Overcoming the Gleam of Empire and the Excremental State in The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born
Abstract: The process of decolonization had most of the time been tumultuous for all African states as they tried to rise from the debris of European empires. Mass uprisings, enigmatic leaders, grand narratives of a hopeful future have shaped their individual paths to autonomy. But all those paths have ended up misdirecting the people. The promises made by revolutionary leaders, fighting in the liberation wars, fell too short in providing a new start for the citizens of the postcolonial states. One reason for this failure has been a misconstrued idea of nation and nationalism. Ayi Kwei Armah in his 1968 novel The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born sheds light on the pitfalls of nationalism. In the novel, the Ghana of great promises, the nation that fought against the Empire for its independence – a fight against inequality, indignity, and injustice – faces the same hypocrisy and corruption, prevalent during the regime of the colonizers. The author narrates the predicament of an unnamed protagonist who deals with the atmosphere of mistrust and betrayal around him. His conflicted state of mind, mistrust of social morality, and deep-rooted anger in witnessing a decadent nation on its way to becoming a materialistic wasteland, are significant issues in the novel. The appeal of what the narrator calls “the gleam” on one hand and a conscious effort to steer clear of the path of vice on the other is shown in the narrator’s stream of consciousness. This paper aims to look at the postcolonial state Ghana immersed in the degraded morality of its people. The nation and the individual both face the same hopelessness but in Armah’s novel a glimpse of hope can be found. The narrator called for a better Ghanaian society that would reject blind imitations of materialistic Europe.
Keywords: Nationalism, Moral Degradation, Gleam of Empire, Excrement
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Published in August 2019