oa Alternation - The forest and the road in novels by Chinua Achebe and Ben Okri

Volume 14, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 1023-1757



Novels by two great Nigerian writers, Chinua Achebe and Ben Okri, present strikingly different attitudes toward trees and forests and toward nature and the environment more generally. I examine the attitudes that emerge from their novels Things Fall Apart and The Famished Road, finding that Achebe and Okri are writers of different generations, addressing different concerns. Then, given the alarming statistics on the current state of forests in Nigeria, I try tentatively to find ways of conceptualizing change in that country, discovering some promise in Okri's image of the road. Chinua Achebe demonstrates powerfully the irreparable damage to the fabric of Igbo society that colonization brought, but shows no particular concern for the environment. In his first novel, Things Fall Apart, it is taken for granted that the natural world exists to be exploited by human beings, though parts of the natural world are at the same time a source of danger and fear; nature is polarized into good, usable nature and evil, dangerous nature. Ben Okri's The Famished Road, by contrast, exposes not only the persistent effects of colonization and the conflict between the rich and the poor, but the devastating effects of development on forests and the natural world. Perhaps most crucially, the world that Okri presents is not one with human beings at the centre.

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