Analysis of the Paradigm Shift in the Fictional Works of Zaynab Alkali


African Humanities Program Dissertation Fellowships


Department of English


Zaynab Alkali is one of the dominant voices in Northern Nigerian women writings that attempt to represent the nature of existence of the woman in a largely partiarchal society. In all her works, she provides an insight into the cultural (and sometimes religious) limitations on the woman and the hierarchical relationships which form the oppressive social structures in Northern Nigeria. This research analyses the strategies Alkali's heroines adopt to survive and achieve self-actualisation within the society. The Stillborn (1984), The Virtuous Woman (1986) and Cobwebs and Other Stories (1997) portray heroines who are engrossed in the societal cultural expectations such as marriage, child bearing and motherhood. Their dreams of achieving self-fulfilment are woven around men and marriage. However, in The Descendants (2005) and The Initiates (2007), the heroines are strong, intellegent, complex and are new women who put more efforts in their career and self-development instead of men, marriage and motherhood. Alkali's shift from representation of heroines that believe in marriage, male and female bonding and centrality of the family to representing heroines that do not conform to the societal feminine orientations of marriage, family and dependence on men is the focus of this research.