This study attempts an exploration of how unity and coherence through contradictions are achieved in Achebe‟s Things Fall Apart, Iyayi‟s Violence and Habila‟s Measuring Time. It is significant to state that the choice of these texts is informed by the need to comprehend how various generations of Nigerian writers have negotiated the contradictions, tensions, distortions and challenges, which have characterized the social, historical and political landscape of Nigeria. In addition, this study reflects the many dimensions of contradictions, distortions, tensions, injustice and disillusionment prevailing in the selected texts. It touches on character juxtaposition, comparative analysis, differences and interrelationships among structures in the texts. It however achieves unity and coherence by showing the connection of representations in the texts. For instance, Achebe‟s Things Fall Apart projects unity and coherence of the African culture as well as Western religion through distortions and tensions evident in the text. The writer‟s skilful portrayal of the two cultures, co-existing side by side, is one of such structuralists binarism achieved in this study. Iyayi explores unity and coherence by pointing out the insensitive nature of the government. He encourages the masses to unite in the struggle towards a desirable and functional social order in the country. Habila‟s Measuring Time depicts family disunity and its effect on the individual character. He achieves unity and coherence in the text, emphasizing on individual contributions towards the unity and development in the community. Structuralism as a reading method is appropriate. This is in relation to its distinctive features of binary oppositions, the primacy of the text and the generation of meaning through differences, etc. The deployment of these features enhances the understanding of the contradictions, distortions and tensions predominant in the texts. The study therefore establishes that in spite of these contradictions, complexities, disintegrations and distortions the texts display some levels of unity and coherence towards a desirable functional society.



The  study  attempts  to   explore  and  examine   how  literary  texts    achieve  unity  and coherence through contradictions in Chinua Achebe‟s Things Fall Apart (1958), Festus Iyayi‟s

Violence (1979), and Helon Habila‟s Measuring Time (2006). The study foregrounds the manner in which the selected Nigerian novelists appropriated and engaged the social realities, changes, challenges, sensibilities experienced in Nigeria to recreate and express a new consciousness. To understand the nature of this new consciousness, the contact of Africa with the Western world is significant in the modern literary imports of Nigeria and Africa at large. The contact significantly impacted on the formation of literature from the oral to the written form, the language use from indigenous languages to the English language, the change in thematic values of cultural encapsulation, the issues of colonialism and post-independence disillusionment, etc.

This contact with the Western world and its implication has drawn critical attention in Oswald Spengler‟s Decline of the West (1918), Franz Fanon‟s Wretched of the Earth (1968), Walter Rodney‟s    How    Europe    Underdeveloped    Africa    (1972),     Austine    Amanze     Akpuda‟s

Reconstructing the Canon, Joseph Conrad‟s Heart of Darkness (1988), and many other literary and  critical  texts.  These  works  essentially  explore  and  articulate  the  many  dimensions  of colonialism.  One  of  such  relevant  comments  to  this  study  is     credited  to  Simon  Gikandi (2007:54):

But what is now considered to be the heart of literary scholarship on the continent could not have acquired its current identity or function if the traumatic encounter between Africa and Europe had not taken place. Not only were the founders of modern African literature colonial subjects but colonialism was also to be the most important and enduring theme in their works. From the eighteenth century onwards, the colonial situation shaped what it meant to be an African writer, shaped the language of African writing, and over determined the culture of letters in African…,

The view explains to a large extent, the positive and negative impacts of colonialism and its impact on the African writer.

Chinua Achebe is one of Africa‟s prolific and influential writers and no discussion on the historical relevance of Africa‟s fiction can be complete without referring to him. Achebe‟s work emphasizes and focuses on the importance of the individual person, the family structure, and the community. His creative vision transits from one generation to another, exploring the distortions, misrepresentations, standards, changes and phenomena which characterized the society through the use of history and realism. As a critical realist, Achebe selects a language frame that most appropriately conveys his messages. This is demonstrated in his works as they move through a certain level of historical progression from Things Fall Apart (1958), through No Longer at Ease (1960), to Arrow of God (1964), and A Man of the People (1966).

Festus Iyayi, on the other hand, represents one of the most powerful voices in contemporary Nigerian literary scene. His writings are distinctly characterised with directness of words that address societal and national interests. As a socialist realist, Iyayi explores the nature of the Nigerian society in various ramifications, from political to the economic especially in terms of implication for the poor and marginalised members of the society. He explores the Nigerian socio-political structures and how individuals negotiate their existence within these structures. Iyayi demonstrates great measure of radicalism with Marxist fervour in his literary works. The radical propagation of Marxist ideology is a common feature associated with many of Iyayi‟s contemporaries such as, Niyi Osundare, Isidore Okpewho, Femi Osofisan and others. This presents an interest for this study because Marxist register is full of opposites and contradictions, such as the rich and poor, oppressed and oppressor and privileged and less privileged which fully express the sense of the binary. The Marxist approach sees the history of human beings in terms of class struggle between bourgeoisie and proletariat, capitalism and socialism. He also simplifies the language that he employs in his works in order to generate spontaneous response from readers. His writings project limitless possibilities of the masses towards changing the society at large.

Iyayi embodies the younger generation of Nigerian writers referred to as committed writers because his novels, to a larger extent, offer a comprehensive insight to the life of the poor working class facing the odds of exploitation and oppression in Nigeria. He explores the socio-political degeneration in Nigeria which is defined by the economic inbalance in place.

Helon Habila demonstrates a level of writing that shifts from the conventional approach of writing in Africa, as he negotiates between fantasy and realism in Measuring Time. His appropriation of Magic realism, allows his work to extend social experience in the novel to reach beyond the confines of realism and draw upon the energies of fable, folktale and myth while retaining a strong contemporary social relevance. This type of avant-garde is also seen in some of Ben Okri‟s works.

This study offersa refreshing attempt to unveil the approaches adopted in Achebe‟s Things Fall Apart, Festus Iyayi‟s Violence and Helon Habila‟s Measuring Time, in structural terms, toward the creation of unity and coherence through contradictions prevalent in them. In this regard, the study examines the differences in ideological perceptions and connections between the novel and reality, binary oppositions in characterizations that have defined the trend and focus of these writers across generations.

1.1         Literature and Society in Nigeria

There is a way in which a symbiotic relationship exists between literature and society. It is this relationship that enables literature to follow the various contours of changes in the society. In this regard, Nnolim (2010:1) argues: It is now commonplace knowledge that contemporary African literature cannot be properly understood and appreciated as an isolated expression but must rather be viewed as part of the totality of human experience. As a literature of a people, it cannot be fully understood by the simple separation of form and content, for literature is part of a social situation and must be approached primarily as a mode of collective belief and action…

The dynamism between literature and society pave ways for possible reconciliation in the work of art. This simply means that although there are dynamics  and complex  developments  in Nigerian history including its social and cultural formation, Nigerian literature could still be explored, and understood as a unified and coherent experience. Nnolim(2010:112-113) argues further that:

The relationship between art and society cannot be ignored, for art itself is a social phenomenon: first, because the artist, however unique his primary experience might be, is a social being; second, because his work, however deeply marked by his primary experience and however unique and unrepeatable its objectification or form might be, is always a bridge, a connecting link between the artist and other members of society; third, because a work of art affects other people – it contributes to the reaffirmation or devaluation of their ideals, goals, or values – and is a social force which, with its emotional or ideological weight, shakes or moves people. Nobody remains the same after having been deeply moved by a true work of art…Art and society are thus necessarily connected: no art has been unaffected by social influences and no art has failed in turn to influence society… The above view further validates the importance of art in human existence especially in Africa where this existence invariably includes the contact with the Western world. Again, Nnolim (2010:29) posits that:

The story of Europe‟s encounter with Africa, it seems, will never be complete in our literatures until its ramifications are traced by our literary artists from that initial break-up of our culture, which Achebe so splendidly recreated in Things Fall Apart, to Ousmane Sembene‟s concerns with the oppressive nature of the forces of production which Europeans unleashed among the labouring African masses, then to Ngugi Wa Thiong‟O‟s tracing of those oppressive elements inherited by Africa from the departing Europeans and perpetrated by them as neocolonist African stooges on their disadvantaged fellow Africans, as recreated in Petals of Blood. Nnolim‟s view again establishes link between the artist and the society in which the artist is both voice and conscience. Simon Gikandi (2007:101) had earlier made the point that:

it has always been the task of African art and artists to be critical prods and guides of their societies. “The artist has always functioned in African society as the record of the mores and experiences of his society and as the voice of vision in his own time…. In the same vein, Achebe expresses the opinion that the African writer functions as a teacher in his society and as a teacher, he/she is expected to inculcate values or at least live an exemplary lifestyle. It, therefore, means that African writers have the social task of raising the consciousness of their people about reality in terms of their social well-being, history, cultural values, challenges and leadership, to mention but a few. Achebe‟s commitment, in using literature in creating awareness in African society, has always been obvious for decades now. He argues accordingly that (1975:79):

It is clear… that an African creative writer who tries to avoid the big social and political issues of contemporary Africa will end up being completely irrelevant like that absurd man in the proverb who leaves his burning house to pursue a rat fleeing from the flames. Consequently, most African novelists are not too concerned with the triviality in the

society but with critical or “burning issues” of violence, leadership, social injustices, etc. Since independence, many literary works have reflected the changing phases in the society. These works examine the claim that literature entails man‟s daily and conscious struggle with forces in society. Ngugi (2003: xi) mentions that:

Imaginative literature in so far as it deals with human relationships and attempts to influence a peoples‟ consciousness and politics, in so far as it deals with and is about operation of power and relationship of power in society, are reflected in one another, and can and do act on one another.

The open-ended realm of possibilities in imaginative literary works is very well noted in Ngugi‟s comments.

Similarly, the trends in Nigerian literary works have been affected by the relationship between art and society as social changes determine the direction writers take in exploring the state of affairs in their various milieus. Thus, according to Irele in Literary Criticism in the Nigerian Context, has in mind when he says that:

…in a growing literary culture the canon is hardly ever a stable or final one, and every generation has the opportunity to shape its literary preferences according to its own perception of the values it considers essential to the continuity of its tradition.

It also means that the terrain of Nigerian fiction is dynamic. This dynamic nature of Nigerian fiction is reflected in its various handling of thematic preoccupations and the stylistic devices are commonly used. For instance, the first generation of writers represented by Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, Christopher Okigbo, Gabriel Okara and J. P. Clark-Bekederemo, dealt with specific cultural issues while Niyi Osundare, Tanure Ojaide, Femi Osofisan and Festus Iyayi, who are the major voices of the second generation, express their angst against the decadence of post-independence leadership. There is, then, a group whose artistic features constitute another terrain of Nigerian fiction, such as Chimamanda Adichie, Sefi Attah, Helon Habila, Doreen Baigana, etc.

The first generation came into the limelight in the days of Nigeria’s struggle for independence in the late 1950s, including the period of the country’s first attempt at civil rule. The testimony of culture is their central thematic preoccupation. For instance, Wole Soyinka‟s long conversation with the Yoruba god of Iron, Ogun; Christopher Okigbo‟s presentation of natural phenomena as signs and symbols of higher spiritual truths; and Chinua Achebe‟s reliance on cultural properties as well as infusion of indigenous elements involve consistent effort at cultural assertion by this crop of writers. They are influenced by modernist tendencies and model their English language. Accordingly, Chinweizu, et al (1980) refers to them as suffering from the Hopkins’ disease because of the initial enthusiasm for Hopkins, Yeats, Eliot, Pound and the Classics which gained ground vastly at all literary construction among these Nigerian writers.

Asein (1978:98) aptly describes the writing of this era thus:

… We can conveniently affirm that there was no serious discussion of the social responsibilities of the writer in the Nigerian society before 1965. For many Nigerian writers before that date, social/political commitment in so far as it related to literature was generally suspect: and literature of commitment was understandably looked upon as second-rate and … society at that particular stage of national development. Greater emphasis was placed on the need to restore the past, and ‘commitment’ for most Nigerian writers meant cultural commitment which did not necessarily involve the writer in partisan politics and social programmes. The social reality and dynamics are explored in an attempt to restore and celebrate the past and its importance. Again there was the emergent of new voices of Marxists and  the decolonization of African literature that had begun in East Africa. Unlike the Achebe‟s generation of writers, the new  writers   are   public   in   their   treatment   of   themes,   conscious   of   their   readers,   quite

unpretentious, direct  and simple in  expression. The new writers include Festus  Iyayi,  Niyi Osundare, to mention a few. One clear distinction between the first generation and second generation of writers is in the latter‟s belief that literature has to reflect what is happening in the society, in order to effectively play its social function which is to be accessible to the masses. On the role of Marxism, for instance, a leading member of the generation, Niyi Osundare (1996:79), states thus:

We read the works of Marx, the works of Lenin, and many of the speeches of Che Guevara and Fidel Castro and, of course, the works of Fanon, particularly Fanon…. These were works that we read and we discovered that they were

saying things that were true about our position, and of course, these things influenced what we wrote eventually.

Not only did they study the works of Marx, Lenin and speeches of Che Guevara, Fidel Castro and Fanon, such works influenced their writings and build their literary preoccupation on social reality. In addition to this, their expressions serve as a gateway into the consciousness of the state of affairs in the society.

The second generation of writers explore issues of dislocation, exploitation, question of identity,  corruption,  bad  leadership,  and  the  disintegration  of  society.  The  thrust  of  their expression are socially-driven. Osofisan (1996:16) further expatiates on the mission of this generation as follows: … our focus was on the present state of our society, on unmasking the class forces at play within it, revealing the material sources of exploitation and injustices, demonstrating how the masses could liberate themselves [and] of greater pertinence now as the collective struggle, fought by the hero with a thousand faces, a thousand hands…. Since the writings of this era are now focussed on the condition of the ordinary people, the peasants and workers, the language and style of such write-ups are more accessible and reflective of the societal realities. The third, emergent generation of writers articulate social happenings in relation to its effect in the society. Niyi Osundare (1996:20), however, refers to them as those “…born around Nigeria’s independence (1960), Nigeria’s midnight children, as it were, who have spent the first three decades of their lives confronting the nightmare that the country has become”. He further describes their literary temperament as ranging “from angry through desperate to despondent” (p.40).  Some  of  these  voices  include  Helon  Habila,  Chimamanda  Ngozi  Adichie,  Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo, Sefi Attah, Sade Adeniran. According to Nnolim (2006:8-15):

The 21st century seems to have taken the African writer and critic by surprise. Pioneer writers like Achebe and his contemporaries have fallen silent or are playing into what soccer enthusiasts refer to as injury time. Ben Okri, Nuruddin Farah, Niyi Osundare and a few others are holding the field… This generation of writers primarily endeavour to shift focus to reflect both their predecessors and successors. They explore the structural order of the society in relation to the mode of production and the chasm between the rich and poor. These polarizations demonstrated in manner of writing and thematic presentation by different generations of Nigerian writers are further highlighted in Nnolim‟s view (2010:196) as:

Literature must not be conceived of as being merely a passive reflection or copy of political, social or historical developments. But since the catch is that we cannot really detach the movement of literature from intellectual, historical and political realities, we should regard a literary period as a time-section dominated by a set of literary values and conventions which have crystallized around certain historical and political events and possibly modified the concept of the whole period. We should adhere to what Russian formalists call “the process of automatization” which traces the see-saw movement between the stage of exhaustion of one literary movement and its replacement by a more vibrant one which is visibly in the ascendant – a series of revolts leading to new “actualization” through changes in emphasis on themes, subject matter, social concerns, modes of expression The above vividly captures the transformation and changes in society which invariably affect the trends in the Nigerian writing. It also exemplifies how the writer takes full advantage of social dynamism to express newness and rebirth in writing. Consequently, the changes in society invariably affect the trends in the Nigerian writing. It is in this regard that each of the selected primary texts is a representation of a particular generation of writers in Nigeria.

1.2          Statement of the Problem

The choice of Chinua Achebe‟s Things Fall Apart, Festus Iyayi‟s Violence and Helon Habila‟s Measuring Time, is informed by the need to comprehend how three generations of Nigerian writers have negotiated the contradictions, disruptions and distortions that have characterised the social, historical and political landscape of Nigeria. Chinua Achebe‟s Things Fall Apart, for instance, reflects the Nigeria society as a microcosm of the larger Nigerian society. His craftsmanship lies in his ability to project the unity and coherence in an African society through contradictions and distortions, in terms of the characterization, ideological issues and the styles of presentation. Achebe points out the binary oppositions of weakness as well as strengths of the native society in his attempt to confront colonialism, thereby presenting a deeper impression and foundation upon which the Nigerian identities, values, norms and peculiarities are built.

Festus Iyayi‟s Violence ambitiously tackles the question of a dilapidated society punctuated by disillusionment. The writer interprets the societal events in Nigeria as rather unfortunate and as the cause of the shortcomings experienced in the country. Festus Iyayi‟s Violence explores varying dimensions of violence inflicted on the individual in the society, such as the lack of development, fragmentation, the quest for wealth, the soured relationship between the employer and the employee, and the gulf between the rich and the poor and urges the masses to embrace revolution as a way of reconstructing the social reality of the chasm between the rich and the poor.

Helon Habila‟s Measuring Times reflects the issues of family disintegration/unity, the favoured/unfavoured, poor leadership, man‟s unending quest for wealth, unemployment and lack of infrastructural facilities in Keti community. Habila‟s themes and mode of exploration is novel. The deployment of the twins further illustrates the structuralist concept of binarism.

The selected texts are relevant in the contemporary African literary discourse as they add a new dimension to the study of literature. It is important to note that the selected texts explore sensitive but complex terrain of the society and the essence of this study is to comprehend how these writers have negotiated these contradictions of one thing over another, nature and culture, being and nothingness, complexities, and tensions prevailing in the texts through the structuralist analysis of binary oppositions. The centrality of the discourse touches on every major aspect of the Nigerian system. The selected novels would contribute to the study of literature and aid in interpreting layers of fundamental issues on the Nigerian social reality. In essence, this study demonstrates how structuralism would be used to resolve the contradictions and tensions in the texts into unity and coherence of meaning. The study investigates how the various writers arrive at coherent pieces, in spite of the complexities and tension which characterize the texts. Structuralism would be used to resolve the contradictions and tensions in the texts into unity and coherence of meaning.

1.4         Aim and Objectives

This study aims to establish a structuralist reading of the selected texts. It therefore demonstrates that literature presents continuous, relevant and open-ended engagement by readers. The following are the objectives of this study:

  1. To show that although the primary authors and their texts could be situated within different periods their texts share a commonality of binarisms and oppositions,
  2. To establish a more scientific and systematic interpretation of the selected literary texts, and:
  3. To further illustrate that a reading of the various texts presents an overall conclusion of unity and coherence about the Nigeria that they project.

1.5         Scope and Delimitation

The area of study covers the analysis of the selected novels of Achebe‟s Things FallApart, Iyayi‟s Violence and Habila‟s Measuring Time. The study is limited to the structuralist features of binarism and the generation of meaning through codes and conventions predominant in the selected texts. The focus of the study is anchored on the analysis of Achebe‟s Things Fall Apart, Iyayi‟s Violence and Habila‟s Measuring Time as they represent the various generations of Nigerian writers.

1.6         Justification of Study

The research study seeks to foreground the complexities, ironies and the contradictions in the various texts. Structuralist features of binary oppositions of paired opposites and the interplay of meaning through the structures in the texts would analyse these underlying structures in the texts.

Although many critics have explored Achebe‟s Things Fall Apart, Iyayi‟s Violence and Habila‟s Measuring Time, there is the need to explore and evaluate the uniqueness and significant ways these writers present the Nigeria situation and its influence on both characters and the society at large. This study by adopting the parameters of structuralism further expands the conversations on how texts are interpreted.

1.7         Theoretical Framework

The choice of structuralism as the theoretical framework lies on the significant structural nature of the selected texts, especially with regard to social, economic, political and cultural developments. Structuralism exhibits divergence in scope, texture and technique.

Structuralism in literature examines primarily the binary and alternative views and thoughts predominant in any literary work, and looks for ways to transcend the opposites and form a unified whole. It addresses directly multiple facets of ideas, by presenting how contrary views are arranged within a text by exposing or identifying how binaries or opposites coexist side  by  side  within  a    text,  with  the  view  of  arriving  at  some  acceptable  interpretation. Structuralist discourse reinforces opposites and insists that the opposites have something in common. This school of thought also sees the process of change through the understanding of the whole system. This suggests that nothing is infinite. Literary discourse could be meaningful if accessed in its totality. According to Eagleton (1983:82-84), structuralism is concerned:

…with structures, and more particularly with examining the general laws by which they work…the method is analytical, not evaluative…structuralism is a calculated affront to common sense. It refuses the „obvious‟ meaning of the story and seeks instead to isolate certain „deep‟ structures within it, which are not apparent on the surface. It does not take the text at face value, but „displaces‟ it into a quite different kind of object…viewed language as a system of signs, which was to be studied „synchronically‟, – that is to say, studied as a complete system at a given point in time – rather than „diachronically‟, in its historical development…made up of a „signifier „ and a „signified‟ …an attempt to rethink everything through once again in terms of linguistics…. The foregoing introduces the fundamental components of structuralism. Structural analysis views literary works as emerging continuously because meaning is considered through the interplay of words  in  any  work.  One  advantage  of  structuralism  is  that  it  advances  meaning  through structures in the text. Structuralism predominantly searches for principles of order, decorum, coherence and meaning, no matter the challenges, contradictions, disjointedness in a work of art. Meaning could be established even in a mundane way. Structuralism is further referred to in Baldick (2004:245-246) as a:

…modern intellectual movement that analyses cultural phenomena according to principles derived from linguistics, emphasizing the systematic interrelationships among the elements of any human activity, and thus the abstract codes and conventions governing the social production of meaning. Building on the linguistics concept of the phoneme…structuralism argues that the elements composing any cultural phenomenon are similarly „relational‟, that is, they have meaning only by virtue of their contrasts with other elements of the system, especially in binary oppositions of paired opposites. Accordingly, structuralist analysis seeks the underlying system or langue that governs individual utterances or instances… Structuralism concentrates on elements within works of literature advancing meaning through the interplay of words. It is grounded in linguistics, which implies that language is a complete, self-contained system and should be studied as such. Gerard  Genette  (1980:48)  observes  that  „structuralism  underlines  the  importance  of genre, that is, basic rules as to how subjects are approached, about conventions of reading for theme, level of seriousness, significance of language use, and so forth. Different genres lead to different  expectations  of  types  of  situations  and  actions,  and  of  psychological,  moral,  and aesthetic values‟, while Fredric Jameson (1972) refers to structuralism as the project of giving literary criticism the theoretical rigour of a science of language. These assertions emphasize a coherent  connection  among  the  conceptions  of  reality,  the  social,  the  individual  and  the conscious. This is because they are all composed of the same signs, codes and conventions, all working according to similar laws and decorum in literature.

Hawkes (1977:77-18) posits that structuralism is fundamentally; a way of thinking about the world which is predominantly concerned with the perception and description of structures…the principle involved must invest the whole of reality. In consequences, the true nature of things may be said to lie not in things themselves, but in the relationship which we construct, and then perceive, between them…the nature of every element in any given situation has no significance by itself, and in fact is determined by its relationship to all the other elements involved in that situation… the full significance of any entity or experience cannot be perceived unless and until it is integrated into the structure of which it forms a part…,

The above view suggests that structuralism stretches through the boundaries that define literature, to redefine its contradictions, and relationship. Hawkes also notes that the importance of the relationship of the element in a structural discourse is in its contrast.

According to Ferdinand de Saussure in Course in General Linguistics, language is made up of signs, which is the combination of a signifier (a sound or a sound-image) and signified (an idea, a concept). Saussure further argues that the first principle of linguistics is the arbitrariness of the sign. This arbitrariness of the sign means that there is no natural connection between the signifier and signified. Saussure opines that words name ideas, not things. It therefore connotes that a word is defined not by its relation to some eternal essence, but through the relationship it has with another in the system, in this case, in a text. In addition, one of the major tasks of linguistic analysis  is  synchronic,  rather than  diachronic.  Synchronic  is  the study of  all  the relations among the different parts of a linguistic system at any given moment in time, without reference to the past while diachronic is the study of the evolution of language, of history‟s impact on linguistic events. This provides key to the most fundamental element of structuralism. It also presents a text as an object whose meaning can be interpreted in terms of its symbolic patterns.

According to Palmer (1997:24), Saussure‟s structuralism can be seen:

…most clearly in his (Saussure) claim that the whole of language as he wishes to study it can be displayed as a system of syntagmatic and paradigmatic negative relations of difference. Saussure‟s science of linguistics is a radical departure from the past because it entails a whole new picture of the human mind. Rather, the mind is a system of operations that generate structures of similarity and differentiation in terms of such rules as those of syntagmatic and paradigmatic relationship. It is because of these operations that meaning is possible – that one thing can signify another.

The  above  affirms  the  generation  of  meaning  through  differences  among signs,  codes  and conventions in a system. Meaning is possible and basically occurs through differences. In  addition,  the  French  critic  Roland  Barthes  (1915-1980)  is  also  fascinated  by the meanings of the things that surround us in our everyday lives. His writings, which include

S/Z(1970) and Mythologies(1957), challenge the „innocence „and „naturalness‟ of cultural texts

and  practices   which   are   capable   of   producing  all   sorts   of   supplementary   meanings,   or connotations. Roland Barthes‟ later writings, however, show a shift to post-structuralism, a school of thought that emerged partly from within French Structuralism in the 1960s. The post-structuralist thinkers emphasize the instability of meanings and of intellectual categories and set out to dissolve the fixed binary oppositions of structuralist thought, including that between language and metalanguages. Instead they favoured the indeterminacy of texts through free play of meaning in a literary work. The theory of structuralism sees the literary text as a structured entity. Structuralism gives the reader room for a complete overhaul of literary appreciation of a text to produce other meanings in the same context. It tends towards a deeper understanding of literary phenomenon. No wonder, Eagleton (1983) posits that structuralism is a calculated affront to common sense.


There are substantial evidences of structuralist principles in the selected primary texts in this study leading to rediscovery of meaning. These primary texts reveal essential qualities of structuralism through the characters, events, structures and thematic applications. The texts are also rich in structuralist thinking as the writers‟ record of an exploration and exposition of man and the environment are embedded with structuralist properties.

Therefore, one of the basic features of structuralism is the juxtaposition of structures in the text by interrogating events and exploring the binary opposites within the text. This in essence, engenders new meanings, and new perception concerning the events in the text. Structuralism creates meaning through difference in most cases. Meaning is generated through differences among signs in a signifying system or essential reality. For instance, the meaning of the words „man‟ and „lad‟ are formed by their relations to each other. They both refer to a human male, but what constitutes „human‟ and „male‟ are themselves gotten through difference, not attached with any essence, or ideal truth, or the like. In other words, meaning gains its effect through constant juxtaposition and interplay of words in the structures.


In addition, the structuralist study of literature could be referred to as the systematic study of literature, which analyses words as linguistic signs, expressing ideas in terms of the language they represent. The Saussurean dichotomies or binary oppositions are fundamental. There is also the interplay between the opposites which further unfold meanings in literary studies. Structuralism concentrates entirely on the material process of deeper meaning. It compels our attention to the underlying and unrelated meaning in the text, renewing our perceptions, transforming our consciousness to perceiving the world anew.


In spite of the various definitions of structuralism, this study mainly concerns itself with the binaries prevalent in the selected texts. The structuralist analysis which addresses directly or indirectly multiple dimensions of ideas, thereby identifying how opposites coexist side by side within a text would be applied. It would promote synchronic study of structuralism. The reinforcement and interrelationship of opposites, insisting that the opposites and contradictions have something in common is to be assessed. This discourse generates meaning through differences and the interplay of words in the selected texts. The study gives importance to the underlying structure of the texts, and underlines the significance of genre, basic rules and codes. Through the use of structuralism, this study searches for principle of order, decorum and coherence in the contradictions and disjointedness in the texts. This is the extent this study streamlines the varying explanations provided by the scholars of structuralism. The aforementioned precepts are taken into cognisance in the analysis of Chinua Achebe‟s Things Fall Apart, Festus Iyayi‟s Violence and Helon Habila‟s Measuring Time.


1.8               The Structuralist Concept of Binary


Structuralism is built on Saussurean dichotomies or binaries, such as being/nothing, hot/cold, certainty/uncertainty, appearance/reality, freedom/bondage, weakness/strength, fearless/fearful, and culture/nature; these binary opposites structure meaning and one can describe fields of cultural thought, by describing the binary sets which compose them.


According to Baldick (2004:27) binary means: The principle of contrast between two mutually exclusive terms: on/off, up/down, left/right etc; an important concept of structuralism, which sees such distinctions as fundamental to all language and thought. The theory of phonology developed by Roman Jakobson uses the concept of binary features, which are properties either present or absent in any phoneme. Voicing, for example is present in /z/ but not in /s/. This concept has been extended to anthropology by Claude Levi-Strauss (in such oppositions as nature/culture, raw/cooked, inedible/edible) and to narratology by A. J. Greimas. Baldick‟s views indicate that the binary usually looks for contrasts, complexities, paradoxes, ambiguities, ironies and antithesis in an exclusive but mutual structure in a text and finds a unifying ground between them. It is therefore sufficient to note that structuralism is heightened by the application of the binaries, juxtapositions,  signs,  contrasts,  contradictions,  and  antitheses.  For  instance,  the  structuralist  binary opposition is dependent on the social reality versus the human interaction prevalent in the literary text. The theory of structuralism stretches forward and backward, exploring and interrogating the human encounters, social happenings and every mundane phenomenon involved in the texts of Achebe, Iyayi and Habila. The deployment of structuralist analysis of binary oppositions therefore elucidates the various distortions in Achebe‟s Things Fall Apart; the lingering insensitive nature of the government as depicted in Iyayi‟s Violence and varying instances of family disintegration prevalent in Habila‟s Measuring Time.

1.9         Unity as Used in this Study

Merriam Webster‟s Encyclopaedia of Literature refers to unity as “a combination or ordering of parts in a literary or artistic production that constitutes a whole or promotes an undivided total effect. This definition shows that unity is the state of being in agreement and working together, the state of being joined together to form one unit. Unity is also staying on the topic within the focus while coherence involves the clear movement of thought within the topic. This study thus argues that structuralism as a reading method is appropriate for understanding the selected texts because the structuralist features of binary oppositions, codes and conventions, etc, are all embedded in the selected primary texts; Chinua Achebe‟s Things Fall Apart, Festus Iyayi‟s Violence, and  Helon  Habila‟s  Measuring  Time  demonstrate  how  they  achieve  unity  and  coherence  through contradictions.

2.0               Literature Review

Achebe‟s Things Fall Apart, Iyayi‟s Violence, and Habila‟s Measuring Time have drawn and attracted several critical opinions, multiple facets of ideas, thematic preoccupations and styles of these works. While some critics examine the several cultural issues, self-assertion and community peculiarity in Achebe‟s Things Fall Apart, Iyayi‟s critics have concerned themselves with issues of injustice and oppression in the Nigerian society, manifested in the lack of social amenities, man‟s inhumanity to man, and the chasm between the rich and the poor. Habila‟s Measuring Time, a much more recent text, has been labelled by critics as a text that relies heavily on magic realism, a sort of surrealistic approach in the treatment of complex societal happenings in Nigeria. In Achebe‟s case, Nnolim (2010:197) is of the view that: Achebe is the inaugurator of the great tradition of the Nigerian novel _ that tradition which is concerned with cultural assertion or cultural nationalism which stresses and promotes the innate dignity of the black man and makes creative use of our myths, legends, rituals, festivals, ceremonies, and folklore. Achebe is a pioneer of whatever is authentic and indigenous in the Nigerian novel. His novels _Things Fall Apart and Arrow of God-are referred to by Charles Larson as both “the archetypal” African Novel and “the situational” novel… we must all hark back to Achebe for what is great and enduring in the Nigerian novel- for he established that tradition which promotes awareness of what is really great and dignified in our culture, salted with the lilt of our proverbs and local expressive mannerisms…imbued with the charm of our folkways, the respect for our ancestors and the beauty of our traditions and culture, plus the rehabilitation of the image of the black man whose dignity has been bruised and damaged by the colonial master. Nnolim‟s comment identifies the relevance of Achebe‟s Things Fall Apart in terms of cultural celebration and the dignity of the black man as a social being. Achebe buttresses the historical background as well as ascertains the cultural degeneration experienced by Africans as a result of the colonial contact with the white. Achebe‟s analysis of colonial rule also is similar to Moore‟s(1980:123-124) who argues that:The appearance of Things Fall Apart in 1958 won for its author a position of eminence in African literature which for a long time led to his being elevated above his fellows, in his own and the succeeding generation. The book was quickly recognised as a classic and tended to be used as a yardstick with which to measure the many Anglophone novels, Achebe‟s task was not merely to look back to the Africa of his childhood, but through that childhood into the Africa of some two generations earlier. At the beginning of Things Fall Apart, the whiteman has not even been seen. By the end, he has already destroyed the delicate equilibrium of the traditional world… Achebe‟s theme is suggested by his title, chosen from Yeats‟s celebrated poem “The Second Coming”… Things Fall Apart, the Centre cannot hold… Moore views Achebe‟s Things Fall Apart as distinctively a representative of intellectual trajectory of the challenges in Africa in general, and in Nigeria in particular, as well as in the global construction of human identity. Achebe‟s Things Fall Apart provides ample examples about the relationship between Nigerian history and Nigerian literature. The social and historical encounter of the African and the whiteman manifests itself variously as the novel unfolds. This study, however, aims at exploring the structural elements such as the binary oppositions, the interplay of words to create differences and exploring the underlying meaning in the work and the primacy of text to generate meanings.  Through the application of structuralism, this study illustrates how unity and coherence through contradictions is achieved. This study therefore locates several linguistic and structural contradictions that are prevalent in the selected primary texts. Iyayi‟s critics offer some remarkable observations on the situation in the Nigerian society. They emphasize Iyayi‟s insight in re-enacting the social conflict of his society, allowing himself not to be overwhelmed by these societal predicaments, but instead evaluates them and exposes the reader to the plight of the masses in the society. Simon Gikandi (2003:342) holds the view that Iyayi “seeks to capture the chaos and corruption engendered by a selfish business elite… this disruption of ordinary social life and  the  degradation  of   the  physical   environment   engendered   by   a   relentless   quest   for    wealth”. Iyayi‟sViolence consciously projects the reality of daily life in Nigerian society and what the writer sets out to achieve is the quest for material things. Uwasomba (2005:323-335) observes that Iyayi‟s fiction is an exploration of the contradictions, class rifts, disunity and conflicts in the Nigerian system. He opines that such controversies pervade Iyayi‟s fiction and “demonstrate Iyayi‟s hope in a new social order through his revolutionary characters”. Iyayi‟s Violence takes a look at a Nigerian society progressively moving towards the path of retrogression, degeneration, corruption and moral decadence. Akaana E. Terhemba (2004) situates Iyayi‟s Violence as a post-colonial Nigerian novel, which

according to him explores:

…the exploitation the working class people undergo. Due to the already suffocating unemployment market in the society, the labourers have no alternative than to stay and endure all the indignities of dehumanization. Iyayi here expresses his disgust for both the foreign and local exploiters… Iyayi‟s optimism that despite the influence of capitalism … nature of capitalism if individuals have the capacity to forgive and organise themselves… Though the novel portrays joblessness, sexual exploitation, the capitalist system with its exploitative tendencies, it reveals the contemporary situation of the Nigerian system. Again, Gakwandi (1977:108) states: African novelists have been involved in the search for ways of combating the forces of disintegration that have been let loose by unhappy circumstances of history…The committed novel, on the other hand, necessarily looks into the future because of implied faith in the ability of a people to change their history…in the ability of their societies to hold their own against evil and to unite in the struggle towards a desirable social ideal… Accordingly, Iyayi‟s Violence shares in this faith towards a functional and desirable society. Habila‟s Measuring Time has also earned some measure of critical comments. One of such comments is Hari Kunzruin“ A Review on Measuring Time and Culture”, which gives some details on the works of Habila. Kunzru‟s comments in this regard are worth noting, “Measuring Time… overlaps this tradition of despair with a self-consciously mythic plot that brings the book to the borders of that definitively postcolonial style, magic realism”. In addition, Giles Fodenin an article „The power of two‟ reveals that Habila‟s Measuring Time brings,

African tale-telling in which the novel becomes part of the oral narrative tapestry of a particular community, the book also integrates many themes of the modern African novel, from the journey undertaken by LaMamo as a version of the traditional initiatory excursion, to the equivalent quest of the hero, Mamo, for true wisdom. The story is essentially a tale of a fight to realize those things and places in the eyes of these two twins, while at the same time moving past those fears. Measuring Timeis a story that demonstrates how fears of love, ambition, and the possibilities of individual potential must be overcome through experiences facing them firsthand. Even though a family such as the Lamangs can crumble and be torn apart by selfish desire and the coinciding fears that plague its members, they, like their village, as written in LaMamo‟s biographical chronicles, must learn to take their losses in stride, without failing to notice the important things that are often overlooked by the characters and people around them.

This reflects the many dimensions of Habila‟s Measuring Time and the journey of the twins towards self-discovery and self-growth.

The critics have taken different positions on the thematic preoccupation of the texts. Specifically, none of the critics explores the structuralist analysis of the selected texts, in relation to binary oppositions, primacy of the texts, to generate meaning through the interplay of words, codes and conventions. It is essential to note that none of these critics attempt an in-depth analysis on the structural study of the selected texts to establish a sense of coherence from the seeming contradictions and inconsistencies in the texts. Therefore, this study attempts to fill these gaps by highlighting the several patterns of approach adopted by the writers, especially in the apparent contradictions of ideas, characterization, and other challenges encountered in the Nigerian social reality and demonstrate that in spite of these tensions there exists unity and coherence in the texts. From the foregoing therefore it is clear that structuralism as an aspect of this discourse is streamlined and simplified to suit the prevailing contexts in the texts. In other words, structuralism in this study primarily concentrates on the binaries prevalent in the texts. The binary is essentially relevant as it searches   for   order,   decorum   and   cohesion    through   differences,   divergences,   interrelationships, contradictions, the application of codes and conventions, the interplay of words in the system and the underlying structure of a text. The choice of Achebe‟s Things Fall Apart, Iyayi‟s Violence and Habila‟s Measuring Time is informed  by  the  need  to  comprehend  how  various  generations  of  Nigerian  writers  have  severally negotiated the contradictions, tensions, disruption and difficulties which have characterized the social, historical and political landscape of Nigeria. This unity and coherence is ingrained in the writers‟ vision of the system at the end of the text. For instance, Achebe‟s attempt to promote the African cultural identity is thwarted by various tensions of war and disunity within the culture. The author, however, illustrates that unity and coherence is visible through contradictions. The writer‟s skilful portrayal of the two cultures, co-existing side by side, is one of such unity and coherence in the text.





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