Women in Anthills of the Savannah and Bones

Irene Tung, English 27, 1997

Women, who occupy central roles in both Chinua Achebe's Anthills of the Savannah and Chenjerai Hove's Bones, embody the most imporant issues and conflicts within both texts. Women, as a group and as individuals, are central to themes of communal strength, relationality, solidarity, and the transmission of cultural and spiritual values. Differences in each book's focus reflect the differing political contexts that surround women in post-colonial Nigeria and Zimbabwe.

Both Hove and Achebe advocate psychological and spiritual solutions to the socio-political problems faced by the characters in colonial and post-colonial states. Whereas Achebe stresses the value of inclusive relationships that cross the boundaries of class and educational backgrounds, Hove stresses relationality, or, more specifically, the potential for individuals to inspire others. The difference in their solutions can be interpreted as one of scale, and women operate as central figures and linchpins to both of these paradigms. Relationships between women provide solidarity and strength for resistence.

An important part of her identity, woman's generativity becomes a metaphor for her role as carrier and transmitter of cultural tradition, as well as catalyst for the evolution of tradition. Becoming a transmitter of beliefs and spirituality, women break the silence that has been assigned to them. In Bones, Marita becomes a symbolic representation of resistance to both gender and racial oppression. Her physical infertility is outweighed by the legacy of resistance that she passes on to the next generation through Janifa. In the same manner, Elewa's child, a woman, comes to symbolize hope for the future, and her naming ceremony is the event that brings people together in a communal manner.

In Bones, the relationship between Janifa and Marita is the central to the narrative. The relationship between these two women provides the strength for spiritual resistance central to his message. Similarly, Achebe, who emphasizes the importance of community, presents women both as means of healing and as sources of strength for resistance. In the passage in which their common womanhood led Beatrice to comfort Agatha. Her recognition of such common womanhood also leads to Beatrice's finding solace after Chris' death by attending the needs of Elewa: "For weeks Beatrice sprawled in total devastation Then one morning she rose up, as it were, and distanced herself from her thoughts. It was the morning of Elewa's threatened miscarriage. From that day she had addressed herself to the well-being of the young woman through the remaining weeks to her confinement" [202].

Personal relationships between women heighten a sense of solidarity that in itself is effective against oppression. In Bones, female solidarity is expressed in the unknown woman's alliance with Marita after her death.

The woman threatens to scream and shout rape before she strips naked in front of them all. But the chief of the people in uniform insists that he does not take that type of behavior...She bares her chest and asks him to be quick about it so she can be buried in the same grave as Marita. The man is ashamed to shoot her just like that, so he slaps her in the face. That does not stop her from spitting in the face of the man...He orders them to jump in...so that we can bury this prostitute alive with the corpse. [80]

The woman's actions illustrate the extent to which Marita's actions could affect another as well as the ability to find strength in the face of political and gender oppression.

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