The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born

by Ayi Kwei Armah

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Is Armah obsessed by rottenness or is it smart to show in what conditions the Ghanaians used to live and how they used to express their anger?

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It seems to me that both elements are part of Armah's style. Indeed, it is important for Armah to clearly identify the distinctions between the past and present conditions of Ghana.  For Armah, there has been some levels of progress in terms of self- rule and establishing freedom from Colonial powers.  Yet, Armah is also skilled in displaying the structure of power that still keeps many on the periphery of autonomy.  The use of "white souls" and other elements to describe how those in the position of power still use this construct to keep others from being able to achieve their dreams is a condition that exists in the Ghana of the past and in modern Ghana. Armah is skilled in showing that while the complexion of those in the position of authority has changed, the ability to have and exercise power as an exclusionary practice has not changed for many.

Along with this, Armah is obsessed with the rotten and corrupt condition that plagues Ghana.  The manner in which he depicts the unnamed narrator is one in which good people find themselves being crushed under the heel of a corrupt and morally wrong system. Consciousness is defined by corruption and graft.  This is a rotten condition because it makes doing the right thing seem like an anomaly.  For Armah, it becomes essential to render a portrait of Ghana as one in which the past and present are interlocked within a system that encourages human corruption and the very worst in human beings.  Armah is driven to show the convergence of both forces in the modern Ghana.  In order for one to understand where Ghana is, one has to recognize the exclusionary power structure that has been a part of Ghana's narrative for so long.  Both elements are critical to understanding Armah's primary argument in the story.

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