NAME: FRANK YAW AMEWUGATHE DYNAMICS OF FEMALE REPRESENTATION IN CHANGES BY AMA ATA AIDOOSwimming against the tide has always been an uphill task especially in a male dominated terrain.
And it goes without saying that West African writing has been male dominated in terms of volumes produced. In representing females, therefore, the tendency may be to consciously or unconsciously relapse into stereotyped representation of females in the literature produced my male and sometimes female writers. Consequently, there are stereotyped images of women as victors or victims which Ama Ata Aidoo makes an attempt to break from in her novel. In Changes, she seems to portray African women in stronger images and symbols who in addition to actively participating in decision making also accept responsibility for their fate. Changes discusses a range of feminist issues such as women’s perception of their role in marriage, women’s reaction to societal expectations, women’s sexuality and the conflicts that exist as a result of combining women’s role as mothers, wives and career professionals. This work dramatizes and subverts the male power notions which disempower women. This paper sets out to analyze how Ama Ata Aidoo represents women and the dynamics involved in such representation.
A careful reading of Changes shows that Ama Ata Aidoo represents women in certain patterns which we shall presently discuss. According to The American Heritage Dictionary of English (4th Ed) ‘dynamics’ is ‘the forces and motions that characterize a system.’ It goes on to further define the word as ‘The social, intellectual or moral forces that produce activity and change in a given sphere.’ It goes without saying that Ama Ata Aidoo’s Changescontains social, intellectual and moral issues that pose questions against the status quo and by implication asks for change.
Indeed, the title is indicative of this standpoint. The theoretical basis of this discussion is steeped in key proponents of African feminism as Alice Walker and Chikwenye Okonjo Ogunyemi. Among other things these feminists posit that: feminism needs not be in opposition to men; women need not neglect their biological roles; motherhood is idealized and claimed as a strength by African women; the total configuration of the conditions of women should be addressed rather than obsessing wife sexual issues and women’s conditions in Africa are peculiar in comparison to that of the western world.Walker and Ogunyemi prefer to refer to feminism as African Womanism and hasten to explain it as ‘the coming of age of a young female woman which brings about the emergence of femaleness.’Having conceptualized feminism, it will be needful to summarize Changes and then situate it in the theoretical framework outlined above and then draw relevant conclusions based on the evidence adduced.
Changes is about the protagonist Esi Sekyi who resolves to terminate her first marriage to the apprehensive Oko after he ‘rapes’ her to ‘re-assert his position as head of the home. The bone of contention is that Esi is more lettered than her spouse as is evidenced by the Masters degree she holds. Matters are ‘worsened’ by the fact that Oko moves in to stay with Esi as the bungalow in which they live comes with her job. Her fondness for her profession and sense of liberty is an uncomfortable matter in the couple's relationship, and Oko, incapable of containing his wife's focus on her job as a statistician, is left wondering whether his wife was truly an “African woman."Finding Oko’s attitude suffocating, Esi falls in love with Ali, a married man with an already established family and opts to marry him since polygamy, paradoxically, for this modern educated woman, seems an arrangement that will offer her more freedom.
However, she fails to understand the complicated nature of the African culture and her own unpredictable personality and eventually, while opting not to divorce Ali, Esi is ultimately stranded and left wondering what she has done wrong. Changes takes on a feminist theoretical approach as outlined above.Aidoo achieves this primarily by the way she portrays Esi Sekyi, Pokuya and Fusena.”Esi, the protagonist of the novel is in many respects representative of the modern, liberated woman in that she is educated, financially independent, has a satisfying career and is therefore in no way dependent on her husband. She is a statistician with a master's degree and she earns more.