The Political Power of Stories and Storytellers

George P. Landow, Professor of English and Art History, Brown University

At a key point in Ikem's speech to the students, which provides one of the central episodes of Anthills of the Savannah, he follows his example of traditional storytelling by infoming his audience: "As I stand before you now that old man who told me that incredible story is being held in solitary confinement at the Bassa Maximum Security Prison." When his listeners express surprise and anger, he continues: "Why? I hear you ask. Very well . . . This is why . . . Because storytellers are a threat. They threaten all champions of control, they frighten usurpers of the right-to-freddom of the human spirit -- in state, in church or mosque, in a party congress, in the university or whatever. That's why" (Ch. 12, p. 141).

In how many ways are stories and storytellers threats to repressive power? Does Achebe distinguish the power of traditional tales and storytellers from that found in the modern novel?

During his talk Ikem obviously employs traditional storytelling, political rhetoric and argumentation, and satire. What other modes or genres does he employ?

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