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NECO Literature 2021 Answers (oBJ & THEORY)
Literature in English (Drama & Poetry) – 10:00am–11:40am
Lakunle, the school teacher is a known figure in Ilujinle. He is educated, yet not necessarily very educated. On the contrary, Lakunle enjoys a half-baked education and makes a lot of noise with it. He uses his education, unfully formed as it is, to harass both Sidi and Sadiku. About twenty-three years old, he is said to wear an undersized old-style English suit, “threadbare but not ragged, clean but not ironed.” His tie is said to be done in a very small knot and is buried in “a shiny black waist-coat.” This mode of dressing shows that he wants to be taken seriously as one enjoying a high social status just as Sidi is aware of her beauty. Being probably the most schooled in the village, he deploys his energy in raising a new generation of youth as he teaches them. However, Lakunle teaches at the level of “Three times two are six,” maybe because his school is yet to grow. Perhaps more teachers would join him later.
In spite of his level of education, he possesses an inflated sense of his importance in the village and merely consults longer and shorter dictionaries before talking to a non-educated Sidi to whom he ’blows’ all the grammar he knows or has heard. As Baroka is also uneducated like Sidi, Lakunle fails to realize that the Bale possesses in abundance native intelligence (informal education) with which he solves his daily needs. This native intelligence has built into it craftiness, wit and cunning with which people like Baroka survive on a daily basis, whereas the ’educated’ like Lakunle lose when there is a contest of will. From the dialogue between Sidi and Lakunle, it is clear that when he sounds flowery as in “That is what the stewpot said to the fire./Have you no shame…/licking my bottom”, he is probably speaking Yoruba. He occasionally speaks with double interpretation as outcome as when he says, “The scientists have proved it. It is in my books”. This may mean that what he has to say can be found in the books he owns or in the books he has written. Then what he says is a lie, unfounded, namely that “women have a smaller brain than men/That’s why they are called the weaker sex”. Not that they are the weaker sex, but that that is what they are called. Of course in spite of Sidi not being educated, she stands up to Lakunle on this occasion. “The weaker sex, is it?/Is it a weaker breed who pounds the yam/Or bends all day to plant the millet/With a child strapped to her back?”.
Lakunle is a shallow fellow whose frivolous nature contradicts what may be his intentions. His idea of progress as compared with Baroka’s is quite funny and facetious. Imagine him saying that “the world will judge our progress by/The girls that win beauty contests”. Nothing can be as amusing as a claim like this one! There are other funny claims: he wants to turn Ilujinle into a Lagos or an Ibadan. His idea of progress includes bathroom dancing, nightclubs, women with painted lips whose feet are adorned by high-heeled shoes, machines meant to pound or to grind pepper, etc.
When Sidi objects to his kissing her, Lakunle calls her “bush-girl you are, bush girl you’ll always be”. Rather than consider bride price as a show of gratitude to parents of the bride for bringing up their daughter to the point of being admired for marriage, he calls it “a savage custom, barbaric, outdated.” Yet after Baroka has had his way with Sidi in spite of his age and the so-called backwardness, Lakunle proposes that with this development, “it solves the problem of her bride-price too”. He still considers himself a principled man who had said from the beginning that he would not pay a bride price on whom he wants to marry: “A man must live or fall by his true/Principles. That, I had sworn/Never to pay”. Thus as young as he is, he is prepared to accept Sidi after she had been defiled by a man three times his age, and whom he (Lakunle) talked down on. Occasionally, Lakunle shows that he will like to enjoy life the way Baroka does and for which he resents the older man. Once he admits this when he remarks: “Ah, I sometimes wish I led this kind of life./Such luscious bosoms make his night by pillow/I am sure he keeps a time-table just as/I do at school.” Suddenly aware that he is being covetous, Lakunle exclaims “No! I do not envy him!/Just the one woman for me”.
Lakunle’s role in the play is critical because without him Baroka’s trickery over capturing Sidi’s hand in marriage could not have meant much. He raises the struggle for Sidi to the point of a contest. It must be seen that part of what makes Sidi vain, apart from the images, is his brief romantic dalliance with her.
Jimmy Porter is the play’s main character. He is the “Angry Young Man” who expresses his frustration for the lack of feelings in his placid domestic life. Jimmy can be understood as both a hero for his unfiltered expressions of emotion and frustration in a culture that propagated unemotional resignation. He is restless, importunate, full of pride, a combination which alienates the sensitive and insensitive alike; a man of decency and charity who is “one of life’s beautiful losers”; “a lovable monster with the gift of the gab and a talent for resentment.” He can also be considered a villain for the ways in which his anger proves to be destructive to those in his life.
Jimmy Porter is a loud, obnoxious man, rude and verbally abusive. He is born working class but highly educated, like his friend and roommate Cliff, but has an ambivalent relationship with his educated status, seeing himself mostly as a working class man and yet frustrated that his education can do nothing to affect his class status. “He is a disconcerting mixture of sincerity and cheerful malice, of tenderness and free booting cruelty.” He is usually found spouting tirades against the complacency of the British upper classes, and especially against his wife Alison and then his lover Helena.
Jimmy is married to a pretty girl, Alison, whom he feels he almost had to steal away from her family, the kind of family whose strength and graces were grounded on England’s 1914 Empire. Jimmy not only resents his wife’s family and all the institutions that bred them because they led to nothing but the dust and ashes of 1945; he also berates her for having lost the stamina presumed to be characteristic of her background, without having it replaced with any new values of her own, even romantically negative ones like his.
Jimmy Porter is an aggressive young man. He is angry at almost every British institution such as the Church, the Monarchy, the government and he rants against ’posh’ Sunday papers, although he buys them every weekend. But most of all, he is against any form of upper-class manners. However, he married a girl from the class which he hates. As a result of his class hatred Jimmy attacks Alison both verbally and physically throughout the play since his wife reminds him of everything he despises in terms of class distinctions. He berates Alison for being too reserved and unfeeling.
Jimmy expresses physical aggression towards Alison by pushing Cliff on the ironing board and Cliff falls against Alison and she burns her arm on the iron. At first, Jimmy tells Alison that he did not mean to hurt her but then he apologizes for doing it deliberately: “I’m sorry… I mean it…I did it on purpose”(Jimmy is frail and dependent on Alison.
Although Jimmy has graduated from a university, albeit one with no prestige, he works with Cliff as owner/proprietor of a candy stall in an outdoor market. In spite of his tendency to sometimes cruelly insult Cliff, Jimmy genuinely likes him. Cliff lives with Jimmy and Alison and he’s close friends with both.
(i)The danger of drink-and-drive culture : One of the dominant thematic preoccupations of the poem is the danger inherent in driving when drunk. While many cultures and societies use alcoholic drinks to celebrate periods of achievement, bereavement and festivities, alcohol consumption is also a very dangerous thing that sends people to their early graves, especially when behind wheels. The poet uses the story of the government driver to make the point very clearly. The day the government driver is retiring appears to be one of the happiest moments of his life.
In stanza three, for instance he beckons on his friends and well-wishers, ’come ends, rejoice with me’. This open invitation suggests an unmitigated show of joy and happiness at his day of freedom has come. He thinks that the only way of celebrating his freedom, or any event for that matter, is through excessive consumption of alcohol. In his unrestrained excitement, he jumps into his new car to drive home after being thoroughly drunk. Unfortunately, this brings about his timely end. Through this poetic reflection, it is obvious that alcohol makes people have poor vision while driving, thus making them have wrong judgment, as the poem states in lines 29-30, ’On his way on wheels,/Booze boozed his vision and clear judgement.’ It is obvious that driving requires high concentration, while a wrong sense of judgment while driving can lead to a calamitous end. Therefore Alcohol consumption when driving is very dangerous.
(ii)Reward for meritorious service : Another important theme in this poem is that there is reward for a meritorious service. Despite the persona’s grudges about the drudgery of civil service, he remains disciplined till the day of his retirement, as the persona notes in the second stanza that ’many years has he pummeled his boozy throat/In obedience to duty rules and regulations. The poetic persona restricts himself to the demands of his job. He shuns the temptations of personal pleasure, subjects himself to a thorough self-discipline, thereby focusing strictly on his official duties and working faithfully in service to his fatherland for thirty-five years. As a result of his outstanding performance in his place of work, he is rewarded with a brand new car as an appreciative symbol’ (line 19). The poet, therefore, brings to the fore the need for diligence in service, with eloquent evidence that such hard work hardly goes unnoticed, not even if one is a driver.
(iii)The joy of retirement from public service: The poem also underscores the joy and sense of fulfilment that comes with one’s retirement from active service. The civil service structure gives the poetic persona a feeling of servitude, hence he sees the day of his retirement as a day of liberation. According the poem, “Today, he’ll go home a freeman’ . He has endured the highly regulated life in the civil service for a long time and is now ready to celebrate his freedom. He will no longer be subjected to very strict rules and regulations once he retires. He would not need to wake up very early to work, he will have his own time to himself and will manage his time as it suits his convenience. It is as a result of this excitement to celebrate his liberation from the drudgery of civil service that the persona invites friends and well-wishers to come and celebrate with him.
(i)Discrimination in society: In the poem, the poet creates two vivid, contrasting images: freedom and bondage. In the first and fourth stanzas, we see a bird blissfully enjoying its freedom in the great outdoors. It uses the wind to aid its flight and ’dares to take the sky. The bird is entirely at liberty to soar into the sky and go where he wills. On the contrary, the caged bird ’stalks in its narrow cage’ where it is held in by ’bar of rage.’ Unlike the bird that ecstatically flies to any destination he pleases, the caged bird’s ’wings are clipped’, and his feet are tied’. Maya Angelou contrasts these images to convey the theme of freedom and bondage. The birds are symbolic. The free bird represents the whites in American society, while the caged bird represents the African-Americans. The whites were granted full constitutional rights and were allowed to enjoy all the benefits that come with them. On the other hand, the blacks were stripped of most of their rights, including basic human rights. The society was a very oppressive one, especially for the blacks. They were barred from many of the social amenities and benefits that the whites had easy access to.
Consequently, they led difficult lifestyles . There was a sharp difference between the lifestyles of whites and that of the blacks in the American society. The whites lived privileged, luxurious lifestyles while the blacks were treated as the dregs of the society. This is reflected in the poem. While the free bird thinks of ’another breeze’ and feeds on ’fat worms,’ the caged bird ’stands on the grave of dreams and ’shouts on a nightmare scream. The expression, ’fat worms’ vividly depicts the abundance and privilege that the whites enjoyed when compared to the blacks. The bird feeds on ’fat worms, not sickly or stringy ones. This expression connotes abundance, as opposed to the caged bird, which has nothing of the sort. The caged bird’s ’wings are clipped’, and so it cannot soar, it cannot take to the skies like its counterpart. In the same vein, while the whites had the confidence and, more importantly, the permission of the society to breathe life into their dreams, the blacks did not. Hence, just like the caged bird who ’stands on the grave of dreams’, the blacks were forced to watch their goals and aspirations fade into obscurity. In the same vein that the caged bird ’shouts on a nightmare scream’, the blacks made attempts to fight for themselves, to express their dissatisfaction with the status quo. However they were nothing but shadow(s) in the society. They were unseen and unheard, and so, for a long time their agitations were simply dismissed or met with force.
(ii)Man’s desire and longing for freedom is instinctive:
This theme is also evident in the poem. Despite being cloistered in a claustrophobic space practically all its life, ’the caged bird sings of freedom. The caged bird is unfamiliar with freedom, so ’it sings with a fearful trill.” Its sad song has undertones of fear because it does not know exactly what freedom is, or what its implications are. This idea is mirrored in the third stanza, where the bird sings of things unknown but longed for still.’ By implication, the poet suggests that the yearning for freedom is instinctive. The inference from this idea, therefore, is that it is unnatural for a man to put his fellow man in bondage. However, this is what obtained for many years in the American society. Blacks were carted away from their homelands to plantations in Haiti and other parts of the world. Many of them survived a tortuous journey, only to get to their destination and realize that they were doomed to live as slaves to white masters. After many years, slavery was abolished in the American society, but the blacks continued to lead lives characterized by oppression and hardship, and they continued to year for freedom. This longing is one of the things that the poet seeks to represent in the poem. It can be inferred from the poem that the desire for freedom in man is instinctive. In the third and last stanzas, the poet states that the bird ’sings of things unknown but longed for still.’ In the same vein, the African Americans sought to be liberated from their oppressive status in the society. Even though they had never enjoyed freedom and all its perks, they continued to fight for it. They understood that, as humans, they deserved to be free to live their lives and bring their ideas into reality.
The poet seems to imply that with freedom, it is possible to restructure and revise history as well determine the future. Likewise, the lack of freedom means that other people would be responsible for determining the trajectory of one’s journey through life. The story of the African-American in the US begins and ends with the issue of slavery. Whenever the story of the African-American is narrated, it is predicated on the historical past that deals with slavery, a story that has been determined largely by pon-black narrators. Unfortunately, the inability of the African-American to “own’ the rights to his own story means that other people have determined for him his identity, his name as well as his economic and social status. Thus, the yearning for freedom that would facilitate the creation of a new positive identity for the African-American, is at the centre of this poem. However, it should be stressed that the theme of a longing for freedom is universal and from the perspective of Angelou, it is only right that all humans should be free to assert their rights to self-determination, using their own personally sourced criteria. When critiqued from this perspective, the poem possesses the quality of universal applicability.
(iii) The Theme of limitation:
By contrast, another theme that runs through this poem is the theme of limitation. It is almost interesting that themes of freedom and limitation are both important to the poet. This theme is important and significant because wherever there is freedom, it is usually at the expense of others, who are in slavery. In this poem, the theme of limitation foregrounds the enslavement of African-Americans for more than 300 years. The words ’caged’, ’cut’ and ’tied’ all represent different types of limitation. Lines 8-11 say: But a bird that stalks/down his narrow cage/can seldom see through/his bars of rage’.The bird, in this poem, is limited in its inability to fly, even though it is a bird. The word “bird”, especially if it is a flying bird, collocates with words like ’fly’, ’flew’, ’perched’, ’landed’ and so on. A bird hardly ever collocates with ’stalks’ and this marks the beginning of the theme of limitation.
The poetic persona emphasizes this bird’s limitation by telling the readers that it is in a ’narrow cage’. It is used in the possessive to show that it is specifically for this bird – “his narrow cage”. A person does not willingly lock himself in a cage as a cage is not a comfortable place. A cage is a contraption that physically limits whatever has been caged to the space within the cage. Yet, even in the space within the cage, the bird’s ability to move around is still limited because the cage is described as a ’narrow cage’ (line 9). The caged bird is narrowed down in space, in dreams, in life, in opportunities and hope. The idea of the narrow cage is to make him ’narrow’, both externally and internally. At the metaphorical level of interpretation, such narrow space suggests the restriction of opportunities to excel in different spheres of life. Line 10 also indicates that the caged bird ’can seldom see through his bars of rage’. This implies that the caged bird is also limited in its ability to see into the future and shape its destiny. Apart from this, it is also blinded by the anger born out of its impotence and powerlessness to change the direction of its life. Its natural state has been made unnatural; since it is unable to fly or walk. It is limited not just in space but by its Boyd and by itself and these only add to its frustration.
LITERATURE QUESTION 2021
(Answer one question from each section)
Each question carries 25 marks
John Kargbo: Let Me Die Alone
1. Give an account of the ascension of Yoko to chiefdom in the text.
2. How does the character of Musa contribute to the development of the play?
Wole Soyinka: The Lion And The Jewel
3. Discuss the character and role of Lakunle in the text
4. How does the cunning acts of Baroka trap Sidi?
(Answer one question from either of the texts in this section.)
Each question carries 25 marks.
John Osborne: Look Back In Anger
5 Write on Osborne’s view of religion in the play.
6 Discuss the character and role of Jimmy Porter in the play.
August Wilson: Fences
7. How does the character of Bono contribute to the development of the play?
8. Discuss the theme of victimization and inhumanity in the text.
(Answer one question from this section.)
Each question carries 25 marks
9. Examine Léopold Sedar Senghor’s “Black Woman” as a negritude poem.
10. Discuss any three themes portrayed in Chibuike Onu’s “A Goverment Driver on His
(Answer one question from this section)
Each question carries 25 marks.
11. Write on any three poetic devices in Dylan Thomas. “Do Not Go Gentle Into
That Good Night”
12. Discuss any three themes portrayed in Maya Angelou’s “Caged Bird”.
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