What literary techniques does the author use to develop the "Araba Jesiwa" personality ?

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Noelle Thompson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

[First, please note that I have corrected the misspelled character name from “Araba Jessiwa” to Araba Jesiwa.] Literary techniques in the subject of Literature are many and varied because they are simply the author’s tools that he or she uses to make meanings clear and to provide depth to his or her writing. These techniques are specific to the work being read (and sometimes specific to the author). They are not found in all pieces of literature. That being said, it is important to realize that this is one of those questions that can only be answered if the book has been truly read. No summary or character list can provide this information for you. Answering involves using quotations and other forms of evidence to prove the literary techniques provided. It is also interesting that the character you ask about is a secondary character and not the primary characters Densu or Damfo, who are actually the healers. Araba Jesiwa is actually one of the people being healed. Therefore, in Ayi Kwei Armah’s The Healers, some of the more pertinent literary devices he uses in order to provide depth to his writing, specifically in regards to the character Araba Jesiwa, are motif and epiphany.

The first literary device Ayi Kwei Armah uses in The Healers in order to develop the character of Araba Jesiwa is the motif of disunity as expressed by physical ailment. A motif, of course, differs from theme in that a motif is a recurring specific that augments the theme. In this case it is a physical ailment that shows the disunity of both person (Araba Jesiwa) and Asante Empire (from the intrusion of the British). This is especially appropriate because the title characters that are “the healers” are trying to heal these physical and mental ailments and, therefore, unify the person and the country. In Ayi Kwei Armah’s The Healers, Araba Jesiwa is the perfect example. Note what the author says about this subject:

[The] great force in the world, a force spiritual and able to shape the physical universe, … is the energy in us, the strongest in our working, breathing, thinking together as one people; weakest when we are scattered, confused, broken into individual, unconnected fragments.

It is specifically Araba Jesiwa who is all of these “weakest” things. She is “scattered” and “confused” and “broken” and formed into “unconnected fragments” in both body and mind. Ayi Kwei Armah’s character of Araba Jesiwa consults Damfo about her childlessness in her upper twenties. Due to Damfo’s advice, she leaves her useless rich and royal husband and marries her true love: the craftsman Kofi Entsua. The two happily have a son: the aforementioned Appia. This is the first step to her healing. Unfortunately, more tragedy occurs. Later, Araba Jesiwa has two broken arms and two broken legs. They are broken, supposedly, at the same time that her son, the crown prince Appia, was murdered. Not only was Araba Jessiwa beaten, but she has “lost” her speech and her mind as a result of the murder and the violence involved. She is broken in mind and spirit and body. It takes months for Damfo to heal her broken limbs. The body is easier to heal than the mind. Araba Jesiwa must have something extraordinary happen to her in order to heal that disordered and disunified mind that occurred as a result of the tragedy. She is eventually brought back to her regal and compassionate self, made (almost) fully whole. Her entire life is testament to this. Damfo does succeed in healing Araba Jesiwa, and the way he does so is the next literary technique.

The second literary device Ayi Kwei Armah uses in The Healers in order to develop the character of Araba Jesiwa is epiphany. Epiphany, again a device that not all authors use, is a very powerful and sudden realization that a character will experience. Araba Jesiwa is one of those characters and the vehicle is the trial of Densu. Although this trial has little to do with Ayi Kwei Armah’s character of Araba Jesiwa, by vowing to tell the truth, she amazingly regains her speech and becomes mentally whole right in the middle of the testimony. In this testimony she implicates the evil and scheming Ababio, now king of Esuano, in the murder of her dearest Appia. Ababio is now the one on trial for murder. Damfo, then, indirectly heals Ayi Kwei Armah’s character of Araba Jesiwa through her admission of truth. It is Araba Jesiwa then who brings her country and the empire to a just conclusion: restoring the royalty and unity through her own physical healing of voice through truth.

It is through the literary techniques of both motif and epiphany, then, that Ayi Kwei Armah characterizes Araba Jesiwa in his book The Healers. Further, motif and epiphany are interconnected through this all-important secondary character who is healed from her physical and mental and spiritual disunity through her own epiphany during the trial. Note what Ayi Kwei Armah, himself, says about salvaging unity in life:

I have no prophetic gifts. I write books because I tried to do something more useful and failed. Since I've been trained to write, I do that as a defense against total despair … trying to salvage pieces of our wrecked lives [in] hope that after all we are not alone.

Thus, as Araba Jesiwa finds out in Ayi Kwei Armah’s book The Healers, when we remain unified in body and spirit, we are most certainly not alone.

Read the study guide:
The Healers

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