According to Cambridge dictionary, society is defined as a particular
community of people who share the same customs, law etc. It is also defined as the
state of being with other people. (1129).
A girl child is described as a female child between infancy and early
adulthood. During this period of the development of the girl child, she is under the
custody and supervision of adults who may be her parents or guardians and
siblings who are older and more mature than she is. The girl child is easily
influenced by her experiences as she develops. She models her behaviour during
this development process though observations and imitations of those she depends
on, and her physical, mental and emotional development start and reach their peak
within this stage.
In attempting to establish the relationship between the society and the girl
child, we ask certain pertinent questions relating to how she child is received and
related with in her contemporary society. What are the struggles, challenges and
oppression faced by the girl child? What are the factors that foist on the girl child
such challenges and oppression?
From the family circle to the public sphere, the girl child has suffered much
hardship and has been greatly dehumanized. This is due to the fact that she is
regarded as inferior to her brother. She is devalued and as Buchi Emecheta
portrays her, she is a second class citizen in a society ruled by male chauvinism. In
especially most African societies, the girl child has been consigned to an inferior
status for which she constantly wears a daunted image. This inferiority is as a
result of the patriarchal ideology in the society which bestows undue self
importance on the male child. The result of this is that, men do everything to
undermine the women in order to arbitrarily institute value and ideologies in the
society. The African society and the diaspora is a society with a tradition that
bestows importance to the male folk, neglecting the female folks. This patriarchal
ideology has influenced the way the girl characters are projected by male writers in
their literary texts. In most literary works, female characters always wear one of
these images: prostitute, girlfriend, courtesans, and workers and are evident in
these novels: Clara is Obi‟s lover in Chinua Achebe‟s No long at Ease: Elsie in A
Man of the People by Achebe is Odili‟s girlfriend and later becomes chief Nanga‟s
girlfriend; and also in Chimamanda‟sHalf of a Yellow Sun, we see Olama as
Odenigbo‟s lover. These images of female character credits Chukwumma‟s
The female character in African fiction… is a facile lack
luster human being, the quiet member of a household
only to bear children, unfulfilled if she does not, and
handicapped if she bears only daughters… Docility and
complete submission of will is demanded and enacted
from her. (Chukwumma 1990; 131)
They construct the girl character as a passive and inconsequential object.
The male writers communicated a picture of the girl child as one whose destiny is
subject to the whims of her male folk.
Our primary source will be used in carrying out this research. Attention will
be paid to the womanist tenet that throws some light in the oppression of the girl
child as portrayed in African literature. Womanism is referred to as the black‟s
concept of feminism. Coined by Alice walker, it is meant to account for the
survival of the black people. (Walker 1984;89) Womanism upholds respect for the
family units by Africans both in the continent and in the diaspora. Womanism is
communal in its orientation and goes beyond the husband and wife context. This
ideology of womanism caused Africans and African-Americans to present the
struggle of the black woman in her society. This is presented through the text of
Toni Morrison and KaineAgary: The Bluest Eye and Yellow Yellow respectively.
Writers are mostly influenced by their environment and circumstance in
history which helped to shape their society. We should agree that Toni Morrison
and KaineAgary portray their society through their work. With reference to
Morrison‟s The Bluest Eye and KaineAgary‟s Yellow Yellow, it will be just to
state that the oppression and hardship faced by the girl child is as a result of the
dreadful and traumatizing encounter between Africans and the white racists. It is
believed that the encounter between the whites and Africans has left Africans in
the continent and the diaspora with disconcerting problems. These issues are as a
result of the dreadful means in which the encounter occurred: Slavery, colonialism.
A short detailed review on the historical background of both authors will be the
peg to tie the goat as Achebe would put it. Toni Morrison is the pre-eminent
African-American female writer, while KaineAgary is one of Nigeria‟s leading
Toni Morrison: Biography and Historical Background
Toni Morrison was born Chloe Anthony Wofford in Lorain, Ohio in 1931.
Her father, George Wofford, was a shipyard wielder and her mother, Ramah Willis
Wofford, raised the family. Her family migration from the south & North is much
like the migration of the Breedloves in The Bluest Eye. Morrison was the second of
four children. She grew up listening to folktale in her family and community: tales
of slave times, emancipation tales dealing with racism of the white majority and
tales of supernatural elements. Morrison married a Jamaican architect, Harold
The setting of The Bluest Eye is Lorain, Ohio in 1941, and the rural south in
the early 20th century. The novel begins after the great depression. Economic
security was of importance for African-Americans, who have fewer opportunities
than the majority of their white counterparts. (www.cliffnotes.com).
In the early 19th century, after the abolition of slavery, the blacks suffered
great dehumanization. They were then the descendants of Africans captured and
bundled into America as slaves. These captured slaves were forced to till the
plantation of the white land owners. They farmed and produced crops such as
sugar, cotton, indigo, and other tropical products. After the abolition of slavery,
they were given the rural region of the society. Their environment lacked the basic
amenities to survive and coupled with their slave background, life was unbearable
and their region was marked by poverty. The blacks were racially discriminated
upon; having no work to do in the white environment which was urban and had all
the basic amenities. Competition for survival became extremely difficult and
heightened, leaving their occupants with no alternative means of survival, forcing
them to resort to diverse forms of crimes as over drinking prostitution, incest, wife
beating, as a means for relief from the unremitting harsh condition.
KaineAgary: Biography and Historical Background
KaineAgary was born in Port Harcourt, Nigeria. She lived most of her life in
Port-Harcourt and then moved to the United States of America. She lives at present
in Lagos, Nigeria, where she is the editor of Takai magazine. Agary holds a
Bachelor of Arts Degree in sociology and economics from Mount Holyoke
The setting of Yellow Yellow is the oil region of Nigeria, Port Harcourt to be
precise. In the early 19th century, Nigeria was invaded by the British under the
guise of religion. They took over the traditional governing system, discarded and
eclipsed our tradition, and referred to Nigerians as barbaric. They exploited both
human and natural resources –men and women were captured as slaves and
transported to their home to cultivate and till their land, while the resources were
used in developing their society. By 1937, oil exploration started in Nigeria and
was pioneered by the shell development company of Nigeria limited which was
based in Warri. In the course of exploration, the first well was drilled in 1951 at the
North east of Warri where oil was discovered by shell in commercial quantities at
Oloibiri, in the then Rivers State. Pipeline connection was constructed between
Oloibiri and Port Harcourt which saw the first cargo of crude oil leave Niger Delta
in 1958. Production was at 6,000 barrels per day and this implies that the oil
industry was solely responsible for 95% of the nation‟s foreign exchange earnings
and shell was the major contributor.
Based on the review of the biography and historical background of both
authors, it will be appropriate to state that the struggles, and the experiences, of the
girl child is as a result of the encounter with the whites which has degraded and
under developed the African society. Slavery is regarded as the worst human
experience, followed by colonialism, due to the high rate of maltreatment,
oppression and human right violation which was prevalent. There was also high
rate of exploitation –human beings were traded for western products such as guns,
mirrors, pots etc and resources were transported to their home for development of
the western world. These pernicious activities according to economic historians
played a major role in the development of capitalism. Despite having gained
freedom and independence, the presence of the western world is still very much
felt in the contemporary African society. The whites continue segregation, racism,
setting standards and imposing ideologies upon the blacks. They also monopolize
economic activities, thus preventing and restricting development within the white
urban settlement. They impose standard for measuring and qualifying beauty:
whiteness, thereby displacing the black identity at the bottom of the social
hierarchy. This makes blacks develop disdain for themselves. All these means by
the white to remain imperial over blacks, was what has exiled the girl child into an
endless struggle as she encounters oppression within her society. This is what
Morrison tries to depict and fight using her book The Bluest Eye.
Also in the African continent, the western grip is still very much felt. Neo
colonialism is the continuation of colonialism, but without the use of force or
weapons as is the case in classic colonialism. Neocolonized states are politically
independent, but economically dependent. The whites still continue to control the
economic activities of Africa by placing African bourgeoisies in key positions to
ensure their dominance over their colonies. By so doing, African continent remain
dependent on the West. This is what Agary depicts and communicates in Yellow
Yellow, with particular emphasis on the predicament of the girl-child.
1.2 STATEMENT OF PROBLEM
The girl child has been consigned to a position of inferiority and she faces
series of oppression and struggle as a result of societal anomalies.
The African continent is dependent on the western world today; most
decisions made by African leaders are to some extent influenced by the western
world and there are little or no black indigenous entrepreneurial class as compared
to the whites which is evident in the Forbes world ranking or world‟s richest men.
The African continent is racked by affliction, disaster, macro-economic crisis,
corruption, high level illiteracy, squalor, hunger and other destabilizing conditions
by the white in cahoots with a greedy, unpatriotic ruling class.
The wests describe everything black as evil, which has made blacks to hate
themselves and loose their dignity and self-worth. The African continent, with so
much natural resources, is still marked by poverty and disharmony and are
regarded as third world countries. According to Bill Moyer:
You have seen what happen when the primitive societies
are unsettled by white man‟s civilization, they go to
pieces they disintegrate, they become deceased. (The
Power of Myth 1, 2)
In The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, we see Pecola embarking on acquiring
blue eyes as a result of the imposed standard and ideal of beauty and this imposed
standard has affected how she is received by her society.
Also in Yellow Yellow by KaineAgary, we see how the activities of the
western oil company destroyed the dreams of the girl (Zilayefa) and her entire
society and have deprived them of a better life, exiting them into endless struggle
as a result of political and economic marginalization ravaging the Niger Delta.
1.3 AIMS AND OBJECTIVE
With this project, we aim to redeem Africans from embarking on a journey
to the white man‟s racist ideologies and values.
To redeem blacks from the internalized self-hate and loss of dignify as a
result of the white ideals is our major preoccupation.
To portray that the challenges of environmental degradation, poverty, lack of
amenities evident in the black society have a great impact on the female folk,
especially the girls.
1.4 SCOPE OF STUDY
This research work deals with the society and the girl child. It entails textual
analysis of the two text; The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison and Yellow Yellow by
1.5 RESEARCH METHOD
The primary and main source of information includes articles and works on
slavery, colonialism and neo-colonialism, the girl child internet materials and other
written research work.