At the Interface of two Different Linguistic Aesthetics: Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart and Arrow of God


Hacettepe Üniversitesi Edebiyat Fakültesi Dergisi, vol.34, no.1, pp.121-130, 2017 (AHCI)

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 34 Issue: 1
  • Publication Date: 2017
  • Journal Name: Hacettepe Üniversitesi Edebiyat Fakültesi Dergisi
  • Journal Indexes: Arts and Humanities Citation Index (AHCI), Scopus, Academic Search Premier, FRANCIS, IBZ Online, International Bibliography of Social Sciences, American History and Life, Anthropological Literature, Artic & Antarctic Regions, EBSCO Legal Source, Historical Abstracts, Humanities Abstracts, Linguistic Bibliography, Linguistics & Language Behavior Abstracts, MLA - Modern Language Association Database, Political Science Complete, Social services abstracts, Sociological abstracts, Worldwide Political Science Abstracts, TR DİZİN (ULAKBİM)
  • Page Numbers: pp.121-130
  • Hacettepe University Affiliated: Yes


The use of English and other European languages in African literature has often been the focus of heated debates. The Makerere Conference on Anglophone African Literature in 1962, which explicitly excluded writers who work with African languages and the subsequent publication of Obi Walis contentious essay The dead end of African literature? (1963) are often seen as the starting point of this debate, which saw Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe as the main supporter of writing in English and Kenyan writer Ngugi wa Thiongo as the main adversary. Achebe is well-known for his creative use with English, forging a language based on Igbo aesthetics, but nevertheless comprehensive to an international audience. However, his new English, how he calls it, goes beyond merely defamiliarizing and subverting the language of the erstwhile colonizer in order to create a home-grown, African version of English, while at the same time being able to reach an international audience and thus confront the ex-colonizer with an African view of the realities of colonialism and its consequences. In Achebes novels, the new English, located at the interface of two linguistic aesthetics, becomes part of the story itself, illustrating the cultural differences between the two sides. The paper will illustrate how Achebe employs this hybrid language in his novels Things Fall Apart and Arrow of God to underscore their central themes: the violent conflict between Igbo and British society. After presenting how Achebe Africanizes English in the two novels, it will demonstrate how he uses it not only to pitch the two cultures against each other but also to trace the loss of Igbo oral tradition. The hybrid language thus proves to be more than a linguistic exit strategy out of the dilemma faced by postcolonial writers who are confronted with the choice between writing in the ex-colonizers language or in a local language.