Negotiating Identity Through Language: A Juxtaposition of Wole Soyinka’s "The Road" And August Wilson’s "Fences"

Sep 28 2007

Amirikpa Oyigbenu, Ph.D.
Department of English, Nasarawa State University, Keffi, Nigeria.

Since the first contact between Africa and the West, the condition of Africa has continued to suffer debilitating setback. In almost all spheres of human endeavour, Africa has not fared well at all. The decimation of the African people in Berlin in 1884 saw the breakup of hitherto monolithic ethnic groups into different political territories, while the emergence of the trans-Atlantic slave trade witnessed a wholesale cartel of Africans as cargoes that were ferried to the so-called New World. While in the New World, new cultures and languages developed. Here in Africa, traditional languages were jettisoned with the threat of near extinction because European languages (English, French, German, Portuguese, Spanish, etc) were now imposed on Africans as the languages of administration, scholarship, and commerce. In the field of Literature, the dilemma has been in the choice of appropriate language. Even where the English language is in use, the dialectics remains that of accessibility and acceptability. It is in the light of this dilemma that this paper examines language as a domain for negotiating ethnic identity in the works of two illustrious Africans: Wole Soyinka’s The Road and August Wilson’s (African American) Fences.

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