In D. O. Fagunwa’s novels, women are definitely visible in different ways. From his presentation of women, we see the Yoruba attitude to them and the roles they play in Yoruba society. This article will provide an analysis of the image of women in Fagunwa’s novels. He presents a panoply of women – the good and the bad. We see the image of women as mothers, witches, nurturers, vain, etc. Attitudes towards women include, love, reverence, hatred, etc.
We argue in this article that Fagunwa’s art reflects life as well as makes prescriptions about the image and position of women in society.Women have been represented in literature since the beginning of literary tradition. Aristophanes (410 BC)1 represents Greek women, reflecting the strength and weakness of women and more importantly the role of women in nation building.
The Peloponnesian War was at its peak, claiming lives, eradicating national peace and, therefore, inhibiting growth and development. Lysistrata, the eponymous heroine of the play Lysistrata, with great and exemplary leadership qualities, mobilizes the Athenian women and compels their men to end the war. Expectedly, as the nature of human beings is, there were pockets of weak women, but the collective will of the women achieved the goal of restoring peace into the land. Women are prominently portrayed in Chaucer’s works such as The Book of the Duchess, Troilus and Criseyde and The Canterbury Tales. In The Canterbury Tales2 two major characters (women) the Wife of Bath and the Prioress reflect the manner in which women of the time could have achieved liberty and position. Tales such as, “the Clarke’s Tale”, “The Merchant’s Tale”, “The Wife of Bath” and “The Franklin’s Tale” can be said to discuss the relationship between men and women and marital issues.
Women feature in the 16th Century sonnets or the pastoral verses. Shakespeare and Webster portray women substantially in their plays. Juliet in Romeo and Juliet, Rosaline in As You Like It, Viola in Twelfth Night, Portia in The Merchant of Venice, Beatrice, Lady Macbeth, Cleopatra and Desdemona are characters whose roles in the various Shakespearian plays resonate. Webster’s the Duchess of Malfi and Vittoria Corombona exhibit individualistic traits rather than that of an object of other people’s sexual desires. The 17th century literature represents women in various ways. Milton represents the Biblical Eve in The Paradise Lost; Christiana in the part two of Bunyan’s Pilgrim has her own moral strength.Consequent upon the emergence of the novel in the 18th Century as a literary genre was the high level of portrayal of women in literature.
To start with, the medium represented women from the point of view of men. “Initially, the novel depicted women as viewed by men, and the typical heroines were either paragons of virtue or of vice: for every Pamela Andrews or Clarissa Harlowe there was a Moli Flanders or a Fanny Hill”3. Dickson’s late novel, Our Mutual Friend showcases Lizzie Hexham as a round, physiologically identifiable character. Vanity Fair by Thackeray is noted for the strength of its female characters. Charlotte Bronte, in her Jane Eyre, represents a woman who is in command of her own destiny. Mrs. Gaskell’s novels Mary Barton and Ruth, discuss the economic realities of women in the society. Over the last one and a half centuries, novel writers, regardless of sex or religious inclinations, have deliberated on the physiology, psychology and social roles of women more than ever before.
Virginia Woolf, E M Forster, Thomas Hardy, D H Lawrence have individually made important contributions to the portrayal of women in the literary ambience. Of note is their deconstruction and reconstruction of the conventional views about the chastity of women. Recently, feminism has engendered a more cognizant portrayal of the rights and functions of women. Handmaid’s by Margaret Attwood and the reworking of traditional fairy tales by Angela Carter provide ready examples of this development.
Women representation in African literature is noteworthy. Writing about the phenomenon of the heroine in the Arab literature, Nawal El Saadwi (1980), 4 posits:
Among the male authors I have read, both in the west and in the Arab world, irrespective of the language in which they have written or the region from which they have come, not one of them has been able to free himself from the age-old image of the women handed over to us from an ancient past, no matter how famous many of them have been for their passionate defense of human rights, human values and justice, and their vigorous resistance to oppression and tyranny in any form. Tolstoy, with his towering literary talent and his denunciation of the evil of feudal and bourgeois Russian society, when speaking of women found nothing better to say than: ‘woman is the instrument of the devil. In most of her state she is stupid. But Satan lends her his head when she acts under his orders.
The implication of the above is that writers have presented women in their works, only that in this case those male writers she had read had presented women from the stereotypical perspective. But, is this the case in D.O. Fagunwa’s works? We shall answer this question in the course of our argument below. El Saadawi, tells us of how North African male writers have presented women. According to her, Tewfik El Hakim won himself the title of ‘enemy of women’ due to his negative portrayal of women in his novel, El Robat El Mokadass (The Sacred Book). Taha Hussein, showcases an often repeated Arab proverb ‘shame can only be washed away by blood’, by allowing the slaughtering of Hanadi by her uncle over the matter of virginity. The murderer gets away, celebrated as a defender of family honour and the one who is responsible for dishonoring the girl goes scot free of blame. Naguib Mahfouz, like others, in the opinion of El Saadawi, also depicts women characters negatively. Notable West African writers like D.O. Fagunwa, Wole Soyinka, Ola Rotimi, Flora Nwapa, Ama Ata Aidoo, Mariama Ba, Zulu Sofola, Chinua Achebe, Femi Osofisan, Ahmed Yerima, Akinwumi Isola and a host of others have represented women in various ways in their works. Women representation in literature continues and so is the interest of scholars in their theoretical analysis and appreciation of the various ways women have been represented in literature. Our search light, in this paper, focuses on seeing women through Fagunwa’s lens.
Scholarly interest in the representation of women in literature has come a long way. This underscores the importance of women in the society. Different cultures define and determine the place and functions of men and women in their society. Writers may choose to simply reflect the status quo, express their individual opinions about it or create an avenue for further academic discourse on the subject matter. One question that readily comes to mind is what is the right approach to representation? This question further generates other questions, should representation falsify historical facts, distort cultural realities thereby communicating falsehood and propagate deception? Or represent historical antecedents factually for the prosperity of posterity? Should arts reflect life as it is so the society can see itself the way it is or subjugate the facts for selfish aggrandizement and parochial ideology? Ogunleye (2004)5 evaluating Isola’s malecentric, one dimensional and distorted depiction of Efunsetan Aniwura in Efunsetan Aniwuraconcludes
…we do not need to besmirch our past to be able to learn from it. There is a need for the self-definition of the African woman, and negative historical stereotypical portrayal such as that in Isola’s Efunsetan Aniwura erodes self-confidence. Xenophobia of this type does not encourage the young female of the species to have a sense of self-worth; neither does it provide positive models for emulation.
Elsewhere, Ogunleye (2005)6 opines:
The whole essence of art then should be to reflect and affect society. The religious, social, moral and political pulse of the society can usually be felt in its artistic manifestations. Today, we have an insight into Baroque, Medieval, Elizabethan, Romantic and other civilizations through the extant art of such distant periods and cultures. From such works of art, we see a conscious attempt to reflect and affect the society. Art then transcends mere aestheticism
By extension, Ogunleye is of the opinion that arts ought not damage history, falsify actuality or propagate deception to showcase egoism or groundless ideology as this is detrimental and unproductive. In this paper, we examine the extent to wish Fagunwa has exhibited fidelity to the essence of fair and productive arts. We equally examined Fagunwa’s novels against the back ground of the criticism in some quarters concerning whether or not Fagunwa preoccupies himself with social issues. Take, for instance, this view from an online source:
Some Yoruba intellectuals disliked Fagunwa’s lack of concern with contemporary social issues. Other critics pointed to his knowledge of the Yoruba mind, his careful observation of the manners and mannerisms of his characters, and his skill as a storyteller7
Our present preoccupation in this paper is to provide an analysis of the image of women in Fagunwa’s novels and to argue that Fagunwa’s art reflects life via the representation of contemporary social issue, as well as makes prescriptions about the image and position of women in society. Our focus is on Ogboju Ode Ninu Igbo Irunmale (1938), Ireke Onibudo (1949) and Adiitu Olodumare (1961).
Who Was Daniel Olorunfemi Fagunwa?
The justification for Fagunwa’s biography in this paper is not far-fetched. No writer writes in a vacuum. He or she reflects the social and cultural realities of his or her society, the society having molded him or her in the first place. Therefore, in order to understand where a writer is coming from, one needs to be aware of his or her background. Also his biography is imperative in this paper because it will help us to comprehend the coloration of his literary art. In the words of Bayo Adewale (2011):
Fagunwa’s fiction provides one good peep into the facts of his life and times. This is an interesting meeting-point between experience and imagination; a union of pure fact and outright fiction.The rural setting of Fagunwa’s birth place (Oke-Igbo), no doubt, has helped to immerse him deeply into the traditional milieu and cultural heritage of his people. This has thrown some light on why igbo (forest) itself keeps on recurring in his novels. It has been discovered that the word ‘igbo’ appears over four hundred times, in different places, in the works of Fagunwa. Three of his five works, as a matter of fact, embody the word ‘igbo’ as title: Igbo Irunmale; Igbo Olodumare and Igbo Elegbeje.8
Olabimtan (1975),provides us a succinct biography of late D.O. Fagunwa. According to him: as paraphrased by Adeyemi (2011)9 Fagunwa’s grandfather, Asungaga Beyioku was an Ifa priest in Oke Igbo. His father was also very knowledgeable in Ifa before he was converted to Christianity and adopted Joshua as his Christian name. He (Joshua) later became the Baba Ijo (Patriarch of the church) of St. Luke’s Church, Oke -Igbo. His mother, Osunyomi, was also converted to Christianity, adopted Rachael as her baptismal name, and later became the Iya Ijo (Matriach of the church) of the same St. Luke’s church, Oke -Igbo. From the above, it is clear, that Fagunwa, was born in 1903 to parents who had been worshippers of Osun (a river goddess) and Ifá (the Yoruba god of divination and wisdom) before they were converted to Christianity.
He started formal schooling in 1916 at St. Luke’s School, Òkè-Igbó. During his formative years 1903-1916, his home was his school and it was probably this period that he imbibed much of his knowledge of Yoruba culture and ways of life. He went to St. Andrew’sCollege, Oyo, an institution founded in 1876 to produce evangelist teachers who would help in the propagation of the gospel of Christ in the Yoruba society. By the time he passed out of the institution in 1929, he had become a believer of the Christian religion. The motivation for Fagunwa’s novels probably stemmed from his cultural nationalism and ecumenism. Fagunwa belongs to two traditions: the foreign (Christian) tradition and the Yoruba tradition. He tries to protect and promote the Yoruba cultural values and at the same time embrace the foreign culture he considers useful to the Yoruba society. Thus, Fagunwa’s poetics has not only an ideological allegiance to Western values and beliefs but also to Yorùbá cultural values.
Zooming in on Women through Fagunwa’s Lens
There is no gainsaying the fact that Fagunwa’s background substantially influenced his representation of women in all of his works. In all, he wrote five novels apart from others works co-authored by him. These five novels in order of publication include Ogboju Ode Ninu Igbo Irunmale (1938); Igbo Olodumare (1949); Ireke Onibudo (1949); Irinkerindo Ninu Igbo Elegbeje (1949); and Adiitu Olodumare (1961); He co-authored Ajala and Ajadi: Asayan Itan (1959); Irin Ajo Apa Kini, Apa Keji (1949); Itan Oloyin (ed.) 1954); Ojo Asotan (with G.L Laosebikan) (1964); Taiwo ati Kehinde (L.J. Lewis) 1949. Even though women featured prominently in all his novels, we shall focus on three of them in this paper, namely, Ogboju Ode Ninu Igbo Irunmale, Ireke Onibudo and Adiitu Olodumare.
Ogboju Ode Ninu Igbo Irumole-The Strong and the Meek Women.
Sent by the monarch to Oke Langbodo to fetch peace that will facilitate the growth and development of his community, Akara Ogun enlisted six other great hunters-Kako, Aramanda okunrin, Imodoye, Olohuniyo , Elegbede ode, Efoiye – with different metaphysical and magical powers to embark on the journey with him. So, in all, seven of them set out on the perilous adventure to Oke Langbodo. Expectedly they encountered great life threatening challenges that necessitated the individual hunters to exhibit their special magical powers. With perseverance, determination and spiritual support, three of the hunters made it back to tell the success story. Fagunwa’s representation of women in this novel reveals the positive and negative traits of women. He presents us with the mother of the hero, the first wife of her husband. She is a strong and powerful “witch”10. Despite the impressive stature of Akara Oogun’s father he could not handle or curtail her excesses. This is more like a devise to liberate herself from the domination, oppression and marginalization of the male dominated society. Though she becomes power-drunk and misuses her powers, by killing her co-wives and their children, an act fueled by provocation. Which underscores the fact that power corrupts. This buttresses the fact that power abuse is not gender-based, as anyone can abuse power. Of interest in the portrayal of this woman is the fact that she is strong and fully independent. She has her own powers and can use them as she pleases. She doesn’t have to wait on any man to help her punish her perceived enemies. The signal this sends is that she and other women can more than adequately protect themselves. This is empowerment to deal with situations and challenges of life. The woman in question is not subservient or subordinate to any man. Though married, she does not allow marriage to make her a slave to be trampled upon. This is inspirational, not to do evil but, to be empowered enough to defend one’s self whenever and however the confronting situation may arise. Seen from another angle, this witch of a woman was provoked to anger, therefore, her action is not unmotivated. She possesses great qualities that she would have manifested positively if given the opportunity. Take for instance; Akara Oogun’s escape to ilu awon iwin, (the town of elves). During his second trip to the forest, he becomes acquainted with the king of the city. He rescues the king from the palace coup plotted against him by his wife and the people. This development enrages the people and they plan to get rid of Akara Oogun. He was accused of stealing the king’s dog. He was subsequently subdued by the youths and buried from his feet to his neck. He escaped through the use of metaphysical powers and was nursed back to health by a beautiful girl. The girl and her servants die suddenly, thereby worsening Akara Oogun’s predicament. In this critical situation Akara Oogun calls on the spirit of his departed mother. In his words:
A! ìyá mi owon, iya mi tooto, tí ó pé, ìyá tí o níláárí, ìyá tí ó mú yányán, ìyá tí kì se e ìyá búburú , ìyá tí o je bokíní láyé, iya ti o je gbajumo lorun, iya ti ori je laye, iya ti o ri mu lorun. A! iwo iya alai labawon, ibikibi tí bá wà lóni, ma s’ai je kin ri o.11
Ah, precious mother, true mother, epitome and archetype of all good mothers, paragon. No evil was ever found in you. On earth you were dignified, in heaven, you are in a special class. On earth, you were wealthy, in heaven, you are among the privileged. Immaculate mother, wherever you are today, let me behold your face
The above reveals the mother’s positive traits. She is merciful towards her son, a comforter, guardian and pathfinder. Akara Oogun definitely knows his mother and would not deceive himself about her true nature at a time like this. This is also a realistic portrayal of the role of a mother in the Yoruba society. The mother cares for her children and is ever willing to go the extra mile to facilitate the total well- being of the child. Based on theories of gender and class, it is important to take another look at the witchcraft question. Can witchcraft be linked to women’s attempt to empower themselves in the face of male oppression? On many occasions, it has been discovered that many women labeled as witches are so-labeled by agents of patriarch and capitalism. For instance, Alias Solomon (1981)12 states that witches are “women who will not conform to acceptable social patterns”. We are therefore inspired to reevaluate the phenomena of witchcraft and wizardry. Come to think of it, does the English word “witch” appropriately convey the meaning of Yoruba word “Aje”? For instance it is a common knowledge that the biblical “devil” is not the replica of the Yoruba “Esu” yet we often translate Esu as devil thereby importing and attributing the entire devil’s negative idiosyncrasy to Esu. Is this not also the case with the translation of “Aje” as “witch”?
According to Wallace Notestein (2003) in The History of Witchcraft in England From 1558 to 1718, the word “witchcraft” is defined as “one who used spells and charms, who was assisted by evil spirits to accomplish certain ends” (2). Also in the same book Henry C. Lea (2003) defines “witch” as a woman who “has abandoned Christianity, has renounced her baptism, has worshiped Satan as her God, has surrendered herself to him, body and soul, and exists only to be his instrument in working the evil to her fellow creatures which he cannot accomplish without a human agent” (Lea in Notestein 4). As such, those people who did not accept the truth of God and who did harm to the others were considered as witches.13
If the above submissions by the native speakers of English language and inventors of the word “witch” are anything to go by, can we then say the word “witch” and “Aje” convey the same ideas and it is therefore not a disservice to translate “Aje” as “witch”?
Two other female characters in the novel, Iwapele and Iranlowo, are represented prominently. Akara Oogun meets Iwapele in a strange land, she is very supportive and enlightens the hero about what to expect in the strange land and provides him with accommodation. This underscores the hospitality of women. In a previous encounter, the hero meets a spirit being, Iranlowo, who sets him free from the enclosure he finds himself entrapped. She subsequently directs him to the strange land where he meets Iwapele. These two women are presented as peaceful, supportive, caring and loving. They contribute greatly to the hero’s success in his quest. Fagunwa, in his treatment of male and female demons, presents the females as very good and male as very bad. When Akara Oogun becomes trapped in a dungeon, he is repeatedly harassed and tormented by male daemons only to be rescued by Iranlowo, a female demon. Fagunwa reflects the Yoruba world view about marriage and the marital responsibilities of both the husband and wife. He makes it clear that the Yoruba’s cherish marriage and it is essential that when a man or woman has come of age to get married. The author reflects the traditional separation of powers within the family. In the words of Akara Oogun’s first wife:
mo mo pe ise re po, sugbon sise ni ise, n o o toju ile re, n o o toju ona re, n o o toju omo re, n o o si wa onje pataki si o ni ona ofun.14 I know that you are a very busy person, but necessity compels man to work. I will be your helpmeet and keep your house and home; I will take care of your children and feed you with tasty and nourishing food.
The above quote itemizes the role of the wife in Yoruba society. These include but are not limited to domestic chores – taking care of the husband, the children and getting food ready for the family. Why does Fagunwa portray women as nourishers, is this not a case of relegating women to the kitchen? No we don’t think so. As a matter of fact it is not so. Let us examine two divergent views on this issue.
Most fifth-century Greeks, like many twentieth-century Americans, supposed that natural differences between male and female of the human species entail a significant differentiation of their proper social roles. Although Plato granted that men and women are different in height, strength, and similar qualities, he noted that these differences are not universal; that is, for example, although it may be true that most men are taller than most women, there are certainly some women who are taller than many men. What is more, he denied that there is any systematic difference between men and women with respect to the abilities relevant to guardianship—the capacity to understand reality and make reasonable judgments about it. Thus, Plato maintained that prospective guardians, both male and female, should receive the same education and be assigned to the same vital functions within the society.15
It is agreeable that the differences between men and women of physical features such as height and strength are not universal. But what are these other similar qualities? One is tempted to as whether height and physical strength are the only features that distinguish men from women. There are certainly some physical differences that exist between men and women that are universal. Men are not known anywhere to have breast. However big the upper part of a man trunk may be, it is called chest not breast. What of the genital organs and the reproductive organs such as womb and sperm? The point we are making here is that there are some roles unique to women and men in normal day to day living and the individual sex has been naturally configured to suit these roles. According to Venker (2013):16
Those of us with children know better. We know little girls love their dolls and boys just want to kick that ball. This doesn’t mean men can’t take care of babies or women can’t play sports. It just means each gender has its own energy that flows in a specific direction. For God’s sake, let it flow. The battle of the sexes is over. And guess what? No one won. Why not try something else on for size? Like this: men and women are equal, but different. They’ve each been blessed with amazing and unique qualities that they bring to the table. Isn’t it time we stopped fussing about who brought what and simply enjoy the feast?
Earlier in the same article, she says:
Marriage becomes a competitive sport. The complementary nature of marriage—in which two people work together, as equals, toward the same goal but with an appreciation for the qualities each gender brings to the table—has been obliterated. Today, husbands and wives are locked in a battle about whom does more on the home front and how they’re going to get everything done. That’s not a marriage. That’s war.
The fact is that man and woman are partners in progress and each has specific roles to play in order to foster a harmonious relationship that will engender an enabling environment for meaningful development. Fagunwa understood this natural arrangement very well and, as such, has presented the woman’s role among others as a nourisher. This doesn’t relegate the woman to the kitchen at all; rather it amplifies her as a custodian of societal well being. It is only when a person is well nourished that he or she can think and act well. If the home front is well taken care of and in good order, the society which is a product of different homes will be better for it. Needless to say that nourishing is not all about cooking; it is about the emotional, psychological, physical, mental and as a matter of fact, the total well being the nourished. This is the fulcrum upon which good societies oscillate if humanity is not to be plunged into a state of anomie. Yet this is just one of the myriads of women’s responsibilities in the society. This fact must have informed the respect develop societies accord women that necessitated the formulation of such policies as “ladies first” and the courtesy of men offering women seats, before the confusion of equality theories that places man and woman at each other’s throats.
Ireke Onibudo – Stereotypes and Complementarities
Ireke Onibudo is the narrative account of a good natured man called Ireke, the first of thirty-two children, who, despite all odds, with the help of his mother and his good disposition surmounts all predicaments and the ups and downs of life. He becomes the king of Alupaida village where he is a complete stranger. He is an orphan. After the demise of his mother, he left his town downtrodden, wretched and frustrated for a bush, tired of life and hoping to end it all. There he sees a strange glorious person/creature. This fellow encourages him to go on with life. He encounters myriads of tribulations, breath-taking challenges, engages countless evil creatures and visits two cities, one strictly female populated and the other solely male populated. His life takes a dramatic turn-around after his encounter with a half man half cow creature who furnishes him with words of wisdom to guide his life. He eventually becomes king in a strange land.
Ìrèké Oníbùdó illustrates a tale of two cities. One populated by men and the other peopled by women. Ireke “experiences” both cities and narrates his experience. The men’s town is devoid of parental love and responsibility towards the children. The children on their own part are totally devoid of filial piety. They are irrational and flagrantly disobedient to their fathers. The fathers have a lackadaisical attitude about what happens to the children. There is an assumption that this type of attitude is prevalent because men do not go through the pains and emotional trauma associated with giving birth. Their activities and actions are unrefined, their dressing is untidy, and their speech is harsh and rough. They lack finesse and their modes of recreation are generally in bad taste. They seldom fight and when it is inevitable, it never lasts simply because they are incapable of any depth of emotion. Their feeling of love is superficial. Their food is tasteless and houses unkempt. The men are generally awkward.The women’s city is not any better. The king, Eye Orun, receives children from heaven for the people. A large percentage of the women walk about naked at home. The girls are well dressed but lack sophistication. The women backbite and gossip. Both their homes and cities are dirty and busy. They pile up too many loads in their rooms. They carry too many bags on journeys. They are afraid and fear nightfall. They are too touchy and cry easily. They are more merciful than men, some of them simple, some good and some bad. The women are greatly religious, committed and faithful.
Consequent upon his experience of the two cities, Ireke concludes that, when he saw all of this, he realized that the wisdom of god to have created male and female to live together is matchless. He feels also that men stand for the bones, while the women the flesh. This brings to mind Therese Namenek’s view, “This is where the complementarity of the masculine and the feminine so acutely emerges. They are the necessary poles of a dialectic process”.17 One cannot exist meaningfully without the other. According to Lere Adeyemi (2011)18
The metaphor of `bone’ and `flesh’ to depict male and female symbolizes the symbiotic relationship between the two sexes. Neither of the sex is created to live separately from the other. The creation of human being as male and female has a divine purpose. The co-existence of men and women in the society is to bring out the potentials in each sex to complement each other. They are to live together, plan together enjoy life and struggle together.
This is an affirmation that Fagunwa sees women as partners in progress with men and that both sexes are created to complement each other. This representation reminds us of the 5th century Athenian Lysistrata, who, understanding the inevitability of the female-male co-existence, mobilised the Athenian women to shun their men in order to compel them to end the Peloponnesian War. Little wonder then that Aristophanes resolved the imbroglio in favour of the women. While in deep crisis with Arogidigba, Ireke pleaded to be given tasks to perform rather than being killed. Arogidigba consented, gave him three seemingly impossible tasks. First he was to build a twelve room house that is twelve feet high within twenty-four hours. Secondly, he was to cultivate a farm land, plant yam in it and the yam must ready for harvest the same day. Thirdly, was to fight with a dreadful and monstrous goat that comes for the devil to harass them. The spirit of his dead mother came to his assistance and he was able to perform the almost impossible tasks. This reflects the Yoruba world view that the dead do not abandon the living. But in this particular circumstance, why not the spirit of the father? Again Fagunwa pitches his tent with the female gender and presents them as being more readily available and responsive to the plight of their children than the men are. Ifedapo is presented as a faithful and affectionate lover. She was there for Ireke through thick and thin. Even during the brief separation when Ireke appeared to have given up, Ifedapo did not. Via this character, the author shows that women are better lovers than men and more committed. Ifepinya, as the name implies (love lost) is seen as the opposite of Ifepade (love unites). She wanted to go along with her mother’s plans to marry Ireke just two months after Ifedapo’s demise. When she fails to win Ireke’s heart, she decides to poison him. This is a realistic portrayal of a scorned woman and an affirmation of the Yoruba proverb that says: “kaka ki eku ma je sese, a fi se awa danu”.19. This is just a reflection of the society and may not necessarily be the personal views of Fagunwa of women.
Aditu Olodumare – Wise and Radical Women
The situation is not substantially different in Aditu Olodumare. But first, the story, Aditu Olodumare hails from Ilakose, son of Obirinaye and Iponjudiran, faces several challenges all the way from childhood to adulthood. He is resilient, determined and with perseverance, trust and contentment he overcomes the ups and downs and eventually marries Iyunade and they live happily ever after. Iyunade, the most prominent woman in the novel, is presented as beautiful, highly disciplined, though at times naughty. She gets married to Aditu after many tribulations. She is a caring, loving and supportive wife. She lives with her husband in tranquility, confidence, devotion, and in one accord. Fagunwa presents Iyunade as a wise woman and a good counselor. It was as a result of her counsel that the secret plans of Esu-leyin-ibeji to terminate Aditu’s life was aborted. The women in Aditu Olodumare are represented as so wise that any husband who jettisoned their wise counsel goes astray at the end. Aditu’s father turned a deaf ear to the wise counsel of his wife and Aditu’s mother and his end was nothing to write home about as he ended in abject poverty. Iyunade’s mother’s good counsel averted what would have been a disastrous marital decision on the part of Iyunade.
Iyunade refuses to be marginalized, subjugated or carried away by glittering things. She wouldn’t have any man on the bases of wealth and affluence. Fagunwa portrays her as an independent woman who would not have any of the oppression of the male dominated society, She is portrayed as a radical, intellectually daring and honorably decent. She is assiduous and focused. Iyunade is portrayed as an actor not as a spectator; she is in the centre of the novel, not on the periphery. We see in Iyunade a resistance to all societal relegation and subordination of women. In her uprightness she refuses and shuns premarital sex. She typifies and exemplifies woman fighting in opposition to male domination, societal convention and the exploitative tendencies of the male dominated society.
The Implications of Fagunwa’s Presentation of Women in the Selected Novels.
Consequent upon Fagunwa’s treatment or presentation of women, particularly mothers, it is evident that Yoruba mothers’ roles in the society transcend that of baby factory and instruments of men’s sexual gratification. They are prominent in the upholding of family life. They don’t only satisfy their men’s sexual urge, or merely conceive and give birth to the children, as if that is not enough, they are there to maintain the offspring, which they do with nonstop assistance, guidance and mentorship. Yoruba women are multi-talented and channel this to the service of others. They employ all resources at their disposal to help their loved ones. A few intoxicated with special powers, out of provocation sometimes abuse the power, but then this is the same with the men or even worse.
Even the female gender of the daemons, spirit beings and elves are more progressive than their male counterparts. The heroes of the novels were repeatedly harassed, fought with, tormented and in some cases killed by the male daemons. Whereas the female demons are those who help, comfort and rescue the heroes from their predicaments. The implication of this is not farfetched. Regardless of what modernity has done to the soul of the Yoruba woman, (as we now see mothers who conspire to trade off their children, or export them for prostitution and drug trafficking) a great deal of Yoruba women if given a level playing ground with their male counterpart will excel in all areas of human endeavor. They will be better managers, politicians who will not legalize giving underage girls away in marriage and academicians who will not base merit on selfish aggrandizement. Well, as evident in all human societies, there will always be some exceptions, which of course will be in the minority just as these exceptions are in the minority in Fagunwa’s novels. Therefore, Fagunwa emphasizes and calls attention to the inherent ability of the women to contribute meaningfully to the development of the society and foster a harmonious co-existence among all the stakeholders.
In view of the foregoing, this paper has endeavored a novel angle to the prevailing debate on women representation in Fagunwa’s classical novels. The research reveals that contrary to the criticism that Fagunwa does not concern himself with contemporary issues in the novels, he actually does and in a powerful and symbolic ways for that matter. Capturing his representation of women in his novels, the way he does, affirms this claim. There is a panoply of fundamental societal issues from which a writer may choose. Fagunwa’s presentation of women draws attention to myriads of domestic, social and political issues. It clearly indicates how Fagunwa feels the relationship between husband and wives should be for a healthy family to exist. A healthy family will ultimately engender a peaceful society and create an enabling atmosphere that will facilitate an enduring national development. His positive representation of women is a symbolic deconstruction of the parochial mindset that women are mere properties to be seen and not to be heard. He makes us wonder whether the problem that threatens the political terrain is not as a result of the inadequate representation of women in government. The men who failed to listen to the wise counsels of their wives in the novels came to bad ends. Is this not a signal that this nation has neglected the wisdom of women and is therefore missing it? Our society is plagued with area boys20,youth militancy and Boko Harramic21 insurgencies. Perhaps if women are given a conducive environment to utilize their potentials and play their role as we see most of them do in the novels, our society would be the better for it. After all, the youths who constitute the area boys, the militants and Boko Harram are all products of families. No wonder that Adeyemi (2011)22 concludes:
Even though Fagunwa’s era was marked by a fight to restore the tenets of Yorùbá tradition that suffers denigration from imperialist influxes, he represents the women in a dignified manner. All the practices that are considered inimical to development like widowhood, polygamy, succession rites, discrimination against the girl child, and forced marriages among others are attacked by Fagunwa in all his novels. Fagunwa celebrates motherhood but he totally rejects lesbianism or anti-family ideology of the radical feminists
Therefore Fagunwa’s art reflects life as well as makes prescriptions about the image and position of women in society.