace: Awka; Hometown: Awka; LGA: Awka South; State: Anambra; Married: Dorothy Chinyere; December 18, 1976; nc: one sons, four daughters; EDUCATION: St. Patrick’s School, Awka, 1958-65; Ziks College, Onitsha, 1966-71; University of Nigeria, 1971-75; Eastern Michigan University. 1979-80; Bowling Green State University, 1980-82; CAREER: Lecturer, Kano State Institute for Higher Education, 1975-79; Teaching f.
Bowling Green State University, Ohio, 1980-82; a-prof/ch. Division of Humanities and Fine Arts, Edward Waters College, Jacksonville, Florida, U.S.A, 1982-83; Lecturer, English and Dramatic Arts, University of Nigeria, 1983-85; snr. Lecturer. English and Theatre Arts, 1985-96; Visiting scholar. University of Swaziland, 1996-88; Visiting International prof. Randolph-Macon Woman’s College, Lynchburg USA, 1998-99; appointed prof.
Dramatic Arts, University of Nigeria ,1996; Head, Department of Dramatic Arts, since 2000; University Orator; mm: Society of Nigerian Theatre Artists Association of Nigerian Authors; African Studies Association, USA; National Association of African American Studies; f. Writing – International Writing Program, The University of Iowa, Iowa City, U.S.A, in Collaboration with the United State Information Agency; ah:
Mary Kingsley Lecturer, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, 1993; publ: Spokesman for the Oracle (a play) Ibadan, Evans Publishers, 1986; Guardian of the Cosmos (a play) Ikeja, Longman Publishers, 1990; A Dance of the Dead (a play) Ibadan, Evans Publishers, 1991; Lecture Notes on Sizwe Bansi is Dead, Enugu, Abie Publishers, 1991; When the Arrow Rebounds. A Dramatic Recreation of Chinua Achebe’s Arrow of God,
Enugu, Abie Publishers, 1992; A Parliament of Vultures, Enugu, Abie Publishers, 2000; Fate of a Maiden (a play) Enugu, Abie Publishers 2000; Echoes of Madness (a play) Enugu, Abie Publisher, 2000; Heroes of Conscience (a play) Kearney, Nebraska: Morris Publishing, 1998; Chapters in numerous books and articles in professional journals; hob: writing, reading, drama; off: Department of Dramatic Arts, University of Nigeria; Nsukka.