A PRAGMATIC ANALYSIS OF ASARE KONADU’S A WOMAN IN HER PRIME
Childlessness is a major concern in our society because of its associated consequences on women and family structure. As such, childless women go extra miles in an attempt to find solution to the problem. In this paper, forty-nine samples of text have been selected from Asare Konadu’s ‘A Woman in Her Prime’, and analysed to illustrate this ugly phenomenon. The study is hinged on Leech’s politeness principles with its seven politeness maxims.
From the study it is observed that all the maxims are highly exploited. The possibility of being debased and hurt is very high as these women follow the instructions of native doctors to the latest even to the detriment of their health… (Scroll down for the link to get the Complete Chapter One to Five Project Material)
Background to study
The arrival of a child in homes is usually greeted with excitement and much preparation, especially when the pregnancy is long awaited. Barrenness is a taboo for all creature including plants. No wonder in the Bible Jesus cursed the fig tree that was unable to bear fruit.(Matthew 21:19) acknowledging the fact that God is interested in procreation(Genesis 1:28)
In Africa, inability of couples to have children is usually attributed to women. This has led to endless search for solutions, appeasing the gods in the form of rituals which sometimes debase the pride of the women involved. Their endless visits to native doctors who claim to be the eyes of the gods eat deep into their resources and souls even when such curiosity is far away from the reality that they could live a meaningful life in spite of their inability to bear children… (Scroll down for the link to get the Complete Chapter One to Five Project Material)
Statement of problem
Literature as a creative art mirrors the society. Nwabueze (2011) opines that literature is a study that concerns itself with representation of the whole range of human life and activities in prose, poetry and drama. Every woman’s pride in an African culture is to be identified with a man, which is why women who were childless in their first marriage remarry believing that the gods might smile on them in another marriage which sometimes has been proven as a fact.
We see this fact in Buchi Emecheta’s Nnuego in Joy of Motherhood and also in our selected text experience. A wife’s identification in terms of her husband is an acknowledgment of the matrilineal basis of family organization in Africa… (Scroll down for the link to get the Complete Chapter One to Five Project Material)
This study sets out to;
- examine the language use of the affected women and people in their environment… (Scroll down for the link to get the Complete Chapter One to Five Project Material)
Significance of the Study
This study seeks to contribute immensely to existing works done in pragmatics because the significance of dysphemism to the overall interpretation and analysis of a text cannot be over emphasized… (Scroll down for the link to get the Complete Chapter One to Five Project Material)
Folk wisdom maintains that parenthood is central to a meaningful and fulfilling life, and that the lives of childless people are emptier, less rewarding and in old age lonelier than the lives of parents (Bausneister, 1991). People believe that parenthood entails substantial social (companionship, intimacy, support), developmental (maturity and growth), and existential (expansion of self and opportunities to love, be loved, and feel useful and needed) advantages Angner (2005).
Children serve as insurance against personal disaster in old age or infirmity; they serve as encouragement to acquire and build greater wealth. They are proof of virility or fertility, they strengthen the bond of marriage, and for many people, children may be a source of meaning in life and palliative for distressing cognition about death.
Childlessness is a concern partly because of its implications for the maintenance of societies and partly because of its unwanted consequences for the individuals. Like every other social phenomenon, childlessness needs to be understood within historical, social and cultural circumstances as well as individual and relational characteristics. (Kelly, 2009). Indeed parenthood is culturally salient, as evidenced by the strong social expectations towards parenthood.
Pragmatics is the study of meaning in context. It studies how utterances are interpreted, taking special note of the situation(s) surrounding such utterances. Levinson (1983, p.24) asserts that “it is a branch of study concerned with the ability of language users to pair sentences with the context in which they would be appropriate”. It is a term coined out of a Greek word “pragma” meaning action.
Adegbite (2000, p.60) is of the view that “the term pragmatics originated in philosophical studies”, it has however been used in several disciplines both scientific and humanistic. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/pragmatics opines that pragmatics was a reaction to structural linguistics as outlined by Ferdinand de Saussure. The structural linguists believe that language has an analyzable structure composed of parts that can be defined in relation to others. Hence, they believe that the meaning of an utterance is solely determined by its structure (surface arrangement of words).
Conversely, scholars interested in pragmatics believe that language use is of crucial importance and they draw attention to the fact that, the occasion of an utterance is important and that the specific context of such occasion must be fully understood before the meaning of an utterance can be fully grasped. Adegbija (1999, p.89)… (Scroll down for the link to get the Complete Chapter One to Five Project Material)
This study is hinged on politeness maxim propounded by Leech (1983). Leech’s central model of politeness principle is cost benefit scale of politeness related to both the speaker and hearer. Politeness involves minimizing the cost or inconvenience and maximizing the benefit to speaker/hearer.
Leech (1983) defines politeness as a type of behaviour that allows participants to engage in a social interaction in an atmosphere of social harmony. More than one maxim may occur in an utterance though one is relatively prominent. Leech identifies seven maxims, all of which are related to the notion of cost and maximizing benefit to the hearer.
These are the tact maxim, generosity maxim, the sympathy maxim, the approbation or praise maxim, the modesty maxim, the agreement maxim and the consideration maxim or pollyana principle.. (Scroll down for the link to get the Complete Chapter One to Five Project Material)
EXPLOITATION OF APPROBATION AND GENEROSITY MAXIM
Exploitation of Approbation Maxim
Minimize the expression of beliefs which express dispraise/ disapproval of other, maximize the expression of beliefs which expresses approval of others. It is preferred to praise others than self.
You are not an unforgiving God, God of our forefathers. Your assistance is not temporary. You are almighty. Let all evil men fall before you. p8
In this text Pokuwa praises the gods of her forefathers by saying they are almighty and they can give assistance and protection.
…but this time the demand for sacrifice had come from Tano himself, and Tano was great. ‘Great Tano,’ she cried, ‘assist me in my plight. You are powerful and nobody can thwart your will.’ P.12
The god ‘Tano’ is synonymous to greatness, that is why Pokuwa is calling on it for assistance.
You are my only daughter. My five sons will have children for their wives’ families; but the child that you will bear will be my own grandchild, ‘ her mother explained. She had praised the gods that her Pokuwa was already engaged. P.32
Pokuwa’s mother is praising the gods of the land for making it possible for her daughter to be engaged at an early age, which is an indication that she will soon be expecting grandchildren from her. This is the expectation of every parent in an African culture.
‘There is no result yet,’ she told the priest. But Tano is a great god who can correct anything that is going wrong.’ P.39
EXPLOITING SYMPATHY AND CONSIDERATION MAXIM
Exploiting Sympathy Maxim (Woman Sympathy)
Minimize antipathy between self and other, maximize sympathy between self and other.
Pokuwaa’s voice was sad. ‘ Oh, how I shall cling to that child …even if I have to stay away from work on the farm,’ she sighed. P.18
Pokuwaa is bitter about her condition of childlessness, she is ready to make difficult sacrifices like staying away from farm work which is their major source of livelihood if peradventure a child finally comes.
‘You must not leave me to sleep alone,’ she murmured. ‘Sometimes when I’m alone like that I begin to wish that I had a husband of my own.’ …. ‘ I mean someone who hasn’t got another wife. And then I shall not have lonely nights, and can come close to him when I hear ghosts moving through the night, and fear.’ P.22
Pokuwaa is attracting sympathy from kwadwo, whom she knows has a wife. She is using this ploy to have Kwadwo all to herself to the detriment of his wife and family.
‘Yes’ she thought, ‘without a child I am a person who needs your company. When you’re away, I’m alone. But, if the high God is there some day I shall have my own child to keep me company.’ P.22.
Pokuwaa is insinuating that she needs the company of Kwadwo more than his wife, that his wife has her children to keep her company.
CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS
An individual’s choice of language is greatly influenced by his environment. Africans’ belief in their deities greatly affects their daily life activities as depicted in our selected text ‘A Woman in Her Prime’ by Asare Konadu. There is a relationship between culture and language. Language may exploit or violate politeness principles. So it is advised that one should be mindful of his utterance.
Since childlessness is an unpredicted occurrence, this study recommends that sensitization programmes on sexual health should be carried out in our schools and society in order to educate the people on the importance of visiting the hospital to know the exact cause of infertility instead of patronizing native doctors as many have lost their lives in the process. Mothers should also build the confidence of their daughters before marriage… (Scroll down for the link to get the Complete Chapter One to Five Project Material)
Angner, E. (2005) Subjective measures of well being. A philosophical Examination. Dissertation. University of Pittsburg. (Woman)
Bausneister, R. F. (1991). Meaning of life New York: Guilford Press.(Woman)
Kelly, M. (2009). Women’s voluntary childlessness: A radical rejection of motherhood. WSQ Women Studies Quarterly, 37(2) 157-172.(Woman)
King James Version Easy Reading copyright (2001) G.E.M. Publishing.(Woman)
Konadu, A. (2007). A woman in her Prime. Ibadan: Rasmed publications Ltd.(Woman)
Nwabueze , .E. (2011). Studies in Dramatic Literature. Enugu: ABIC.
Wardhangh, R. (2013). An Introduction to Sociolinguistics. 6th ed. Wiley Blackwell.