No Longer At Ease - Language and Dialogism

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Achebe makes a unique mixing in language. He represents the African oral tradition with all its power to the European culture. He uses a new kind of English in which he shows the Ibo culture to the reader by using proverbs, folktales and religious beliefs.

Achebe uses English because it is accessible to everybody and because there is no language in Africa. He wants to show the importance of renewing the African English to suit the new African circumstances and stick to the native principles. So he is able to make the Africans speak a new kind of English. He even gives the explanation of the native words in the text as two synonyms from different languages. Therefore, the African English expresses the African values and not the European values.

Obi’s father Isaac is Christian who uses an Africanized Christianity along with Christian African people. It is different from the Christianity of Europe because the African people create new language and styles of their own. The African text contains dialogism between two cultures. Though Christianity has its own vocabulary, it is mixed with something from Africa, so this is the idea of hybridity of religion. They take the western religion and show it with their flavour.

When Obi returned to Nigeria, the union made a conference to welcome him. The president of the union gives a long speech in which he uses the formal English language. The novel reads, “Everybody was properly dressed in aghada or European suit.” Here Achebe uses the native word “aghada” which means a European suit. He puts its meaning in English besides it, and this dialogism.

When Obi wants to marry Clara, Achebe presents a native word which is “Osu”. It means that hey cannot get married. Achebe explains it in English that her grandfather had been dedicated to serve a god.

There is a meeting of the Umuofian Progressive Union, where Obi uses an in-between language. He uses the Ibo proverbs and imagery and this is a clear example of dialogism. Another example is when Obi faces his first temptation with a girl. Clara enters and says to her “you had better try elsewhere.” She uses Pidgin to establish her superiority over the Nigerian girl and to show that she is able to use two languages.

There are a lot of proverbs used in the text in order to show dialogism, such as “wherever something stands, another thing stands beside it.” Those proverbs which are symbolic and have rhythm, represent the oral culture of the blacks. The African people also pronounce names on their own way such as “Jesu Kristi”.

To conclude, Achebe wants to show the native flavour and power of language and style. He gives a convincing picture of the African society which helps his characters sound natural while speaking an alien tongue.