traditionalism and modernism in ama aidoo’s the dilemma of a ghost and efua sutherland’s the marriage of anansewa

Abstract: This research work examines traditionalism and modernism in Ama Aidoo’s The Dilemma of a Ghost and Efua Sutherland’s The Marriage of Anansewa. The two are strong Ghanaian writers who write strongly on the importance of African traditional and that of modern ones. The study also shows the different traditions guiding every society of the world today. In view of the two texts, for instance, the study reviews that there is a difference between African tradition and that of western culture based on the findings made in these two selected texts.

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In Aidoo’s The Dilemma of a Ghost Ato’s family is shocked at the revelation that Ato is influenced by modern and western culture as she deliberately accepted his wife’s decision in delaying childbearing. While in Sutherland’s The Marriage of Anansewa Ananse as a typical African man is also influenced by western tradition by given his only daughter’s hand in marriage to a wealthy suitor who will purchase modern post-colonial such as; fridges, cars and generators during his old age. As renowned Ghanaian writers, their writings therefore expose the various importance of culture and tradition in every society of the world.

Table of contents



1.1       Background to the study

1.2       Statement of the problem

1.3       Purpose of the study

1.4       Significance of the study

1.5       Research methodology

1.6       Scope and limitation of the study

1.7       Objectives of the study

1.8       Bio-Data of Ama Ata Aidoo

1.9       Bio-Data of Surtherland

1.10     Definition of Terms



3.1       Analysis of Aidoo’s The Dilemma of a Ghost

3.2       The Themes of Marital Conflict

3.3       Styles in Aidoo’s Dilemma of Ghost

3.4       Characterisation in Aidoo’s Dilemma of a Ghost


4.1       Analysis of Sutherland’s The Marriage of Anansewa

4.2       Themes of the novel

4.3       Styles in Sutherland’s The Marriage of Anansewa

4.4       Characters in Sutherland’s The Marriage of Anansewa

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5.1       Summary

5.2       Conclusion

5.3       Recommendations

Works cited

traditionalism and modernism in ama aidoo’s the dilemma of a ghost and efua sutherland’s the marriage of anansewa


Ama Ata Aidoo and Efua Sutherland are earliest Ghanaian feminist writers, whose works serve as the starting point for the independence and freedom of African women in general. They wrote novels about the struggles of African women in general. They wrote novels about the struggles of African women in a contemporary African society and portray the condition of women in the traditional African setting. Their works promote equality for men and women in political, economic, educational, traditional and social spheres. They believe that women are oppressed due to their sex based on the dominant ideology of patriarchy.

On the other, patriarch literally means rule by men or by paternal right. It is a situation whereby women are ruled or controlled by men, giving power and importance to men. It is on this backdrop Kenyan writer, Ngugi Wa Thiongo in his play, Homecoming opines that: “literature does not develop in a vacuum; it is given impetus, shape, direction and even area of concern by social, political and economic forces in a particular society” (15). He further posits that:

Literature cannot escape from the power structure that shapes our everyday life. A writer has no choice. Whether or not he is aware of it, his work reflects on one or more aspects of the intense economic, political, cultural and ideological struggles in a society. What he chooses is one or the other side in the battlefield. The side of his people or the side of those social forces or classes that tries to keep his people down (21).

traditionalism and modernism in ama aidoo’s the dilemma of a ghost and efua sutherland’s the marriage of anansewa

What  Ngugi means is that literature is life, and without literature, a writer cannot achieve a brighter and better future for his people through writing. When the situation and life of the people becomes as bad as they never have been, it is only the writer that has that special power of imagination to restore hope and create orderliness out of the chaotic situation. In this sense, therefore, a work of literature becomes one vital way of should not dissociate himself from the decadent environment by the adaptation of a self-distancing, contemptuous, satirical or reformist.

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In a similar way, Chinua Achebe in his Morning Yet on Creation Day believes that: “The writer cannot expect to be excused from the task of re-education and regeneration that must be done for he is after all the sensitive point of his community” (34)

He further states that:

If an artist is anything, he is a human being with heightened sensibilities; he must be aware of the faintest nuances of injustice in human relations. The African writer cannot, therefore, be unaware of, or indifferent to, the monumental injustice which his people suffer… He feels that an artist should not be passive to political, social and economic problems that threaten the delicate bases of his country, and the lives of the people (38)

No doubts, literature are used as a medium of reflecting life as it really is; hence it becomes the artistic expression of the real problems of the society. In the same vein, “Literature” can also simply be an artistic use of words for the sake of art alone. Traditionally, Africans do not radically separate art from teaching. Rather than write or sing for beauty in itself, African writers, taking their cue from oral literature, use beauty to help communicate important truths and information to society. Indeed, an object is considered beautiful because of the truths it reveals and the communities it helps to build. On the other hand, the relationship between tradition and modernism has been a central of post colonial African male and female writers. Consequently, it is on the above views the background to this research project intends to examine traditionalism and modernism with reference to Ghanaian female writers, Ama Aidoo’s The Dilemma of a Ghost and Efua Sutherland’s The Marriage of Anansewa.

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1.2       Statement of the Problem

It is apparent that literature and culture have a symbiotic relationship. They are both linked to life and one cannot criticize life unless one first talks about how that particular life is lived. Literature and culture will always co-exist and lend weight to each other. It is also evident from the analysis that Aidoo Ata and Efua Sutherland are dramatist whose novels clearly insight into how people in traditional African society live their live in Ghana. Such modes of living give cognizance to values such as respect for the elderly, the support of the extended family, the importance of children in marriage, and the need to follow laid down procedures in marriage. Some of these cultural values are needed more than ever today in our contemporary societies in order to foster social stability, national unity, and cultural identity.

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One, however, has to admit that other aspects of these same cultural values do not appeal to the youth in the face of modernity. Such aspects include the argument that man cannot choose to have children at his convenience, that the extended family has every right conduct of other members of a family should be used as a yardstick in deciding matters of the heart. This therefore goes dynamic, never static, and it would be a mistake to suggest or hope that there has not been any deviation from the status of African traditions.

1.3       Purpose of the Study

The main purpose of this research is to examine traditionalism and modernism in Ama Aidoo’s The Dilemma of a Ghost and Efua Sutherland’s The Marriage of Anansewa.

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