GENDER ON THE AGENDA: Novels of the 1980s by
Both Ngugi and Achebe have made statements of authorial intention with regard to the role of their central female characters, statements which indicate a commitment to gender reform. Ngugi opens Detained, his prison diary, by hailing Wariinga as his inspiration: ‘Wariinga heroine of toil… there she walks haughtily carrying her freedom in her hands’ (3). Later, he tells of the decision he made regarding her characterization: ‘Because the women are the most exploited and oppressed section of the entire working class, I would create a picture of a strong determined woman with a will to resist and to struggle against the conditions of her present being’ (10). In an interview he gave shortly after the publication of Anthills, Achebe also takes up the theme of women’s oppression. His heroine, Beatrice, he suggests,
provides a model of womanhood in the role she performs as the harbinger of a new social order:
We have created all kinds of myths to support the suppression of the woman, and what the group around Beatrice is saying is that the time has now come to put an end to that…. The position of Beatrice as sensitive leader of that group is indicative of what I see as necessary in the transition to the kind of society which I think we should be aiming to create.