Monday, May 7, 2018

A stylistic approach to Meja Mwangi's novel "Going down River Road"


Meja Mwangi’s novel Going Down River Road has not got the merit it deserves. Most critics approach it negatively. They emphasize the fact that it is weak, pessimistic, and does not offer solutions to the deplorable economic and social situation of the neo-colonial period in Kenya he tackles. However almost no one has approached it stylistically to explore its artistic features. And this is what I am trying to do in this study.

Let’s first stress the fact that the novel is not an essay or an article. It is not required to propose solutions to problems though most African novelists do so. We should not deny its powerful construction thanks to its style and language. Its force stems from its true to life characters, setting and diction, besides its distinguished depictive language. Its styles reflect the real type of life people in the poorest areas of Nairobi lead and this is creative writing. To reach this, Maja Mwangi deployed all figurative language devices and tools such as metaphor, simile, degeneration, personification, synecdoche, euphemism, comparison, irony, along with the use of the cinematic techniques. His use of imagery, on the other hand, has enriched and of course given the book the value it deserves as a piece of art.

Going Down River Road was first published in 1976 after Meja Mwangi had published three strong novels, namely Kill me quick, (1973), Carcase for Hounds (1974), Taste of Death (1975) but Kill Me Quick got Jomo Kenyatta Prize in 1974.and this novel, owns the same strength and worth which made it deserve the same prize in 1977. Going Down River Road is using quality literary devices and this renders it particularly very popular to the extent that it is recommended for tourists who want to visit Neirobi.

Meja Mwangi’s book is not a simple report on the conditions in Nairobi. It is rather a living thing which makes the reader absorbed by the marvels of the detailed descriptions which stimulate all the five senses; besides the funny characters that add a lot to the refinement of the artistic skills the writer obviously worked on meticulously.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Learners as Public Speakers

When the learners are called on in class, they commonly get haunted by the shame of making mistakes and being laughed at. That’s because we have stigmatized mistakes and consequently blocked their involvement and engagement in most classroom activities which consists of speaking, giving opinion or negotiating meaning. When we stop correcting them all the time, the students feel independent and become a little more daring in expressing their thoughts. They can think aloud despite the hindrance of their language imperfection. Gradually their responses or comments go from scattered words to phrases then to sentences and statements until the students reach the stage of being capable of presenting their ideas trying hard to make them intelligible. The teacher should seize the opportunity to shift with this new skill they get into leading them to the ultimate stage of delivering speeches. They will surely be pleased to speak publicly (within the restricted classroom context first) surmounting all their fears and disinclination.

            Whenever they have an idea, no matter how imperfect their language fluency is, they stand up in front of the class to deliver what they have in mind. It works well with most students. As for those who still couldn’t get rid of the stage fright and the mistake phobia are given models to exploit for more insurance and self-confidence, and this works pretty well as a shelter from making mistakes or getting stuck.

            Training the students on public speaking is not a superfluous activity; it is a priority nowadays because communication has become the key for success in business and in almost all careers. How the students can express their ideas clearly counts a lot, and for this reason they need to practice public speaking as early as possible and with a public as restricted and confined as their own classmates.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Misinterpreting Creativity for Verbal Irony

While the teacher was establishing the classroom rules at the beginning of the school year, he seized the opportunity to draw the students’ attention to the importance of doing homework in time.  He clearly stated that “Any student who fails to do homework has to write an apology e-mail giving at least three reasons why the homework was not done, and the e-mail is to be considered a substitute for the homework, and it will be corrected and graded”. As the students hate writing, they decided never to forget about their homework whatever it takes. And that’s exactly what the teacher aimed at.

            One day, after he had taught the students the use and usage of “too and enough”, as usual the teacher gave them homework to do on the weekend. The homework was an easy receptive exercise. The students have only to fill in the blanks with the appropriate adverb of degree, and it goes something like this,

*// Fill in the blanks with “too” or “enough” appropriately
1. This exercise is _______ easy to do.
2. I think Mr. Baker is good ________ for the job.
3. The workers don’t work quickly ___________
4. John is _______ smart to be fooled.
5. The manager is ________ busy to meet you today.
6. etc

Adam, who is actually a good student, didn’t do the homework, so he had to write the e-mail, and here is what the teacher read,

Monday, January 22, 2018

To say or not to say, "I'm sorry". Is that a question, too?


            Communication is the pupils’ major in most schools. It focuses on exchanges that make sense. It consists of interacting positively in various situations simulating real life. Normally, there must be a great amount of etiquette and politeness in conversations that are supposed to happen in real life. Among the things the pupils learn are how to communicate civilly. They learn how to ask for anything and how to respond respectfully. They also learn how to apologize when they feel they have done something wrong. Well, this is great. What if the learners learn to behave first? They should learn their rights and duties vis-à-vis their entourage and their community. They should learn how to conduct themselves correctly and respectfully according to the norms of the community in which they live. They should remain inside their circle of liberty and never invade others’ either physically or verbally. This way, they won’t need to keep apologizing all the time.

            There are situations in life that the kids are not prepared for, and they almost don’t know how to cope with, but if they are prepared to be active citizens, they would easily find an outlet. They need to admit it when they feel guilty and apologize for any harm they could have caused to the others. This is the only way they will learn not to be outraged and abide by the rules and customs of the society in which they live. Once they are not brought up correctly, they will never be aware when they do wrong. They have no background knowledge about the rules to rely upon in dealing with life diverse situations.

            They have to learn to be good communicators, extroverted and sociable. They should learn never to be ashamed to say, “I am sorry” when they have to. Apologizing is not easy for most people, it needs courage and self-confidence. Despite all, before teaching kids how to apologize, teach them how to avoid situations in which they would be obliged to say sorry. They should learn to gain control of their behavior. This is how the loose “I’m sorry” would gradually vanish except for courtesy or for showing compassion.

It’s usually too late when one says, “sorry!”

                                Continue Reading

Friday, December 22, 2017

The Passive Voice, the easy way

It is true that the passive voice is most talked about by our students. I think we can go beyond the formal grammar rules and deal with it in the funniest way. That's -between us- a sort of word games. Let's enjoy talking about the passive voice in the absence of Mr R.G.R (Rigid Grammar Rule). We will be back biters for a while, yet I hope in the benefit of both The Passive Voice and our students.

Let's make one of the old so missed rules our starting point. The rule says: the object of the active sentence is always the subject of the passive one. But before all let's see what does the active sentence look like before the operation then go to discuss the process the doctor follows during the operation and examine the patient after the operation. It is not an easy work to do, I admit it.

<<The passive voice of any transitive verb is made by combining its past participle with the appropriate tense of the verb "to be" >>, the teacher said. He means that the verb “to be” is always the doctor who can operate on the sentence successfully in a "passive voice" surgery. Take this so called the patient active sentence, for instance,

Someone plays the piano every night

             This sentence is composed of a subject: (someone), a verb: (plays), and an object (the piano). And the latter is the organ that gears the whole operation. It is the most important part of the utterance to make the operation feasible. 

The question of using the passive voice in writing


Many teachers are not resolute vis-à-vis the question of using the passive voice in writing. Most of them even avoid mentioning the passive voice style while teaching writing. This is either because they regard it as a minor issue and argue that there are other focal things in writing which disserve much more concentration, or because they wouldn’t like their students to be ‘politicians’ for the reason that politicians are said to be known for the excessive use of this dead style. Still, there are teachers who advise their students to avoid using the passive voice while writing because they deem it is redundant and bulk. Nonetheless, they keep silent about the “why not?” To my mind, they would at least let them know that this self-imposing style on the students is confusing and message breaking down when the reader cannot decide who did what?! It brings about ambiguity and misunderstanding.

Friday, November 17, 2017

From One Paragraph Writing To Five-Paragraph-Essay


         If the students could follow the gradual evolvement of their temptation to write, they would surely come out with quite good production. Their problem is that they want things done quickly. Writing in particular is known for its toughness for the learners; that’s why they need to be patient and systematic in their endeavour to master this complicated skill. Engaging in writing is preparing oneself for consuming extra time and energy.

         Extending a paragraph into a five-paragraph essay needs some steps to follow. When a student learns how to write a paragraph, he normally could extend it to make it an essay. Each paragraph has got only one idea to talk about. Generally the topic sentence should state it plainly, and all that remains are supporting details about the topic. If the readers are not interested in the idea stated in the topic sentence, they have only to skip reading the whole paragraph. However if the topic of the paragraph interests the readers, it is quite imperative for them to examine the details, I mean the whole paragraph.

          This paper intends to show how to develop an action plan and how to manage writing a more detailed five-paragraph-essay. It is a practical way to make the transition from one paragraph to an essay very smooth, concentrated and effortless. Still, writing remains a long recursive process and a relatively tough skill. Writing is known for its exigency in terms of time, concentration, background knowledge, patience and savoir faire.