Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Season of Anomy is an expose of Nigerian society in the 1960’s and 1970’s. The tentacles of the middle section of the novel are those of a tyrannical leadership, giant insects grasping at every sign of new growth to devour it. The consequence is “anomy”: total aimlessness, an absence of ethical purpose or values, and a loss of identity in the society. Africa no longer knows itself. Ofeyi represents the scene dramatically, as Soyinka himself might have done as a playwright, in the Pandora’s box spectacle of chapter 3. Out of a giant cocoa pod arise the enemies of the farmer, viruses, in the form of balloons, and in the midst of them, the balloon heads of the four leaders of the Cartel. A miasma eventually settles over the scene; Iriyise, caught in the pod, screams to be let out, but this spirit of the cocoa remains trapped and suffocating. Since Ofeyi has already equated the growth of the cocoa seed to the nurturing of the young, the symbolism is clear: Contemporary Nigerian politicians are stifling the young.

The remedy lies in a return to authentic African values. During one of Ofeyi’s early visits to Aiyeru, Ahime complains that Ofeyi is mispronouncing the name of the village. The error is not simply a difference in “tonal deflections,” as Ofeyi insists, but a total misrepresentation of the meaning. Ofeyi has brought with him despair; he has been “defeated by life.” Language, communication, tone—Ahime expresses the concerns of a writer who is trying to get at the essence of things. Ahime is the teacher transforming Ofeyi from an advertising versifier to a poetic voice of the people. The essence of African life, the meaning of Aiyeru (Ahime calls Aiyeru “the dream of mankind all through the ages”) is the lesson he must learn, and it is also the lesson of the novel. Ahime’s warning becomes a dominant theme—not only that the reader must make careful distinctions and must read carefully the tones, which are inseparable from the substance, but also that the specific meaning of the novel, of the...

(The entire section is 836 words.)