The Image of the Lorry in Ken Saro-Wiwa's Sozaboy

Jonathan R. Greenberg '94 (English 32 1990)

Using a lorry (van) called "Progres" is quite consistent with Saro-Wiwa's use of vivid imagery and symbolism to emphasize specific points within the novel. At the beginning of the novel, our protagonist Mene works as an apprentice driver in Dukana, a town in Eastern Nigeria. In Eastern Nigerian society, although truck drivers performs seemingly menial jobs, they hold a position of high esteem. Since the roads in almost all Nigeria (with exception of some areas of the capital) are in terrible shape, they demand a very skilled driver to transport people and goods safely across the land. Mene explains how he became an apprentice driver:

So my mama told me that I should learn to be driver. Because Dukana people have one lorry which they call "Progres." But they have no driver and they have to go and get driver from another country [country = ethnic group] to drive the lorry. And this driver is very rich man because he gets salary every month and every day he must get chop [food] money...My mama say that if I am apprentice to this driver, after some time I will get my own lorry to drive. And if I save my salary and my chop money, I can buy my own lorry and then I will be big man like any doctor or lawyer.

The lorry here appears as a symbol of progress. By learning a respectable trade, Mene can make enough money to "break out" of the monotony of the everyday tribal culture in Dukana and make something of himself. Ironically, as the above passage indicates, some outside force (ie. a driver from another country) must be recruited to help their own village, as no one from the town itself can help. Unfortunately for Dukana, Mene abandons the career of a driver when goes to become a sozaboy -- an act that went against the wishes of his widowed mother.

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