The Marxist Formula in Emecheta's The Joys of Motherhood Essay

The Marxist Formula in Emecheta's The Joys of Motherhood Essay

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The Marxist Formula in Emecheta's The Joys of Motherhood

"Marx states that we are truly free only when '[people] place themselves in a position to control their own historical destiny'"(Slaughter 25).

Britain's imperial colonization of Africa triggered vast change within the tribal civilizations thriving on the continent prior to European occupation. For the Africans, these changes altered every level of their culture: language, religion, as well as ancient tribal customs. But one of the most devastating aspects of the British colonization in Africa was the European economic system: capitalism. Capitalism left many Africans reeling from its destructive impact on tribal economies. Nowhere is this more evident than in The Joys of Motherhood, Buchi Emecheta's tale of the British occupation of Nigeria in the 1930s and 1940s. Emecheta's skillfully constructed story uses various literary devices to develop empathy for her characters suffering at the hands of the English. However, underlying these literary techniques -- and boosting the storyís political objectives -- exists a Marxist economic analysis of the colonial system. Emecheta's Marxist examination provides an outline for illustrating how imperialistic capitalism alienated Africans from their culture, and from one another, causing irreparable damage to the social fabric of Nigeria. The Marxist argument in The Joys of Motherhood demonstrates how the root of the characters' downfall is the socioeconomic shift from the tribal economic paradigm to the exploitative, capitalist system used by the British.

However, Emecheta also criticizes her tribal culture's oppressive hierarchy, illustrating the Ibo treatment of slaves and of women. So although European colonialism...


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...Marx and the Sources of Critical Theory. New Jersey: Rowman and Littlefield, 1981.
Jameson, Fredric. Marxism and Form: Twentieth-Century Dialectical Theories of Literature. 2nd ed. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1974.
Magubane, Bernard, and Nzongola-Ntalaja, eds. Proletarianization and Class Struggle in Africa. Contemporary Marxism Series. San Francisco: Synthesis, 1982.
Richter, David. The Critical Tradition: Classic and Contemporary Trends. 2nd ed. Boston: Bedford, 1998.
Selden, Raman, and Peter Widdowson. A Reader's Guide to Contemporary Literary Theory. 3rd ed. Lexington: UP of Kentucky, 1993.
Slaughter, Cliff. Marxism, Ideology and Literature. London: Macmillan, 1980.
Tyson, Lois. Critical Theory Today: A User-Friendly Guide. New York: Garland, 1999.
Wallerstein, Immanuel. Africa: The Politics of Independence. New York: Vintage, 1961.

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