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Anthills of the Savannah by Chinua Achebe One of Chinua Achebe's most important postcolonial novels, Anthills ofthe Savannah, was published in 1987. When it comes to his body of work,this is his most well-known novel. Booker Prize for Fiction, whichhonours the best original novel written in English and published in theUnited Kingdom, nominated it for this award in 1987.
After its publication, Achebe's work received widespread acclaim for itsportrayal of an officer who has risen to power through a successful coup.Chris Oriko, Beatrice Okoh, and Ikem Osodi describe the political ethosin the fictional landscape of Kangan.
SummaryA fictional nation named Kangan serves as the backdrop for this socialcommentary in Anthills of the Savanah. The story begins with a look at apresidential cabinet meeting from the inside. We learn that the countryhas had a rough first two years after a chaotic political upheaval thatresulted in the removal of a dictator from power.
Sam, Chris Oriko, and Ikem Osodi are the three protagonists of the story.These three people, who were childhood friends, are now in positions ofauthority and are responsible for many important aspects of their society.De facto leader and President of Kangan, Sam holds this position. TheInformation Ministry is led by Chris. National Gazette Editor Ikem is agovernment-controlled newspaper that is widely read. Despite the factthat they share a common ancestor and a long history together, the threemen have very different political views and personalities.
Sam is a tough guy who has served in the military for most of his life.He's a hard worker. Since taking office, it's become clear that he doesn'tcare about his people's welfare; to make matters worse, he's grownincreasingly paranoid, and his two friends fear he'll turn into yet anotherdictator. In contrast, Sam is a complete opposite of Ikem. He is a well-educated scholar who has an interest in the arts and culture. As Sam'smost outspoken critic, he is expressing his views on the necessity ofseveral government reforms. Chris is the calmest of the three andfrequently serves as a mediator between Sam and Ikem. Although bothIkem and Chris were crucial to Sam's success as an elected official, theynow regret their involvement and seek to restrain Sam by using the powerthat comes with their positions.
In order to maintain his position of authority, Sam decides to run forPresident-for-Life, a position that has never been held before in thehistory of the country. There must be a national vote on this, but Abazon,one of Kangan's regions, is opposed to the idea of putting Sam in chargefor the rest of his biological life.. In an attempt to break their will, hewithholds his support during a drought in response to their refusal.Because of his blockade, the people of the region are compelled to travelto the capital to make their case and obtain the supplies they need forthemselves. Sam, on the other hand, believes that the mission of mercy isa ruse, and he concludes that the revolt may be funded and organised bysomeone who knows intimate details about his life.
Despite the fact that Chris believes Sam is becoming increasinglydangerous, he still believes that if he stays in power, he can be a force forthe good of his country. However, in his newspaper columns, Ikem hasbeen steadily becoming more outspoken in questioning the president'smorality and his motives. Chris advises him to be more circumspect andto speak with a more measured voice.
Once the male characters are introduced, the story shifts to their femalecounterparts. Characters' lives revolve around these women, and theyplay a significant role in the story. He has a daughter with Elewa, who ishis girlfriend. She works in a store and does not have the same level ofeducation as her partner. Chris Oriko's fiancee is Beatrice. She is a well-educated professional woman, in contrast to Elewa. She currently servesas a local government administrator. Beatrice, a government employeewho has known Ikem since they were children, also has ties to the threemale characters. With Chris and Ikem's help, she has access to bothgovernment and media developments. This gives her a unique perspectiveon the situation, and she tells Chris and Ikem that because of their lack ofties to the people or the land, they are unable to effectively address socialproblems.
If Ikem is involved in the "rebellion" being "organised" by the leaders ofAbazon, then Sam believes he should be removed from his editor positionby Chris. When Ikem tells Chris to do something he doesn't want to do,Chris refuses outright. Ikem remains fired despite his refusal. Now thathe's no longer in charge, Ikem continues his outspoken criticism of Sam'sregime despite being relieved of his duties. His joke about Sam orderingthe mint to mint new coins with his head on them has been appropriatedby government propagandists. It's been twisted to say that Ikem wants todecapitate the president, and Sam can no longer let this slide. Sam Ikem
is kidnapped and killed by government forces at night. Because of theassassination of Ikem, Chris is forced to face some difficult choices.
In his place is a power-hungry madman who will stop at nothing and noone to secure his power, and he now realises that his childhood friendSam is now dead. His connections in the international press help himexpose Sam for the murderer and dictator he is, and then he disappears.Emmanuel, a former student of Ikem's, joins Chris in rallying a motleycrew of supporters. As a group, they flee to Bassa, capital of the state ofAbazon, where they plan to continue their journey. Meanwhile, Sam haslaunched a manhunt for Chris, who has been placed on the government'smost wanted list, and has ordered the arrest of anyone found aiding himor withholding information about him.
With Sam's tyrannical rule in full effect, Chris reflects on the difficultiesthe nation has faced. Chis re-establishes his connection to his culture byparticipating in the daily routines of his people. Emmanuel, on the otherhand, is introduced to Adamma, a stunning college student from thenearby institution. The murder of Sam and the overthrow of hisadministration are both celebrated by a drunken mob that stops their bus.Chris learns this when the mob attacks their vehicle. As Chris tries topiece together the events, a militiaman kidnaps Adamma and forces her tobe sexually assaulted. His attempt to save her ends in his own death at thehands of the soldier. Emmanuel, Adamma, and the rest of the ragtag bandof exiles return to Bassa to break the news to Beatrice that her soon-to-behusband-to-be has died.
Beatrice holds a naming ceremony for Ikem and Elewa's child at the endof the novel. When Elewa was kidnapped and murdered, she gave birth toa baby girl; only men traditionally perform the naming ceremony, butBeatrice does so, symbolising a new beginning. In an ironic turn ofphrase, the baby is named "Amaechina," which translates to "May thePath Never Close."
ThemesCorruption in the governmentIt is clear that Kangan's government is corrupt based on how it treats thepoor in Abazon. To cover up the murder, the government even claims thatIkem's death was the result of a fight. With good intentions, HisExcellency's desire for power grows and has no bounds. To silence thosewho question his authority and stand in his way, including longtimefriends Ikem and Chris, he resorts to violence. His Excellency's goal is
not only to eliminate those who speak out, but also to discredit their ideasafter their death, and he accomplishes this through his efforts to discreditthem. The claim that Ikem supported regicide is one such example. Everyaspect of life and every relationship between the state and its citizens istainted by corruption.
The Significance of StorytellingIn both the literal and political senses, Ikem is the storyteller. He is theeditor of the Gazette, a newspaper that has a reputation for beingoutspoken on hot-button topics. The theme of storytelling begins in thecitizens' cultural roots, such as when one of the Abazon leaders says thatin battle, the story is the most important element because it is everlasting.The story that emerges from the conflict is far more important than theactual conflict itself. However, while Ikem is trying to make a differencein the lives of the poor and disenfranchised, the forces of evil are doingtheir best to maintain control of the narrative. His Excellency'sgovernment, for example, spreads the false story that both Chris and Ikemwere involved in a coup attempt when the conflict reaches its climax.Even if that were the case, His Excellency's position would bestrengthened and his authority would be unhindered. Both factions inAnthills of the Savannah need to control the narrative.
Societal Importance of WomenBeatrice has a similar theme. In a position of power, she is an educated,articulate woman who is likely to be smarter than any of the men aroundher. It's unfortunate that as a woman, she isn't given the same level ofrespect as a man because of her attractiveness. Because of herconservative family and the fact that there were no sons, she was unableto receive much love and grew up in her own little world. That womenare better off married, even to lower-class men, than single is a cynicalbelief held by her. While the role of women in society is also introducedby Ikem in his love letter to Beatrice, who acknowledges that womenhave been oppressed by religion and societal norms throughout history.Through Beatrice's ability to remain calm and level-headed in the face ofadversity, this theme is reinforced. Chris, Ikem, and Elewa all look up toher as a quiet leader during the novel's most tumultuous moments.
Despot's irrationalityTo appease His Excellency at the beginning of the novel, Chris believesthat he has a chance to operate from a rational standpoint. HisExcellency's despotic behaviour becomes clearer as the novel progresses.What he wants, when he wants and how he wants it—His Excellency willdo exactly that. For most of the novel, Chris is unable to come to terms
with his friend's irrationality, but he eventually comes to terms with it.Trying to be reasonable or placate His Excellency is futile, as he will dowhat he wants regardless.
Absolute Power CorruptsThe old adage "absolute power corrupts absolutely" applies to HisExcellency. While he initially resisted the idea of a life-long reign, hesoon ignored previous statements, betrayed his friends, and ultimatelylied to the public in order to achieve his own goals. Protesters will besilenced or misinformation spread, and those who stand in his way will bekilled. He is willing to do anything to protect his power. Corruption ismotivated by his desire for total control and the need to protect thatcontrol.
Reality vs. PerceptionPerception versus reality is a constant source of conflict for the charactersin the novel. Ikem and Chris, Chris and His Excellency, and the upper andlower classes all have this problem. In reality, the relationship betweenIkem and Chris is much more tense than they give it credit for. AlthoughHis Excellency appears to be a threat, Chris believes him to be less so. Inparticular, the country's elites in Bassa are unable to comprehend therealities of the rest of the nation. As a result, they are unable or unwillingto see what is going on in the rest of the country from Bassa.
Corruption's PervasivenessThe corruption of His Excellency is a major theme in Anthills of theSavannah, but the ways in which the government's stooges perpetuate thiscorruption receive more time and attention than His Excellency's actualactions. When His Excellency's behaviour sets the tone for the rest of hisadministration, it has a more direct effect on the lives and experiences ofKangan residents. From accepting bribes from bus drivers to attemptingto rape Chris, the behaviour of the police force is the clearest example ofthis. Though His Excellency's corruption is a major concern for thereader, Chris' death is ultimately caused by the corrupt actions of thenameless and unimportant characters. The corrupt actions of theseancillary characters have a significant impact on the plot and the health ofKangan.
Tortoise and Leopard (Allegory)A tortoise and a leopard story is told to Ikem by the Abazon delegationwhen they meet. When the tortoise realises that he is doomed, he asks fora moment to gather his thoughts and rehearse. He then starts scratchingthe road with his hands and feet, throwing sand all over the place. This is
because even after my death, I would like anyone passing by this spot toknow that a fellow and his match fought here.." The tortoise tells theleopard.
Abazon's delegation may not be able to help alleviate the drought, either.As the Chief explains, " "That's all we're doing right now, my brethren.Struggling. Possibly for nothing, but our descendants may be able to say:True, our fathers were defeated, but they tried " (132).
Although His Excellency appears to have no real concern for the welfareof his people, Abazon must try because what else is there to do, evenwhen it appears helpless?
Idemili's Story (Allegory)On Earth, Idemili was sent by her father to control power and bring peaceand modesty to humanity. It became necessary to have leaders as thepeople spread, and they had to pass a test by the Daughter of theAlmighty to do so. There is a chance that they could return home if shefound them suitable for the role, but if not, they would be killed. This isher disdain for men's lust for power and authority.
After Ikem's love letter and his thoughts on the nature of women'soppression throughout the ages, this story comes to life. Ikem's belief thatwomen are passive in society is reflected in the story. To calm Powerdown, Idemili was sent as a last-ditch effort, even though she is a high-ranking official. For both men's lust for power and women's desire for apassive role in society, it is an allegory in this story.
Anthill (Symbol)While driving to Abazon, Chris spots scorched anthills and decides toread "Pillar of Fire: A Hymn to the Sun" by Ikem. He has a newperspective on the work and understands the gravity of the death-strickenenvironment. There are anthills that represent Chris' realisation of howserious the situation, suffering, and the desolate landscape are. "
The Last Green (Symbol)The final words Chris ever utters are "the last green." He and his friendshave an inside joke about green beer bottles. Beatrice, as well as hisfriends, find encouragement in these words. With a smile on his face, theyrepresent someone who bravely faces death head-on.
The Sun (Symbol)The heat of the sun is viewed as "routine oppression" rather than asymbol of hope and brightness. Beatrice and the people of Abazon, whohave been suffering from a drought, are both drained by the exhaustion ofthe characters. In the heat of the day, the sun has the power to wreakhavoc on its victims. It looms over everyone, and there is no way out ofits grasp.
Eyewink Duel of Children (Simile)Eyewink Duel of Children (Simile)His Excellency's personality is explored in the first chapter by Chris, thechapter's narrator. Using a childlike demeanour, he bullies hissubordinates. After all, Ikem describes him later in the novel withchildlike innocence. Insecurity will eventually lead him to turn againstthose closest to him and even lead to his death as a result of this type ofbehaviour.
Cliché is Pauperized Ecstasy (Metaphor)"Cliché is nothing more than a cheapened form of ecstasy."The narrator perfectly explains the meaning of cliché in this metaphorfrom the first chapter.. In his opinion, it is not a cliché for someone tohave never heard of it. Kangan residents were enthralled by ProfessorOkong's columns full of clichés, he says. This means that the moreecstasy is experienced, the more ecstatic-filled statements are used, andthe more clichés they become.
Smiling into the Camera: "I don't find it funny, people shaking hands likethis...while their neck is turned away at right angles like that girl in TheExorcist, and grinning into the camera."While shaking hands with people, Professor Okong has to pose for aphoto for the media. That girl from The Exorcist comes to mind whenlooking at this image.
The Leader is a Teacher (Metaphor)In addition to being our leader, "Your Excellency" is our teacher.
Prof. Okong continues to make fun of His Excellency by comparing himto a teacher from The Exorcist. Professor Okong's witty and articulatedemeanour and the leader's childish nature make this statement ironic.Their childish leader is completely oblivious to the ironic tone of his
surroundings because he is completely immersed in the role he was givenas their leader.
Leader's funeral is a state crisis (Metaphor)"Professor, you know why. The reason for this is because it is myfuneral."Demonstrations by Abazon's oppressed people are putting His Excellencyin danger. The role of a leader is to bring order to the people he or sheserves. In the event he fails, the leader will perish because of the direconsequences of his failure.
The Anthills of the Savannah in Achebe's WorkAchebe's fifth book, Anthills of the Savannah, came out 21 years after hisfourth. Between the publication of his fourth and fifth novels, hepublished a series of lesser-known poetry anthologies. Achebe'sreputation in Britain was said to have been revived by the publication ofAnthills of the Savannah.
During this time, Achebe also became more involved in politics. As aforeign ambassador following the Biafran War, Achebe visited the UnitedStates and Europe. His family moved to the United States in 1972, whenAchebe accepted a professorship position at the University ofMassachusetts, Amherst following the end of World War II. Soon after heretired from teaching, he became heavily involved in the People'sRedemption Party (PRP), a role that consumed the majority of his timethroughout the 1980s. It wasn't until 1987 that he published Anthills ofthe Savannah because of his time in politics.