Critical Context

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Last Updated on May 8, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 169

Ayi Kwei Armah subtitles The Healers “an historical novel,” and he chooses as his framework a specific and vital event—the 1873-1874 Second Asante War when the British penetrated to the heart of the Asante empire. This event is portrayed in an expansive fashion from an Afrocentric view. The novel examines intricate elements of Asante society, in full-dimensional detail. In Two Thousand Seasons (1973), which covers a long stretch of a thousand years, Armah cannot present as consistently colorful details as he can in The Healers, which treats a brief period of high intensity.

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Around the documented events and personages (for example, the war itself, and General Wolseley, and the Asante king, Kofi Karikari), the author utilizes his fictive skills to present a vision which humanizes the action. The dynamic potential of the Asante is noted, but also exposed are weaknesses which negate the potential. Still, in spite of disruptive shortcomings, hope is not extinguished; the dream of the healers, of the awakening and unification of the people, remains alive.

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