Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Themes of Sefi Atta’s Everything Good Will Come

It is a fact that the novel genre nay all other forms of literature are inspired either by real-life experiences or just a sting from the inspiration bug. Whether encountered or imagined or a slice of both, the novel often contains universal truths or lessons that mirror every facet of life of man. Sefi Atta’s debut novel entitled Everything Good Will Come is not an exception. In it Atta dramatizes the realities of human conditions namely, marriage, religion, culture, political instability, to mention just a few.

As is customary with the African novel, marriage is deeply-rooted in the culture and tradition of the people. In Nigeria, nay Africa, its huge responsibilities are usually heaped upon the shoulders of the husband, being of course the one first to conceive of setting up a home. That is not to say that the women are not expected to play their own marital roles as well. But when the union fails or is doomed to fail, the man is often blamed. Perhaps this is part of what Atta has set to demonstrate in the story. Sunny Taiwo, Enitan’s father’s only fault is his having another baby by another wife. An act Arin, Enitan’s mother, considers treacherous. After Enitan is born, Sunny Taiwo is dissatisfied with the thought of having a female as first child. So this results in their long love-lost affair that has turned Arin to a frantic church-goer. Hear what she thinks of her husband:
He was no good. After you were born, I told him I didn’t want another child. God had blessed us with a healthy child. Why risk having another? But his family wouldn’t hear of it. He had to have another wife, and his mother, that woman who suffered so much herself, threatened me too. Your father never said a word to support me. (172) 
How can he ever say a word to support her, when a marriage devoid of a male child is regarded as failed! This same thrust has recurred in most African novels: from Aidoo, Okpewho, to Achebe, to Emecheta. All of these novelists have shown the importance as well as the indispensability of the male child in their novels. In actual fact, marriage in the African setting is majorly hinged on childbirth, especially having a male child who is believed to be more capable as a successor and upholder of the family name and dignity.

Religion is the fulcrum of human existence. Is this also true of those to whom it is a tool for exploitative purpose? Should we be wary of others whose religious belief is very disheartening to us? What exactly is responsible for the rancour between Mama Enitan and Sunny Taiwo so much so that the former could not stand the latter for a second? Is it only her inability to give him a male child? An in-depth read of the story reveals a latent hatred inspired by religious intolerance. Prior to renouncing Anglicanism, Arin Taiwo is loved and cherished by Sunday Taiwo as a wife. But consequent upon losing their only son to sickle cell anaemia, Mama Enitan attends a church whose members wear white gowns and walk around with bare feet. Sunny taiwo’s spite for her wife’s faith is exposed thus as observed by Enitan, his only daughter:
Nothing, nothing, would stop my mother, he said, until she’d destroyed everything in our house, because of that church of hers. (12)
Conversely, it is this same religion that is resplendent in the friendship between Sheri and Enitan – both admire and respect each other despite their religious differences. From childhood to adulthood, their relationship is smooth and productive. In the same way, Sheri’s Muslim polygamous home is peaceful and habitable despite their number as against Enitan’s monogamous’ background. To be sure, we could glean from the story an attempt by Atta to relay the different attitude to and understanding of religion. While to some religion should be as they conceive it, to others it is what it is, regardless of his attributes. In other words, religion should be judged based on the attitude of its adherents.

In Everything Good Will Come, impact of culture and tradition is stressed. Atta tries to buttress how an individual who aims to defy the norms of the society is often muffled and treated with aspersion. Enitan’s individuality is regarded as betrayal and disloyal by her educated father to whom women are not expected to partake in activism. Once Enitan engages him in a debate concerning women marginalisation in the society, he looks up at her and says that she is not even qualified to discuss women because besides discussing it there is nothing else she can do to remedy it, not considering her own privileged, spoiled, and sheltered life. in the same vein, when she grants Grace Ameh of the consistently threatened Oracle newspaper an interview, everyone including her husband, Niyi Franco, frowns at it and even goes to the extent of keeping malice with her. Not only that, Atta seems to further question the African tradition whereby a bride is expected to weep at the point of her departure for her husband’s home during wedlock. Upon leaving for her new husband’s house, Enitan boasts thus:
I did not shed a tear over leaving home. I, who cried easily. After the final rites, when a child knelt before her parents and they blessed her, she was supposed to cry. (178)
The question, therefore, is: is the female kind not fit enough to rebel against convention, especially one about which little is reserved for their own dignity and ego? Atta seems to ask.         
Also noteworthy in Atta’s Everything Good Will Come is political instability, as it affects every day life of ordinary people. Throughout the novel, Atta expresses disdain at the epileptic nature with which the helms of affairs operate, a result of which is pandemonium, chaos, dilapidated infrastructure, political gangsterism and electoral fraud. And the worst it, of course are the masses, the ordinary and even middle income earners who suffer untold hardship ranging from abiku-like electricity supply, scarcity of drinkable water, rib-cracking inflation rate, among others. Set in the era of Nigeria’s constant change of power from one military government to another, the novel documents the ruthless and deserved torture of some pro-democracy citizens who stood their ground against misrule. On her father’s conversation with Mr Sunny Taiwo about the new military take-over of government, Enitan remarks that:
He was wary of the new military government, and their promise to wage war against indiscipline. I thought that it wasn’t such a bad idea, in a country where you still couldn’t expect electricity for a full week. Then the reports started coming in: floggings for jumping bus queues; squats for government workers who came late to work, a compulsory sanitation day to stay home and dust. (82)  

What is more, Sefi Atta has demonstrated through her fine, witty and beautifully written novel, Everything Good Will Come, several issues as they confront the African, in every of his/her endeavours. Even though she uses Nigeria, her home country, as the heart of the story, the issues discussed therein are microcosmic of human concerns in every clime and time.