Monday, April 11, 2011

Chinua Achebe My experience with "The Madman" and the authors overall message

            After reading Chinua Achebe three stories “Girls at War,” “The Madman” and “An Image of Africa, I found myself challenged by the meanings and forced to take a closer look into the message Achebe was trying to convey.
            At first glance I must have really misread "The Madman" at first and I had seriously mistaken this as crazy, chaotic and hard to follow. Like many others I was very confused and had made the assumption that the two main characters were one in the same. I had to look back at the dialect between the madman and the main character Nwibe. It was when the madman started thinking to himself that Nwibe was the same man who had beat him up , the same man that whipped him out of his hut and that Nwibe was the same man who told his children to throw stones at him. Followed by the Madman laughing out loud as he watches Nwibe bathe, in which Nwibe hears and replies to the madman "I can see you are hungry for a whipping” Followed by the text “For a madman is said to be easily scared away by the very mention of a whip." This is where I concluded that the madman is not running away, therefore Nwibe must be talking to himself. So in my thought process I had somehow conjured up a meaning to the story which I concluded somehow society can make a seemingly normal person crazy or that only crazy people live in society.
            However after class discussion, I had learned that these two characters were in fact two different individuals and then everything else started to fall in place. I had also learned that just as I suspected that the first character was clinically insane and in the aftermath of Nwibes chase to beat this insane man had made him look crazy as well. After all, running through the streets naked, screaming “Hold the madman, he’s got my cloth!” is not very normal in society. Finally because society thought he was crazy even he started to believe he was crazy and started to withdraw from society never wanting to be seen. It’s frightening to look at it from this point of view, Nwibe was reliable and respected on top of that, he seemed to have played by societies rules and in doing so suffered because of it. It's hard to imagine what being out casted could do you mentally.
            Ironically enough I found it hilarious that the reliable sensible Nwibe was thought of as crazy by the towns people and it was the towns people opinion of him that actually made him crazy. If this wasn't funny enough the doctor who refuses to help cure him because he knew Nwibe wasn't crazy and refused to take the villages money. Yet the other doctor took the people's money and "cured" his patients "madness" making this doctor famous throughout the lands. Also we must take notice to the ending when Nwibe gains the courage to talk to the titled men and yet they avoid answering him. However we find this type of writing a recurring theme in Achebe's writing. As we can recall with "Girls at War"  There was a multiple twisted ending there as we may have overlooked in our class discussion. Like everybody else I agree it was Ironic and even twisted from my perspective that Achebe would kill off the "good guys" and let the bad guy live. Yet as we had mentioned in class, the main character Nwankwo had picked up the girl only because Gladys nudged him into it. However it was Nwankwo who had forced his driver to stop and pickup this soldier. In my point of view it was as if the "bad guy" was starting to become good and almost try and redeem himself with this humane action, nonetheless ending in failure much like Nwibe.
            Lastly, I find Chinua Achebe to be a very cynical writer. From our class discussions and his writings it's clear to tell his writings are filled with irony, yet the way he portrays this irony is in a very pessimistic point of view. It's upsetting, I've thought about the endings and was trying to understand his conveyed message. Since the stories seem to always end with failure, I can't help but think that Achebe's message in it's very basic form is failure. Failure to prevent colonization perhaps? Failure to think freely? Failure to resist?  All and all I leave as I started, confused with lots of questions.


  1. I agree: often literary analysis leaved me as confused as when I started, but it is a more complicated confusion, which, I suppose, is a higher quality confusion. :-)

    I like the points you make about the irony in the stories, and you make a good point about how maybe Nwankwo was starting to get redeemed, but then was cut off from this budding redemption. The problems of continuing failure are serious. Take Ivory Coast, for example: civil war, elections, civil war. How can one rebuild a country when it is consistently torn apart? Or Nigeria: the oil companies are destroying the economy and the environment, and the government officials are right in on it because it serves them well at the moment. I can see why Achebe would get depressed about that. However, there is a great book out by a French guy, Hessel, called "Get mad" (Indignez Vous). He says no matter how bad it gets, it is still worth it to get mad about injustice and try to do something about. Some people call this fighting the Long Defeat, but they argue that it is still worth fighting. Nevertheless, the whole idea of fighting in the face of failure can remain confusing.

  2. i think the style of chinue's writing is very amazing with abit of sneer ;once you begin read the stories, you feel as if you are part of events ;you live the daily struggle of ordinary people you their happiness and sadness