Victory Above Verbal And Physical Oppression In The Four Novels

“Those who are oppressed are motivated by exactly that. They feel a need to go beyond their oppression to prove to themselves that they are no longer oppressed.” The novels that I have read clearly show that the characters experience oppression, whether it’s verbal oppression or physical oppression. People that experience oppression are weighed down emotionally and physically and at times they don’t know whether or not to speak out because they fear what may happen to them if they do. In the novel Purple Hibiscus, Kambili and her family are abused by their father and are forced to live according to his expectations. In book Born a Crime, Trevor Noah experiences the negative effects of apartheid, such as racism and the laws that governed South Africa for almost 50 years before apartheid was abolished. In Macbeth, the character that experiences oppression is Macbeth, Macbeth’s masculinity is questioned by his wife Lady Macbeth. In the book Americanah, Ifemelu and Obinze experience racial oppression when they go to America and England respectively.

Kambili and her family are abused by Papa Eugene (their father) and are forced to live up to his expectations. Throughout the book, we’ve known Papa to be an aggressive father and husband. Kambili is a fifteen year old girl that is trying to grow and speak up to her father but she is unable to do so because of his aggressive nature. Eugene is a loving and generous husband and father but he does have a violent streak. On one Sunday after church Papa took his family to go and see the priest, Mama felt dizzy and she refused to get out of the car, later on Papa severely beat Mama causing her to have a miscarriage. Mama isn’t the only victim that has suffered at the hands of Papa, their children Kambili and Jaja have also been victimized. When Kambili breaks the “Eucharist fast” as she eats food before taking her pain killers, Papa beats her, Jaja and Mama because they broke the fast. He once through his missal at Jaja because Jaja didn’t take communion at church, a result of this action, Papa broke Mama’s figurines. Mama would polish “the figurines on the étagère after every episode of beating. Papa also put hot boiling water on their feet because they were “walking into sin,” he has also kicked Kambili to the extent where she felt “the metal buckles on his slippers stung like a mosquito bite.”

Trevor Noah experiences the negative effects of apartheid, such as racism and the laws that governed South Africa for almost 50 years before apartheid was demolished. Trevor Noah was born during the apartheid times in South Africa, there was a law that prohibited fraternization between whites and non-whites but this didn’t stop Trevor’s parents. His mother is black and his father is white, thus classifying him as a colored baby. The police would drive by when he was taking a walk with his parents and he couldn’t walk near his mother because he was too light to be classified as a black child and he was too dark to be classified as a white child. Trevor never knew which race group he belonged in because he never felt comfortable with being called a “colored” or being around coloreds, but when he was in the townships (Soweto) surrounded by black people he felt at home and he identified himself as a black person. Soweto was a ghetto sanctioned area for black South African’s and his mother’s family lived in Soweto, Trevor was the only non-black that would go to Soweto. When he went to see his father he needed to sneak into an all-white area. Trevor’s mother refused to be pressurized to live in one area, she lived wherever she desired regardless of the racial restrictions the government had put in place.

Macbeth is oppressed because his masculinity is questioned by his wife Lady Macbeth. Macbeth heard the prophecies that were predicted by the witches and he told his wife Lady Macbeth. Lady Macbeth has always wanted to be queen so she manipulates Macbeth to kill King Duncan when he comes over so he can be king and she can be queen. Macbeth refuses in the beginning because he believes that King Duncan is a good king and that there is no need to kill him. King Duncan went to Macbeth’s castle because “he’s here in double trust: first, I am his kinsman and his subject, strong both against the deed; then, as his host, who should against his murderer shut the door, not bear the knife myself.” Macbeth turns down the offer that his wife made to him and in response she questions his bravery and his masculinity. She claims that he is living like “a coward in thine own esteem, letting ‘I dare not’ wait upon ‘I would’, like the poor cat i’th’adage.”. Lady Macbeth convinces her husband (Macbeth) to kill the current King, with the King being dead Macbeth becomes the reigning King and Lady Macbeth becomes Queen. Ifemelu and Obinze experience racial oppression when they go to America and England respectively.

When Ifemelu is in Nigeria she doesn’t consider herself as a black woman, she only started considering herself as a black woman when she went to America and was faced with the complex racial politics. In Nigeria there is a racial hierarchy, light skinned or mixed race people are more attractive than those who are dark skinned and many people would buy products that made they skin lighter so they can be attractive. One day when Obinze was caught scraping his knee he was mocked and people said that he was scraping his knee because he is a “knee-grow.” Ifemelu has an aunt that is currently living in America, one day when she went to visit her Aunt Uju, her aunt was taking out her braids because if she had braids, her interviewers would think that she in “unprofessional.” Ifemelu starts her own blog about race, in this blog she posts about the incidents and assumptions she has faced that many whites would not understand.

Throughout the book Americanah there has been many racial incidents, many people assumed that Curt (Kimberly’s cousin) a white male couldn’t be dating Ifemelu and patients refused to get Aunty Uju as their doctor because she is black. As a society we have not yet learned to how successfully end gender expectations and oppression. Men/boys are expected to be the providers of the family, as a male you aren’t allowed to cry, wear pink, express your emotions or even enjoy feminine items. As a girl, you aren’t allowed to be hairy, be involved in dangerous sports, stand up against your oppressors or have short hair. The world that we live in restricts our every move, you can’t do anything without being judged. Gender expectations have been around for centuries and the only way to overcome them is by disregarding the expectations that have been set.

Overcoming oppression is a difficult task but all you need is a voice to let your opinions be heard. All the characters that were oppressed in Macbeth, Purple Hibiscus, Born a Crime and Americanah conquered their oppression. In Macbeth, he proves to his wife (his oppressor) that he is more than capable of being the man she said he wasn’t. In Purple Hibiscus, Mama puts poison in Papa’s tea so she can kill him and end the brutal beatings that she and her children suffered from. In Born a Crime, oppression ended in 1994 when apartheid was abolished. In Americanah, Ifemelu returns back home in Nigeria, to live a racist free life with Obinze.

13 January 2020
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