Essay 1: Thematic Essay Prompt
Freedom is described as a situation where an individual does not face restraint, or coercion into acting against their own will. Individual freedom involves thinking, acting and speaking according to one’s wishes. It is an important aspect of living harmoniously, in a democratic society. However, freedom often crosses its path with social order. Social order refers to the means and institutions utilized in controlling the relations between different participants in the society. As a result, social order may often intrude into attempts of people in exercising their freedom. Through a comparative analysis of texts this essay seeks to highlight the tension that exists between social order and the exercise of freedom, across various regions in the world. It posits that social order acts as a hindrance to personal freedom as seen in the in the social, political and economic contexts.
Johny Mad Dog is a book by Emmanuel Dongala. It is based on the Democratic Republic of Congo, though hinted and not explicitly mentioned. Through the lives of Johnny and Laokole, the connection between freedom and social order is portrayed. Johnny serves as a soldier for one of the rebel factions. This characterization is critical to the rebels’ ideas of social order and subsequent implementation. The story exposes a chaotic form of social order, since it is controlled by militias. It is devoid of fundamental principles of justice and equality among individuals. Johnny’s group is focused on maintaining the purity of the Dogo-Mayi tribe. This situation presents an illustration of social order control. The group carries out ethnic cleansing. In effect, the rebel leaders hope to achieve control over members of the society. Individuals need to be provided with human rights as part of their fundamental freedoms. They, therefore, need the right to life, self-expression and many more. However, social order control is seen to fraught danger to the existence of freedom. It denies many people the capacity to act in their own wills. Firstly, many people are killed, on the basis of their tribal membership. This situation denies people the right to maintain their lives. The control of social order seems to be flawed in this novel. Justice is lacking, hence its legitimacy is questionable. A means for justifying the deaths is nonexistent hence reinforcing this. Secondly, people are denied the freedom to live in their desired areas. The presence of rebel soldiers forces people such as Laokole and her family to flee to other areas. The utility of force, cloaked as social order acts as a hindrance to the people. They are not able to exercise their own choices in life. As a result, they are left helpless, as seen in Laokole’s case. The people miss out on education, healthcare and other basic necessities as they attempt to exonerate themselves from this ‘social order’. From the text, it is seen that social order is an intrusion into the freedoms of the people. It hinders their ability to partake in the social and economic aspects of society. The exercise of social order has taken a heavy-handed course and is counterproductive through its adoption of violence.
Goodbye Mother is a story by Reinaldo Arenas. The text highlights Arenas’ love for his mother, the Cuban revolutionary nation. However, he later comes to speak out against the lack of progress that has characterized the country, since the revolutionary fervor began. The economy is in tatters and very little development has taken place. In fact, the nation has been on a path of retrogression. The people are experiencing hard ships as a result of the imposition of this social order. Through this text, the interaction between freedom and social order is seen to be chaotic. It results in the economic decline of the people through curtailing their freedom to develop themselves. However, the social order in Marxist Cuba is somewhat better than the Congolese interpretation. It is governed by the State and not self-gratifying militias. The State does not use as much violence, and there is a sense of social and political security for the people.
Humans need the right to economic determination. This freedom grants them the ability to maintain a living standard that suits their means and desires. However, Arenas exposes the situation in revolutionary Cuba. He argues that the motherland has crushed the freedoms of the common man. They lack the ability to develop, due to restrictions set by the state. As a result, the nation experiences grinding poverty at the expense of social control. This is counterproductive since the people expected improved living standards as a result of the revolutions against the dictatorial regimes. Arenas describes the communist leaders as vile rats, maggots and flies. He exposes his views that their leadership is clearly inferior to what was expected in the revolutions. They have improved their own living standards at the expense of the state, through social order.
In this context, it is seen that social order has been used as an enrichment tool, at the expense of economic and individual freedoms. The revolutionary leaders espoused communist ideals as a means for gaining support from the people. The people gave up some social freedoms in exchange for social order. However, it is seen that the exchange was somewhat one-sided. The leadership has become heavy-handed and corrupt. There are many murders and disappearances in the country. This situation is similar to Dongala’s description of the conflict in the Central African state. Social order has become a tool for repression, through the use of armed force. Arenas describes that the human rights situation in Cuba is deplorable. The existence of harmful social order causes some Cubans to sacrifice themselves for a change to be achieved. This situation reminds of the idea of the social contract. Some freedoms are given up in order for social order to be achieved. It is meant for the overall benefit of the society. They give up their freedoms and rights, but to no avail. Social order has, therefore, stifled freedoms such that the social contract between the state and citizens has failed. Due to these breaches of human rights and economic freedoms, Arenas goes against the tide. He takes the course of ‘traitor’ and seeks to leave the nation. He seeks a nation that will grant him fundamental human freedoms, while not compromising on the existence of social order. A possible nation is the United States, as seen in Ingrid Bergman’s film.
Assia Djebar’s Fantasia is the story of a young girl in an Algerian coastal town. The story explores her life as well as Algerian history. Social order and freedom can be observed through her depictions of the struggles. The story highlights the desire of the Algerian people to exercise their freedoms, through sovereign rule. The imposed social order does not mean their needs for social and political development. For example, the people have not been granted effective political representation. The Algerian girl wishes to experience life in a different manner. However, the laws and traditions of the colonial state limit her. The French have used their social order to harmonize the Algerian society with theirs. However, this results in damage to that society. Their freedom to exercise their cultural values is shattered. She views the presence of the French as an unnecessary aspect of Algerian life. There exists a sullen yet silent state of conflict in her society. The Algerians wish for self-determination is hindered by the presence of French administration in the area. A struggle against the oppressors is a viable means for regaining their social and political freedoms.
The situation in Fantasia is that of freedom against colonial social order, which characterizes past North Africa. The Algerians desire their social and political independence. This differs from the two stories. In Johnny Mad Dog, there is a fight for freedom against the social order imposed by militia groups. What results is a violent conflict a la civil war. Arenas offers a different perspective on the struggle between freedom and social order. He focuses on the economic aspects, as well as the position of the State in the social order.
Essay 2: Textual Analysis
The text offers various themes. Some of these are issues such as feminism, sexuality, power in the society and traditional life. Feminism stands out among the mentioned themes. It offers greater meaning to the story and ensuing activities. Similarly, feminism encompasses themes such as power and the sexuality of the traditional African societies. Feminism may be understood as the demand for equality among the genders. It advocates equal footing in social, economic and political matters for both men and women. Feminism emerges in some sentences through the relations between men and women in the story. Examples are between Sidi, Sadiku, Okiki and the Village Bale.
From Sadiku’s tale, it emerges that there is some degree of inequality between the women and men of that society. Men have been granted greater power over the society than their female counterparts. This is seen through the power positions of that society. For example, the Village Bale is a title occupied by men. In the economic sense, this power balance is also seen. Women may be described as the producers of the society. They engage in farming and various activities. Men also participate in economic activities, albeit at a smaller scale. Despite female efforts, it is the males that govern economic production in the society. Social activities have also been dominated by men. Various occasions are presided by the Village Bale. In essence, the society appears to support and proclaim patriarchy. It is the accepted norm. However, women like Sadiku maintain feminist ideals. They attempt at permeating it, albeit secretly, into the lives of fellow females, such as Sidi. Through the two, the concept of feminist beauty is also explored.
In those respects, Soyinka redevelops the image of women in the African society in his sentencing. He posits that feminism is a concept that has always existed in the society. Soyinka utilizes Sadiku to full effect, as the lead feminist in the excerpt. He utilizes her to embolden women and their demands for equality. However, the author develops a subdued image of the same. He associates secrecy with feminism, through Sadiku’s wish for secrecy from Sidi following their interaction. Soyinka positions women as equal to men, in various aspects of life. To demonstrate this, he uses Sadiku’s sexuality and her encounters with Okiki as mentioned i. He uses vivid imagery to demonstrate female strength as seen in Sadiku’s tale. Sadiku tells Sidi that she killed Okiki with her strength (Soyinka 30-31). This is symbolic, as the mighty Okiki represents the epitome of patriarchal power in the African society in the excerpt.
Soyinka also warns of impending destruction of patriarchy in the African society. Once again, he uses the bold Sadiku through her conversation with Sidi. Sadiku states, “Take warning, my masters. We’ll scotch you in the end.” This situation highlights the growing discontent with patriarchy in the society. The inequalities presented are dissatisfying to women. Soyinka posits that women shall use their strengths to bring down the existence of this patriarchy. In her wave of excitement, Sadiku mentions “Race of mighty lions, we always consume you, at our pleasure we spin you, at our whim we make you dance (Soyinka 30-31).” These strengths are seen through female beauty, which is their sexuality. It grants women the ability to swing men against their patriarchal tendencies. The author has positioned men at the mercy of women, in this respect. However, he uses Sidi, the character, to exercise caution in this approach. It presents a trial in the African society due to the defined roles for women, which are challenged through this utility of female beauty. In summary, Soyinka has achieved success in expounding feminism in the African society. He portrays it as a viable philosophy for women, in the African contexts. Soyinka develops feminist power through his conceptualization of female beauty. In effect, he puts females on par with men in the society through his diction in the text.
Soyinka, Wole. Collected plays. London: Oxford University Press, 1973. Print.
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