A literary analysis of a published work is a no mean task. While it is usually a subjective evaluation, the analyst is expected to cast light on relevant make-ups of work for readers to understand.
Therefore, to critically evaluate a writer’s oeuvre, as Ezekiel Fajenyo has done in The Writings of May Ifeoma Nwoye: A Critical Literary Analysis, a great deal of immersion into the various aspects of the author’s writing trajectory will not be out of place.
In the book, Fajenyo not only shows a keen eye for the patterns that are recurrent in the works, he has been able to project his own deep evaluative remarks, which form a veritable plank in the understanding of Nwoye and her works.
It explores the literary elements – subjects, plots, points of view, themes, characters, characterisation, settings, language, narrative and descriptive styles – with detailed enunciation of instances she achieves the narrative cohesion, which binds the multi-thematic preoccupations in her novels and short stories.
The book is divided into 11 chapters, wherein eight are critical explorations of the novels and short stories that were published between 1994 and 2013.To enrich the understanding of Nwoye’s literary outputs, the critic first, in the opening chapter, recurs to her personal history with the General Introduction. The last chapter is an interview with the writer. The background information in the first chapter essentially provides a window into her life.
An accountant by profession, Nwoye’s rise through the ranks in the bursary department of the University of Benin, which led to her becoming the school’s bursar, and her interaction with different people in the university community provides her tools for working. These insights are especially discovered in such works as, Endless Search, Blind Expectations, Death by Instalments and Fellers and Choices. It is no surprise that most of her literary works are peopled with individuals who work in the university community.
Style is said to define a writer. More often, some writers are read than the other due to their inimitable style. Graceful simplicity and sage-like panache are some of the essential qualities that characterise Chinua Achebe’s literary style for instance and these have made him a constant reference for writers across different epochs in African literature on how a writer could achieve pristine literary quality without fussy writing style.
In Nwoye, Fajenyo finds a subtle writer with vivid descriptiveness. The critic reflects, “Nwoye’s graphic presentation was laced with attractiveness, simplicity, and vivid descriptions. The diction was simple and gainsomely beautiful while images alluringly flowed through the paragraphs. The narration was largely picturesque and contributed to the veracity of the themes. There are subtle evidences of Nwoye’s captivating linguistic skill which gave strength to the intense, credible work of art.”
Yet, impressive as the literary outputs that have emanated from the creative muse of Nwoye, Fajenyo, through an eagle-eyed dissection of the oeuvre, is able to highlight some of the ungainly specks, which could have been taken care of and culled out from the works had diligently careful editorial perusals been afforded the works.
Fajenyo observes significant instances of this in the collection of short stories, Tide of Life. In one of the stories, he notes, “Nwoye carelessly abstains from doing good editing in parts of the story (and this is one of the noticeable faults in some of the stories).”
He recalls the comment of another critic, Charles E. Nnolim, who remarks, ‘the problem of language as a medium of communication is still very much with the Nigerian novelist; the solution to this problem will, it seems, continue to elude the Nigerian writer for some time to come.The book is essentially a top-notch critical read, which helps to put the focused author and her body of work in a deserved page in the annals of Nigerian literature. Scholars will find Fajenyo’s critical exploration of the author a directional signal to the mechanics of the writer’s prose.
Fajenyo interrogates language, style in Nwoye’s oeuvre