analysis of silent voices

         ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 Uche Nnyagu hails from umuawulu in Awka south local government area of Anambra state. He was born to the family of Mr Kenneth and Mrs Caroline Nyagu. He had his Education at Obiora Primary School,Mbaukwu, Government Army Secondary School Elele, Rivers State, Holy Cross High school,Umuawulu and Nnamdi Azikiwe University,Awka where he studied English and bagged his BA and MA degrees.

 Uche has won both national and international awards.In 2011, he won a Blythswood literacy award Scotland,Great Britain and in 1998, he won ABS Essay competition award.

Uche is a lecturer in the Department Of English ,Nwafor Orizu College Of Education Nsugbe,a guest lecturer in the Anambra State College Of Health Technology ;Obosi and also a lecturer in Nnamdi Azikiwe University Awka.

  Some of his books includes: from Grace to grass,when the time comes,The Betrayal marriage,The revenge and others.

Analysis of Silent Voices

           PLOT SUMMARY

  A good plot must have a structure which the writer adopts. A story can be told from the beginning, which is the chronological order, the middle or the end. In this case, the author of Silent Voices structures his story so that it begins at the middle which is also called in media res. There is a reversal to how the story is fashioned. Like every other middle structure, the story begins in the rising action.

Ogonna is informed by Musa the gate man, of the arrival of her mother in law few hours ago. This ultimately spells doom for her, and she soliloquize. At this point the reader is intrigued by how such information can cause grief to the character, and raising up questions which the reader yearns to know. The question is however answered through Musa, who states the pathetic situation of ogonna – childlessness.

The reader is anxious of the next line of action between ogonna and her mother in law. .The story which contains nine chapters revolves around Ogonna. Ogonna, on getting to the house stops and remembers the past. Through the use of flashback, the story is reopened from the beginning, another narrative structure called exposition. A different setting is shown in Community Secondary School Mgbogho. Ogonna is at the principal’s office awaiting her WAEC results when Obika; the vice principal and an English teacher, walks in. He sees Ogonna for the first time and falls in love. He beckons on her and the two establish familiarity. Much later, Obika finds himself composing a love letter to Ogonna and brings her to his office, handing over the letter. She reads it and becomes smitten by the lovely composition of the poem.

At this juncture, Obika proposes marriage to her and she accepts and the two hug. We learn from their conversation that ogonna had taken JAMB and now waiting for admission into the university. Obika again offers to pay her Bride price, but she refuses saying that the timing was not right and they both agree to wait, until she is a sophomore.

 Subsequently, Obika  makes known his intention of marriage to Mazi Umeh, and the rest of the family approves. However their marriage is shaken when Ogonna meets Ndu – a businessman in Onitsha. She is swayed by his wealth and ditches Obika. Obika becomes worried that ogonna has changed in her attitude towards him, he goes to her hostel and there, receives a shock. Ogonna throws off her engagement ring, signaling the end of their relationship. Obika pleads, cries but to no avail. And he decides to meet Mazi Umeh, who told him that the situation is beyond his control. Whereas he was also in support of Ogonna’s new choice  – Ndu  because of money. As result of this their marriage is sealed.

  All these flashes through her mind as she recalls her past. A new wave of regrets sets in, for Obika now is married and with a son. She moves closer to the door and listens to her mother in law’s plan to bring in a new Wife which Ndu laughs to. Upon hearing this Ogonna breaks out in tears, wailing and lamenting. This attracts Ndu and Agbomma( mother in law) outside. Ndu is however touched by her tears but Agbomma rebukes and calls her a man. This ushers in a full understanding of the conflict of the novel which the author tries to buttress. A fight to sustain her marriage and a hunt for a solution to childlessness. The reader becomes interested in how the conflict will be resolved or if it will be resolved?

  The story continues. And we see Ogonna with a Bible praying to God to open her womb for conception. This act demonstrates her faith, but then, being reminded again of her loneliness as she stays alone in the sitting room, she becomes worried and looses herself to thoughts. Just then Azuka arrives, she is a friend, classmate to ogonna. Azuka admires the sitting room and life of Ogonna.

The author uses her envy as a sign of jealousy which Azuka exhibit but which ogonna is blind to. Their conversation trail to a solution to Ogonna’s problem which she refuses. Ogonna having sought medical and traditional help leaves her fate to God. She, out of gratitude towards her friend’s concern and care, brings out a bag filled with clothes and gives it to Azuka. She rejoices and prays for her friend ogonna. At this point the reader is bought over by Azuka’s perfect friendship. Although, the author employs foreshadowing using the character Azuka, to disclose a future betrayal. When she says  “Remember, it is not all who laugh with you love you. Some are enemies in disguise… Nobody should be trusted. I am not an exception.”(page 45) Ogonna, though, fails to read in between her words as she is deceived by mere friendship. Azuka leaves and once again ogonna is alone.

   In the setting of a well furnished office is seated Ndu, drinking while waiting patiently for someone. By the push of a button, a young woman appears to clear out his drink. Here the author brings to light the truth behind Ogonna’s childlessness. A young school girl of about sixteen walks into the office. She is dressed in an outfit that reveals her alluring body figure. Ndu sees her and grabs her, and becomes intimate with her. She apologizes for her lateness and the two explore their lustful desires.

Ndu suggests a hotel, to express his desires to her, they leave. Through the conversation of the office girl and Chika,  a deep revelation of Ndu’s infidelity is seen. The author shows with utter disgust the lifestyle of Ndu, even as a married man, he commits adultery with younger girls, women even his employees, everywhere and anyway including in his office. A sympathetic situation for the beautiful Ogonna. The harsh reality of infidelity is one of the leading causes of childlessness in the case of Ogonna.  Ndu sleeps around, abandoning his matrimonial duties.

 The main crisis of the story is revealed,  marriage crisis. Will Ndu quit his infidelities and return to his wife? Or will his actions lead to a broken marriage?

 Furthermore, there is a display of another crisis observed in marriage, the issue of domestic violence. Adaugo falls victim, which unfortunately claims her life, leaving behind her four children in the hands of a relative monster known as her husband. He murders Adaugo while under the influence of alcohol, he is lazy, wretched and brutal making little or no impact in his family. This sadly is visible in our societies today. The author clearly opposes the idea of women who jump into marriage without caring to observe their partner wisely. Such rash decisions leads in most cases to their untimely deaths. Mazi Umeh fears for Ogonna as he listens to the tragedy of Adaugo.

  The pressure mounts on Ogonna on her solution to loneliness. Azuka  continues to advise infidelity as the only way to get back at her husband and bare a child to lease off the pressure from her mother in law. Ogonna remains firm in her decision of faithfulness and commitment to her marriage. During their conversation at Ogonna place, Azuka’s phone rings. She hesitates to answer, Ogonna not suspecting a foul play urges her to pick the call. She does and very briefly, it is a man’s voice. Soon she begs to leave and deserting Ogonna. In this scenario, the question of who was on the call with Azuka is asked.

   In Contrast to Ogonna’s sad tale is a seemingly perfect marriage of Obika and Ngozi. The author shows the both side of the coin; the failures in marriage and the success in marriage. In this case Obika enjoys a successful marriage, having a beautiful pregnant, faithful wife and a boy child. The two celebrate their love and Obika’s promotion. In the highlight of their celebration, Obika gifts a brand new car to his wife, Ngozi. And they head out for celebration. At this point the author uses Obika marriage to preach the importance of  patience in marriage. And loving a man with goals rather than a man with money. These to a great extent assures a lasting relationship or marriage.

 The author once again employs suspense, keeping his reader at the edge of their seat. At final chapter, Ogonna is denied access to her husband’s office with excuse of an ongoing meeting. She returns home, sighting her mother in law. Agbomma accuses her of sleeping around with men, Ogonna irritated by this,fires back and states that she Agbomma killed her husband so she can sleep around. Agbomma rages in anger and exits, vowing to pay back. This frustrates her, she is unable to bare it anymore for the absence of her husband discourages her faithfulness. She decides now to take the advice of Azuka and confirms that her husband, Ndu is in Taiwan on a business trip. This reassures her motive and she sets out looking beautiful and heading straight to the hotel to meet her supposed new lover. At juncture the reader is anxious, will Ogonna defile her matrimonial vows? Ogonna arrives at the hotel with her car, heading forward she sees Azuka and Ndu together coming out of the hotel building. She is confused. But the look on their faces were indifferent, this confirms that Azuka had betrayed her, Ndu totally ignores her. She is disappointed, she leaves Ndu and the marriage is called off at last, returning to her family.

              SETTING

  Setting can be seen as the physical or social environment within which the characters in a work of prose operate. Setting refers to the place and time or environment the action or events of a story takes place. Thus the setting of a work establishes the historical, physical, geographical and social context. Silent voices is principally set in the Eastern part of Nigeria.

Onitsha is a city located on the eastern bank of the Niger River in Nigeria’s Anambra State a metropolitan city, Onitsha is known for its river port and as an economic hub for commerce, industry, and education. It hosts the Onitsha Main Market, the largest market in Africa in terms of geographical size and volume of goods.It is at this place Ogonna first had an encounter with Ndu where he asks his apprentice not to collect money from her after she purchased something in one of his shops. All the characters except Ogonna’s parent lives in the city.

Most of the events happens in Ndu’s compound.It is at his compound we are introduced to the wickedness of the character;Ogonna’s mother-in-law.The writer creates a mental picture of Ndu’s sitting room making the reader know the affluence Ndu has,it was the type one would regard as paradise on earth..(pg35)

 On few occasions the writer introduces us to Ndu’s office in Oguta road,here we also see his luxurious taste which also shows his affluence…pg(48).

 We are taken back with the writers use of flashback to Mgbogho secondary school also in the east.This is where we get to know how the relationship between Ogonna and Obika started.Ogonna’s childhood memories with Azuka is also introduced here as both of them were classmates and friends too.

 There are references to other places like Odida;Obika’s village and Izaga;Ndu’s village.The hidden truth of how Agbonma killed her husband was revealed to us by the writer.

 The time setting of Silent voices is post-colonial.

               THEMES

1.GREED

 This is the desire to have more of something than you need.The desire to have all the good things of life led Ogonna to abandon Obika and marry Ndu because he was very wealthy disputing the fact that all that glitters is not gold

 This character was also seen in Mazi Umeh;because of his greed ,he accepts bribe from Ndu and sold his daughter in marriage.Even when his wife and his friend advise him against it,he still turns deaf ears .

2.STEREOTYPES

 A stereotype is a generalized belief about a particular category of people.It is an expectation that people might have about every person of a particular group.In the book,Azuka stereotypes Nigerian doctors …”Nigerian doctors!I don’t trust any of them.They will see somebody dying and they will continue to tell the person that he will be okay so that he’ll continue to bring out money to give them”….. (pg38).Most times, these beliefs are overgeneralized and inaccurate.

3.DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

 This issue is dominant in the Nigerian society,the writer introduces us to the story of Adaugo who is constantly ill treated by her husband .He murders Adaugo who is also seven months pregnant while under the influence of alcohol .

4.THEME OF BETRAYAL

 The human mind is deceitful and so nobody is to be trusted.In our contemporary Nigerian society,people give others the illusion that they are saints while they are actually charlatans.This is seen in Silent Voices where Ogonna confides in Azuka as her bosom friend and her kinswoman but at the end Ogonna is disappointed to find out that Azuka is her major foe.

5.THEME OF IGNORANCE

 This was exhibited in the character of Ndu,he does not believe that AIDS is real therefore sleeps with every girl without protection.

6.THEME OF INFIDELITY

 This is a dominant theme in Silent Voices.Even though Ndu was married to Ogonna,he still keeps cheating on her with other women even in his own place of work

 Azuka is also another character who is infidel in her marriage.She still goes out with Ogonna’s husband betraying the trust Ogonna has for her.

   CHARACTER AND CHARACTERIZATION

        MAJOR CHARACTERS

1.Ogonna

   The main character whom the story revolves around.She is tall,slim with an elegant shape that made whoever passed by her turn to admire her beauty twice . She is described by Uchendu as the “Village Belle” due to the fact that she was very beautiful.She is avaricious and therefore turns down the engagement she has with Obika who loves her so much in order to get married to Ndu a very wealthy business man because he spends a lot of money on her which she begins to regret and calls it the worst mistake of her life.She is unable to conceive a child for her husband which brings about issue between her and her mother in law who insists her son gets married to another woman that would bear her grandchildren.

2.Ndu

  The husband to Ogonna and a very wealthy business man in onitsha main market.He has two big shops at the main market where clothes were sold for him.He also has a transport company,cold rooms in many places and he also owned many big buildings in onitsha where tenants lived.He woo’s Ogonna when she came to his shop to buy clothes by telling his apprentice not to collect money from her.He is extravagant in spending which makes Ogonna fall for him and therefore ends up marrying her.Due to the influence of his mother;he is thinking of marrying another wife that would bear him a child that Ogonna can not.He barely has time for his wife because he is always on business trips or conferences . He womanizes a lot and would go to bed with anything in a skirt and blouse.

3.Obika

  A secondary school teacher.He is the author of Oral English made easy and The English Grammar for School And Colleges.He meets Ogonna for the first time in the principals office and falls in love with her.Obika goes ahead to write a poem for Ogonna which melts her heart and she later agrees to marry him after much convincing.He loves Ogonna with all his heart but later has his heart broken by Ogonna when she tells him she no longer loves him and calls him a very stingy man and the last straw that broke the camels back is when he learns that she is engaged to another man.He finally gets his doctorate degree and is now a Lecturer at the Enugu State University.

4.Azuka

 A friend to Ogonna.She idolizes Ogonna and wishes she had the good things of life like her friend does.After listening to the plight of her friend,she tells her a friend of a particular man who specializes in curing barren women and advices Ogonna to go with her to see this person.She turns out to be a green snake in green grass goes when she betrays the trust Ogonna has for her by going out with her husband and not showing any sign of remorse or shame when she was caught in a hotel holding Ndu’s hand.

5.Agbonma

  She is Ndu’s mother.She is wicked ,cruel and heartless human being.She hates Ogonna and tries to convince her son to get another wife that would bear her grandchildren.She killed her husband so that her numerous men friends would always come to see her without restrictions.

6.Mazi Umeh

  The father to Ogonna.He agrees to bless the union between his daughter and Obika but when Ogonna brought in another man;he greedily accepted for them to get married without hesitations after collecting bribe.He later regrets his action.

6.Mama Ogonna

 She is a definition of a good mother,unlike her husband;she tries to advice her daughter on several occasions against the decision she wants to take telling her that Obika has genuine love but Ogonna does not listen.She also tries to convince her husband not to allow the marriage with Ndu hold but he shuns her.

           MINOR CHARACTERS

1.Mr Uchendu

 A colleague and friend to Obika.He tells Obika more about Ogonna and  advices him to marry her because she is the one for him .He calls Ogonna the “Village Belle”.

2.Musa

 A young Hausa man employed as a guard by Ndu

3.Chika

 A young woman in her mid twenties and a graduate of computer science who works as a computer operator in Ndu’s office.

4.Ada

 An office girl who was also employed by Ndu.She complains of being sexually harassed by her boss .

5.Nduka

 A good friend of Mazi Umeh.He tries to advice his friend against the marriage between Ogonna and Ndu but was seen as an antagonist.

6..Ngozi

  She is Obika’s wife.

7.Ene

 Obika’s security guard.

    LANGUAGE AND STYLE

1.THE USE OF FLASHBACK TECHNIQUE

 This is often used to recount previous events.It takes the narrative back in time from the current point in the story.In Silent Voices,Obika’s affair with Ogonna is known to the reader through the writers employment of flashback.

2.SOLILOQUY

 This is an act of speaking one’s thoughts aloud when one is alone or regardless of any hearers.On several occasions in the book,we see Ogonna talking to herself alone .

3.THE USE OF PROVERBS

 Proverb is a short saying that gives advice or expresses truth. Proverbs aren’t usually literal sayings; proverbs use figurative language to make a statement about life.According to Chinua Achebe “proverbs is the oil which the Igbo use in eating words”.In silent voices,proverbs was used in all occasions,this is a conviction that you can’t separate proverbs from an Igbo man.

4.THE USE OF SUSPENSE

 The writer applies suspense in the book to arouse the mind of the readers who are hungry for information about what is about to happen.This is seen when Ogonna comes to see her husband in his office but was stopped by the office girl.The reader is anxious to know what Ogonna would do next.

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