Orara as a symbol of feminine beauty and meekness in select novels of Igbo female writers
The similitude that exists in the depiction of the major characters of pioneer Nigerian female writers (who are, incidentally, Igbo) tasks the mind as it reflects on a possible cause of this semblance. This paper located a double pronged characteristic that is shared by all the major characters in the works under study – one of beauty and gentle spirit. These features have a symbolic significance (Ọrara) in an Igbo sub-culture (Mbaise). Ọrara, a snake, is one of the symbols in Mbari representing feminine beauty and meekness in repressed strength – traits that womanism upholds. Text analysis, oral tradition and interviews provide points that aid the study of the relationship between these concepts – female characters, Ọrara and womanism. It is deduced that the identical characterization in the works of Igbo female writers - Nwapa’s Efuru and Idu; Emecheta’s The Joys of Motherhood and The Bride Price; and Okoye’s Behind the Clouds and Chimere - has its root in the writers’ re-creation of the real experiences of the ordinary woman in the Igbo society whose natural reactions to her plight gravitates more to the womanist than the feminist angle, producing traits that are similar to those of Ọrara. And while womanism is not new in relation to the study of the works of Igbo female writers, it has not been studied against a significant symbol in the Igbo tradition. Ọrara is, thus, seen as the ideological locus for womanism and may be put under further scrutiny to establish it as the muse of Igbo female writers.
Key Words: Womanism, Characters, Beauty, Meekness, Symbol, Ọrara, Igbo.
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