Chinua Achebe’s novels as a reflection of the

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One issue that has been a source of debate among most scholars when they read Aristotle’s Poetics, and which has led to a series of misinterpretations, is Aristotle’s definition of the proper tragic character. The important point to note, however, is the fact that in his Poetics, Aristotle gives a brief definition of tragedy and goes on to mention plots and characters that constitute tragedy. To Aristotle, tragedy is a genre of poetry, and the best way to attain the tragic situation is by skilfully putting together the tragic action so as to achieve the tragic feeling of pity and fear. Arousing the emotions of pity and fear, according to Aristotle, is the “telos” of tragedy. Aristotle’s view with regard to tragedy has remained the cornerstone of western literary criticism, in the sense that Aristotle’s concept of tragedy has been followed through the marked literary epochs, specifically through the classical and post classical epochs up to date. It is important to note that Aristotle basically evolved his concept of tragedy from Greek plays As customs and beliefs change, however the elements of tragedy that were vital in Greek drama also changed, while the tragic purpose remains the goal. Some of the works of William Shakespeare, one of the greatest writers that ever lived, have been cited in this thesis by way of lending credence to the western concept of tragedy. The tragic situations in Othello, King Lear and Macbeth have specifically been highlighted. Similarly, Thomas Hardy’s The Mayor of Casterbridge has been discussed in this thesis to demonstrate that western tragedy can equally be perceived in novelistic genres as seen is the tragedy of Henchard. In Africa, there exists an exclusively African concept of tragedy which most African dramatists, poets and novelists explore. Besides this African concept of tragedy, African writers have also equally been influenced tremendously by Aristotle’s definition of tragedy. It is on the strength of this influence that some of the works of Chinua Achebe, one of the greatest writers ever to have emerged in Africa, have been discussed, to show the extent to which Achebe makes use of both the Aristotelian and the African concepts of tragedy in his novels under study. In order for a clear picture of both the African and Aristotelian concepts of tragedy to emerge, the study considers tragedy as experienced by Okonkwo in Things Fall Apart, Ezeulu in Arrow of God, Obi Okonkwo in No Longer At and Chris in Anthills of the Savannah. The language used in the treatment of the tragic theme in these novels is not only poetic, but also universal and this enables it to carry the author’s peculiar experience across to the reader. The thesis also highlights the three literary periods, that is, the classical, represented by Aristotle, the post classical, represented by Shakespeare and Hardy, and the African represented by Achebe. This confirms the fact that there is a continuity of the classical idea to date. So that Achebe can be said to be the “récepteur” and Aristotle the “émetteur” taking into consideration the extent to which Achebe has been influenced by Aristotle in so far as his novels reflect not only the African concept of tragedy, but more importantly, the Aristotelian concept of tragedy.
A thesis submitted to the Board of Postgraduate Studies, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, in partial fulfilment of the requirement for the award of the Degree of Master of Arts in Comparative Literature, 1998