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Urbanization in "The Famished Road." The Nigerian writer Ben Okri is a brilliant representative of the magic realism. The magic realism may briefly be characterized as the amalgamation of realism and fantasy. The narrator and the main character of the book is Azaro, a spirit-child who has a hard time deciding if it wants to be born into the world so it keeps coming and going between this world and the spirit one. Azaro is faced the choice whether to leave this world or to stay in. The boy is balancing between the real world and a world of magic spirits. He is surrounded by his magical companions who try to convince him to leave the real world for their reality.
The real world is the river and Azaro came to this world to find out if the river has the end. In the beginning there was a river. The river became a road and the road branched out to the whole world. And because the road was once a river it was always hungry. 1 Azaro is a boy who lives in two worlds, in the world of ghetto of some unnamed country at the time which is not indicated, though the similarities of Nigeria in the early 60 s are unmistaken; and the world of spirits.
There are some lines of narration. We can distinguish the magic line, Azaro is linked to the spirit world by. Even the name Azaro is associated with Bible Lazarus. The narration of Azaro is like the magic dream coming to reality full of the ghettos dirty fleapits, humiliation and naive simplicity of the African ghettos inhabitants. The reality in its turn is dissolved in the magical animated endless and hungry road. There are two leg dogs, silent priestesses, poor photographers, dirty politicians and the spirits.
There is no imagination of Azaro, just realistic reflection of this or that world. According to Azaro the life is a road and he came to this world to pass the road. Sometimes he is tempted by the spirits from the unreality to leave this world but his father opens new values for him. The African reality shocks Azaro. From the very beginning the reality does not attract Azaro very much; he came as a guest to this world just to make happy his mother. Later he realized the life in Africa is not easy at all and it is a very difficult thing to put a smile on somebody's face.
Azaro is a boy who sometimes can not understand why he should fight the difficulties of reality and hides to his spiritual world. He had the choice either to leave the real world for the spiritual one or pass his road which is hungry, up to the end. Another reason to stay in the real world is according to Azaro's father is it is more difficult to love than to die. 2 His father changes the vision of Azaro on the reason to live. Death is nothing for Azaro, just a change for a better world, but survival is a struggle for the love. Azaro must understand everything in the real world including the love before his road is over. The real world intervenes with the spiritual one.
One of the problems raised in the novel is the urbanization. Rural life is narrated as the congested and confusing urban milieu to which rural people continue to be attracted because of false expectations. Azaro is closer to nature rather than to the urban life. His attitude towards it is the urbanization is destroying the nature. And it is not only just the trees "running away from human habitation" 3, but the boy associates all the negative aspects of the life with the urbanization.
He considers the policy to be the dirty thing and his attitude towards politicians is obvious, the magician and the politician have much in common: they both have to draw our attention away from what they are really doing. 4 The reality of the ghetto is described by the contrasts, a harsh place full of crime, poverty, disease and political wrangling on one hand and the fascinating people, the local bar owner Madame Koto and the photographer who documents the life of the village on the other hand. The ghettos realities are the attributes of the growing urbanization and the attitude of the author to it is quiet clear. Azaro opposes his fantastic world to his everyday real life with its political thugs, grasping landlords, brutal bosses and other realities which may be characterized as parts of urbanization or it is better to say, westernization. Azaro can not understand these phenomena and does not want to accept them. The urbanization is spreading all over the place without the consideration of the traditional culture.
All the magic and wonder of the Azaro's imagination is applied to everything but the rural Westernized realities. At the same time the author tries to underline that the urbanization is inevitable. Apart from the nature suffering from the urbanization, it brings some positive into the lives of the people. One of the character, the photographer Jeremiah represents the class of the young urbanized Nigerians.
He records the life of the ghetto, depicting the exploitation of the poor by the rich. He publishes his pictures thus making the life of the ghetto known by a wider public. He is persecuted by a regime and goes into hiding, thus becoming the hero of the poor. He is hiding by traveling all roads of the world 5 and becomes a migrant and cosmopolitan. Another result of the urbanization is shown in the destiny of the bar holder Madam Koto, who does not become the victim of unjustness but on the contrary, gains some success and rises above the ghetto. She becomes a successful business woman and supports the Party of the Rich.
Her raise is accompanied by the spiritual decay and moral decadence. The author uses very indicative metaphor; her body is pregnant with the three evil forces that are fighting inside. They are born with the Nigerian independence. This is very indicative taking into consideration the Nigeria is roughly divided into three parts and three major ethical groups which are re fighting all the time. At the same time Madam Koto shows the amiable side of her character to Azaro. That makes the reader realize that the political realities brought to ghetto by urbanization are responsible for the negative side if this character.
The novel of Ben Okri is a real masterpiece of the African literature. It showed the urbanization, though inevitable should come to Africa in accord with the native habits. Bibliography: B. Okri The Famished Road, London: Jonathan Cape, 1991) Citation The Famished Road by B.
Okri, p 3 Ibid, p. 167 Ibid, p. 243 Ibid, 347 Ibid, 426
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Research essay sample on Urbanization In The Famished Road