Tragic optimism in Half of a Yellow Sun and Beyond the Horizon
AbstractChimamanda Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun and Amma Darko’s Beyond the Horizon are similar in many ways. They both focus on characters whose everyday peaceful lives are overturned by tragic events: in Half of a Yellow Sun, these include brutal war and its antecedent starvation, sickness, loss of properties, beloved family members and friends, squalor, and even death; on the other hand, in Beyond the Horizon, we witness forced marriage, domestic brutalization, rape, and sex-slavery. The texts capture what it could mean for existence to hang or dangle from edge to edge, from the height of peace and seeming happiness to one of unhappiness and near-extermination. However, as the symbolic meanings of “beyond the horizon” and “half of a yellow sun” signify, the texts are about survival, endurance, perseverance, hope, courage, and defiance. Echoing the Nigerian civil war, Half of a Yellow Sunportrays characters who are involved in a struggle for self-determination in the face of ethnocide, and who, being beaten hands down, accept what they cannot change, and in the spirit of tragic optimism venture to make the best out of life. Like Adichie’s Olanna, Odenigbo, Ugwu, Kainene, Madu, etc. all of whom encounter losses, defeats, and failures, Darko’s protagonist Mara is an epitome of what it means to remain optimistic under harsh conditions, and to creatively turn life's negative aspects into something positive or constructive. This paper adopts existential psychotherapy in exploring tragic optimism along two axes, the personal and the communal, in the primary texts.
Keywords: Tragedy, optimism, death, freedom, isolation, meaninglessness, existential givens, psychotherapy
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