AFRREV LALIGENS: An International Journal of Language, Literature and Gender Studies

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Literature as a Moral Thermometer: A Humanistic Approach to Festus Iyayi’s Violence and Buchi Emecheta’s Second Class Citizen

Mbanefo S. Ogene


From the classical period till the present, questions have always been asked over what values that a course of study in any human society can be to the scholar. Plato started the debate on what value or contribution which literature can make to a well-ordered republic. Later scholars defended the view by asserting that literature plays a vital role in the development of any nation by providing criticism, aesthetics, beauty of language uses, oratory and policy formulation, as well as contributing to the historical record and other societal values in any given society. It does not only satisfy the aesthetic needs of a people through arts, but redesigns, reconstructs and redirects the focus of that given society. Through the medium of criticism, literature studies, analyses and judges the ethics and mores of a given society. It therefore stands as a moral thermometer for measuring and healing the identified social maladies. This is contrary to Plato’s idea. This paper examines the role of literature in the national development. Festus Iyayi’s Violence and Buchi Emecheta’s Second Class Citizen are used as reference texts to assess the values of literature and its contributions to the sustainable development of the country Nigeria. The paper employs the use of the concept of humanism as a term applied to a variety of beliefs, methods, and philosophies that place central emphasis on the human beings. Since the main source of inspiration of humanities deeply lies in the efforts and contributions of the classical literature, the paper revisits Plato’s ideas about literature which is negative to the discipline. Analyzing Iyayi’s Violence and Emecheta’s Second Class Citizen, the paper concludes that they have not only exposed the big gap that existed between the rich and the poor, but have frowned at this social malaise that has bedeviled the Nigerian society.

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