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English Language and Literature


Mitra, Madhu


My project investigates the role of the prostitute in four African novels:""Woman at Point Zero"" by Nawal El Saadawi,""Prostitute"" by Okello Oculi,""Jagua Nana"" by Cyprian Ekwensi, and ""Petals of Blood"" by Ngugi waThiong'o. In completing this study, I wish to present a discussion which centers around the potent symbolism in the depiction of prostitutes in a non- Western literary context. I propose that the representations of prostitutes in the novels I read offer a range of complexity; they function as dynamic symbols and as strong narrative voices to explore and evaluate the oppression in post-colonial societies.
Within these complex portrayals, the prostitutes become powerful characters, speaking, or in the fullest sense, acting on their concerns and the concerns of their nations. Through the development of the prostitutes, the authors advocate societal change and show that involvement in corruption leads to degradation for all members of society. The prostitutes do possess a symbolic status, but the symbolic status does not reduce the prostitute's power; the symbolism instead lends the prostitute the ability to indicate social problems on several levels. As the prostitutes reveal societal difficulties, the authors demonstrate the ""prostitution"" of their countries under corrupt political and social influences and demonstrate the need for change in their societies, transformations either suggested or enacted by the prostitutes, with Ngugi's Wanja serving as the model of enactment. Thus, the authors of these African works promise these women another destiny, a destiny in which the prostitutes serve as agents for political and social change.