LONELY DAYS ―BAYO ADEBOWALE
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Bayo Adebowale, poet, novelist, short story writer, critic, teacher and librarian, was born in Adeyipo village, Lagelu Local Government Area of Ibadan, Oyo State, Nigeria, on 6th June, 1944, to a peasant farmer and traditional drummer, Alagba Ayanlade Oladipupo Akangbe Adebowale.
His mother, Madam Abigael Ayannihun Atunwa Adebowale is a traditional rara chanter and dancer.
In October, 1971, Bayo was admitted to read English at the University of Ibadan, having passed his General Certificate of Education (GCE) at both the ordinary and advanced levels.
To date, Bayo Adebowale has published over one hundred short stories in magazines, journals and papers in Nigeria and abroad. Bayos short stories are collected in book form in Iron Hand, Girl About Town, and Book Me Down. Most of Bayos works have rural setting, and deal with local community people in Nigerian villages and hamlets. A common trend of culture runs through them.
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PLOT OF LONELY DAYS
The story centers on Yaremi who is made to suffer for the death of her husband, Ajumobi, who died after a bout of typhoid fever.
It is nine months, in Kufi village, since Ajumobi died in the presence of his wife. Yaremi is suspected as the killer of her husband by mourners and her husbands relatives. After the burial of Ajumobi, Yaremi is mocked at and abandoned by those who should be there for her to comfort her. She is left to cater for herself and her grandson, Woye. Her two daughters, Segi and Wura, are living with their husbands and her only son, Alani, is living in the city where he seldom thinks of coming back home to see his mother. So all alone, except for the company provided by her grandson, Yaremi braces herself up to face the uncertain future of widowhood. She expends all her energy in her taffeta dyeing business and vows to remain single in honour of the memory of her late husband and new-found independence from male subjugation and dominance.
Yaremi is not alone in her predicament. There are other widows who are suffering from humiliation, mockery and abandonment occasioned by the death of their husbands and tradition. These women―Dedewe, Fayoyin and Redeke―have their heads shaved, are locked up in the same room with their deceased husbands and are made to chant the widow’s song of lamentation.
Yaremi is learning to settle down and accept her new role as a hardworking widow and a voice to be reckoned with in the village of Kufi, but her problems are far from being over. The tradition demands that she choose a new husband in a ceremony called Cap-picking. She rejects the three caps, representing three men, presented to her. This singular act shocks the elders and the villagers and in return, they hate Yaremi the more and isolate her. Women are meant to be submissive according to the tradition of the community.
The first daughter of Yaremi, Segi, whose son is living with Yaremi, comes back to take her son; the boy has been expressing a strong wish to go to school. Alani, Yarems only son whose life has been stolen by the city, comes back, but could not stay more than a few hours with his mother. On the heels of his departure comes the injuction from the village elders that Yaremi has been exiled and her husbands property confiscated.
In resentment of culture, tradition and everything other thing that holds her bound as a widow, Yaremi yanks off her mourning dress and a fresh determination engulfs her. She is down but not out. Life for her must continue despite the challenges she is facing. With God by her side, she has the hope of a better tomorrow. She is determined to fight for her dignity.
CHAPTER BY CHAPTER SUMMARY
SUMMARY OF CHAPTER 1
It is now nine months after the death of Ajumobi, Yaremis husband. Yaremi has been deserted by everyone except her grandson, Woye, who keeps her company and helps her with her taffeta dyeing business. She is insulted and ostracised because her husbands relatives and villagers think that she has a hand in the death of her husband. However, Ajumobi died a natural death and not a shameful one. He lived like a man and died like a man.
Meanwhile, the two daughters of Yaremi, Segi and Wura, have been given away in marriage. Her only son, Alani, works as a furniture carpenter in the city of Ibadan. He seldom visits home as he sees his village as backward and uncivilised. Yaremi is now left with her grandson and her taffeta dyeing business. These are her only consolation and she wastes no time in giving herself to them.
SUMMARY OF CHAPTER 2
Yaremi has learnt to cushion the effects of her loneliness with hard work on the farm and in her kitchen. She spends a great deal of her time washing plates, boiling water, frying meat, arranging things and cleaning all cooking utensils. She is aware that life for her has become as hot as the fire that comes from her kitchen, but she is ready to fight to survive. Courageously, she takes on her daily routine and never allows for a dull or idle moment. She abhors laziness. She mocks at and chides young ladies who are too lazy to move their bones. To her, life has become tough and only the tough can survive.
SUMMARY OF CHAPTER 3
Widowhood and its attendant challenges are not unique to Yaremi. On the slippery path to the stream which has been figuratively called the Road of Life, other widows are seen discussing their common plight as widows. They talk about their black mourning dress, unkempt hair and lack of hope and security. They are no longer allowed to participate in social activities like singing and dancing. The burdens that the widows carry in their minds are a million times heavier than the jars of water on their heads.
The insult, assault and humiliation of three widows stand out. When Dedewes husband died, she was accused of causing her husbands death and was forced to confess to the sins of jealousy, adultery, defamation and disparagement. She was locked up with the corpse of her husband inside a dimly lit room afterwards. In Fayoyins case, she was given libation to lick to cleanse her of all the sins she allegedly committed. Later, cold water was poured on her head and a barber was summoned to give her a clean shave which gave her the look of a mad woman. Finally, Radeke was forced to kneel before her husbands dead body to sing the widows traditional song of innocence and lamentation. She was called a bloody liar by the mad mob. Curses and abuses were bountifully rained on her.
SUMMARY OF CHAPTER 4
Yaremi has finally settled into a life of hard work. She loves her work and multitasks to get so much accomplished. Work for her has become a magical cure for loneliness and frustration; a vaccine to fight against fatigue and boredom.
In her leisure, she still finds time to exchange pleasantries with her neighbours, asking them harmless questions. She equally engages Woye in happy reminiscences, telling him stories of her own childhood days.
SUMMARY OF CHAPTER 5
This chapter reveals the way of life of the people of Kufi Village. The people are superstitious. They believe that a man cannot die a natural death; the wife of a man must have done something evil to cause the death of her husband.
When a hawk was seen perching on the roof of Ajumobi, the people started looking askance at Yaremi. The cry of a hawk is associated with evil and bad omen. Subsequently, an oracle was consulted when Ajumobi went down with typhoid. The oracle is perceived as omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent. The oracle decreed that it was too late; Ajumobi was not going to survive.
SUMMARY OF CHAPTER 6
Yaremi is unable to get rid of the memories of past events. Her mind is full of all the experiences she had with her husband before his demise. She is lonely and independent now, free from male subjugation, yet she misses the presence of her husband in her life.
She remembers her husbands hunting prowess, manly control of his household and his dreams of getting a new wife. The death of Ajumobi created a big vacuum in Yaremis heart.
SUMMARY OF CHAPTER 7
Yaremi remembers the tough times she had with Ajumobi. They used to argue over trivial matters and heavy issues like taking on a new wife. Yaremi, sometimes, made Ajumobi miserable by the use of her tongue. Ajumobi, in turn, got angry sometimes, and gave her the beating of her life. Yaremi could not understand who gave men the right to beat their wives. The people of Kufi Village believe that men are free to treat women as they like as women would treat men as they want in the spirit world. Men are stronger than women in the physical world, but women become stronger than men in the spiritual world.
Yaremi equally remembers the good times she had with her husband. Ajumobi loved and took care of her like a precious jewel. None can be compared to Ajumobi. Yaremi wishes she could have her man back.
SUMMARY OF CHAPTER 8
Yaremi strategises on how to make her taffeta dyeing business more profitable. She would stop selling on credit to those who give empty promises of payment. She would increase her production. The problem she has now is that Woye is sick and may not be able to help her carry her goods to the market where her customers will be waiting to purchase her taffeta. Her taffeta is regarded as the best in the market.
Woyes illness causes a lot of anxiety for Yaremi. The villagers will lynch her should Woye die. That would be the second man she would be killing as the villagers trace the death of a man to a woman. So Yaremi tries all she could to get Woye back on his feet. She promises him heaven and earth and lavishes him with material things to recover him. Woye finally recovers, getting Yaremi out of an impending trouble.
SUMMARY OF CHAPTER 9
Women of Kufi are workabolics, rising with the sun and sleeping with the moon. Their work is unceasing, ranging from working on the farm, cooking food and washing of dishes, taking care of their children and showering affection on their husbands. They take their responsibility with grace and cheerfulness, seldom complaining and striking compromises almost all the time. They eat after their husbands and children have had their fill. They sit quietly to watch their husbands to detect their moods, pleasure and dispositions. They always look forward to the birth of their next babies which would secure for them the enhanced status of motherhood and wifehood.
In Kufi, women face common challenges of which competition between wives for the affection and love of their man ranks the highest. Men are free to take as many wives as they think will satisfy them. These wives of a man usually fight and argue over who becomes the favourite of their man. The youngest wife usually wins as men prefer younger women to older, experienced ones.
Meanwhile the women, whose husbands are still alive, are secretly envying Yaremis independence of mans authority. Yaremis business is booming and she never misses an opportunity to share her good fortune with others. This increases her influence in the society. Gradually, she becomes influencial and popular in the society. This development does not go down well with men. It poses a threat to their authority and status. They want their women submissive and pliable.
There are men who are attracted by Yaremis personality. They try to sweet talk her into marrying them.
SUMMARY OF CHAPTER 10
Yaremi is gradually assuming the personality of a man. Her voice is becoming authoritative and harsh. She is becoming more and more impatient. Her hands are becoming coarse and dry like that of a man. A woman once told her after a friendly embrace that she was no longer a woman. However, this situation is good for Yaremi considering the challenges she is contending with and the pressures of life as a widow.
She bluntly rejects all the men that are wooing her, and even rains abuses on them. She vows to keep her promises to her husband, not allowing any other man into her life. The presence of Ajumobi always seems present with her.
The time has come for Yaremi to cast off the robes of widowhood and choose a new husband to replace the old one, according to the demands of the tradition. The elders insist that Yaremi should choose a new cap (husband) before purification.
SUMMARY OF CHAPTER 11
The ceremony of cap-picking (choosing husband) is a great ceremony for the people of Kufi, and their neighbours in the surrounding villages. Minstrels and rara chanters make the ceremony lively with their songs. The last cap-picking ceremony saw Dedewe, Fayoyin and Radeke choose new men to replace their dead husbands. So they are around to comfort Yaremi to make a good choice.
The caps representing Ayanwale, the drummer; Olonade, the wood carver; and Lanwa, the farmer, are presented to Yaremi to make a choice. Yaremi rejects the three caps to the utter shock and amazement of the elders and the villagers who have gathered to witness the grand ceremony. The elders feel insulted as the custodians of the tradition and the villagers feel embarrassed.
SUMMARY OF CHAPTER 12
Yaremis popularity has begun to wane. Her unwavering stance on the issue of choosing a new husband does not go down well with the villagers. They are now reluctant to exchange pleasantries with her, avoiding normal interactions with her. Young ones in the village no longer come close to Yaremi after they are told that she is an unusual woman who should be avoided like a plague. It is even noised about that Yaremi is going to be ostracised or banished from Kufi. This ugly situation forces Yaremi to contemplate going back to her own village, Adeyipo or going to live with one of her daughters preferably, Segi.
SUMMARY OF CHAPTER 13
Yaremi is beginning to doubt and worry about her uncompromising position of not choosing a new husband, in the face of mounting pressure from the villagers. She does not know how long she is going to hold out. At this point, Segi, Yaremis first daughter, comes back to the village to visit her mother. Segi is Yaremis closest child as both of them share so many things in common. Yaremi empties her heart to her daughter, letting her into her sufferings since the death of her husband, Ajumobi. She talks about her loneliness, persecution, humiliation and the plan to make her choose a new husband. After an extensive consideration of the issue of a second marriage, segi and Yaremi decide against it: a second marriage at this time is not necessary for Yaremi.
Woye is not bothered by the present state of things, being only a child. Lately, he has begun to show serious signs of his interest in schooling. Without hesitation, he tells his mother Segi, about his desire to go back to Olode with her to start schooling. The time is ripe to enroll Woye in the kindergarten school and the Anglican Junior Primary School at Olode is Segis choice for her son.
Early the following morning, Segi and her son bid farewell to Yaremi, leaving her lonelier than before. She is not happy with Woyes departure, but she is not going to deny her grandson education.
SUMMARY OF CHAPTER 14
Yaremi is on the verge of packing out of Kufi Village when her only son, Alani, appears suddenly. Alani has been in the city for ten years. He is lost to the trappings of the city life. His lifestyle has been greatly modified by the city. His skin is burnt and bleached and his hair dyed and twisted. He is described as a freak by his uncle who does not like his look. Uncle Deyo scolds him for neglecting his fathers property and for not identifying with his mother in her present trying times.
Uncle Deyo conducts Alani round his fathers property. His fathers farm lies fallow, begging for attention. At the end of the trip, it is clear that Alani is not interested in his fathers property. He returns to the house annoyed and disappointed. He regales his mother with stories of his progress, comfort and pleasure in the city and a city girl he is planning to marry. Soon, he begins to dress up to leave for the city, to the utter amazement of his mother, leaving critical issues unattended to.
Yaremi is yet to recover from the shock of her sons strange behaviour when the village elders announce the punitive measures taken against her: her husbands property is to be confiscated and she is to start packing her things for an immediate exile. With this last tragedy that seems like the straw that broke the camels back, one would think that Yaremi would give up all hope of redemption. But with courage and determination, she vows to fight to the last drop of her blood. If she must be sent into exile, then it must be her dead body.
THEMES OF LONELY DAYS
1. The sorrows of widowhood: This is the most obvious central idea of the story. Bayo Adebowale took his time to x-ray the parlous circumstances surrounding the state of widowhood. In many African societies, widows are regarded by the relatives of their dead husbands as the cause of the death of their husbands. When a man dies, his wife must have done something wrong to cause his death. She must have cheated on him, spoken evil about him or envied his numerous concubines. So, a widow is forced to wear unattractive mourning clothes, her hair shaved as she confesses her sins against her husband. In extreme cases, some widows are locked up in a dimly lit room with the corpses of their dead husbands.
Other challenges that are commonly faced by widows are loneliness and insecurity. Widows, in some African societies, are ostracised and avoided like a plague. Both the young and the old shun every relationship with widows. So in order to survive, widows turn to work as an escape route. They become workaholics, toiling from morning till night. In the case of Yaremi, she invests all her energy into her taffeta dyeing business. And when it seems like she is beginning to gain recognition and influence through hard work and generosity, the men rise to subdue her. Generally men want their women submissive and docile, so they can get them to do what they want at all times.
2. Victimisation and oppression of women: In many African societies, men see themselves as superior beings who should be held in high esteem by their inferior beings―women. A man cannot die a natural death; a woman must be the cause of his death through her sins. Therefore, the woman must be made to suffer humiliation, insult and assault.
Men beat women at the slightest provocation and one cannot help but wonder who gave them the right. A woman must carry out her tasks dutifully ranging from working on the farm, taking care of the children, cooking for the family and showering love and affection on her husband, failure in any of these leading to serious argument and beating.
As if women have not had enough, men arrogate to themselves the right to marry as many wives as they want. They change their older wives as they change their dirty linens. As a result, the women see themselves fighting and competing for the love and affection of one man―their husband.
3. Rural-urban migration: This theme is exemplified in the relationship between Alani and his mother Yaremi. Alani lives and works in the city of Ibadan. He is so carried away by the city life that his own root has become foreign and strange to him. In the same vein, his lifestyle has become a dismal wonder to his people. His uncle sees him as a freak because of his appearance.
It is the tradition that the surviving son of a dead man should take care of his property, but not with Alani. He allows his fathers property to lie fallow and abandons his mother in the village. He rarely visits home, but when he does, it is just for a fleeting moment. The author uses Alanis position to frown at young people who abandon their home and culture for that of the Western. Culture is dynamic and people may see a need, once in a while, to travel, but one should remember to come back home to help develop ones place. Therefore, young people should be open to accept the good aspect of other cultures while holding the best of their own so that good civilisation can take place.
4. The negative effects of bad tradition: Bayo is very vocal in his criticism of the tradition that treats women as second class citizens. In the story, Lonely Days, the female characters we come across suffer one form of mistreatment or the other occasioned by tradition. In Kufi village, the people believe that men do not die a natural death. When a woman dies, no dust is raised, but when a man dies, then all hell is let loose. The wife of the deceased is accused of killing him and she is forced to perform some bad traditional practices for purification. Yaremi, the protagonist of Lonely Days, is ostracised when her husband, Ajumobi died. Dedewe is locked in a dark room with the body of her dead husband. Fayoyins head is scraped while Radeke is forced to sing the traditional song of innocence and lamentation.
Furthermore, the tradition of the people of Kufi makes it possible for men to marry as many wives as they want. They can change their old wives with new ones and play them against one another. According to Bayo, these bad traditional practices should stop; people, whether male or female, should be given equal opportunity to pursue greatness, fulfillment and happiness. The tradition that regards women as mere objects to be purchased should be discouraged.
5. Superstition: Superstition is an irrational belief that an object, action, or circumstance not logically related to a course of events influences its outcome. It is equally a belief, practice, or rite irrationally maintained by ignorance of the laws of nature or by faith in magic or chance. It is a fact that superstitious beliefs have still remained a disease in most parts of Africa even up to this century of enlightenment. Studies, carried out by development experts, have shown that superstitious ideas, even the ones rooted in religion, continue to hinder and thwart social and economic progress throughout the African continent. In Lonely Days, there are many examples of superstitious beliefs held by the people of Kufi. The people believe that the cry of a hawk portends a bad omen, so they are quick to connect the sickness of Ajumobi to the hawk perching on his roof. Furthermore, the people believe that women become stronger than their male counterparts in the spirit world. Therefore, men are free to treat women how they like in the physical world knowing that women will get their vengeance in the spirit world. These ideas are not proven, yet the people of Kufi hold them tenaciously, leaving us to imagine the extent of damage these illogical ideas will cause before their meaninglessness is uncovered.
SETTING OF LONELY DAYS
The events of the story Lonely Days, took place in Kufi, a little village in Oyo State in the south-western part of Nigeria. It is a primitive village with all its crude and obnoxious customs and traditions. The people are mostly agrarian. They work on the farms in the day and hunt at night. They dont use mechanized tools. They live in mud houses and thatch roofs.
The oracle is regarded as the highest authority. The villagers resort to it when all human efforts have failed and its pronouncements are incontestable. The council of elders is next in authority. The elders are custodians of the tradition; their decision can only be voided by the oracle.
In Kufi, women are meant to be seen, not heard. The prevailing atmosphere is hostile towards women, especially widows. Widows are suspected to have caused the death of their husbands by their sins. Polygamy is the order of the day. Men are free to marry as many wives as they can afford, and women are free to complain as much as they want. And when a man is fed up by the verbal attack of one of his wives, he uses beating to bring her back under control.
Style: The story is narrated with the typical eye of God point of view. The author took the position of an omniscient observer, telling us what each character was doing at every point in time and what the characters were thinking. Such third person pronouns are he, she they, her, him, his, and them are predominant. The story has fourteen chapters with every chapter unveiling a kind of progressive challenges that widows face after the death of their husbands.
Irony: This means saying one thing and meaning another. It is also an amusing or strange aspect of a situation that is very different from what you expect. It is ironical that men who accuse widows of killing their husbands would turn around to ask for the hands of the widows in marriage. One would expect the men to stay away from these widows who allegedly killed their husbands. It is equally ironical that Dedewe, Fayoyin, and Radeke who suffered humiliation and assault in the hands of men should turn around and encourage Yaremi to pick a new man to replace her dead husband.
Suspense: This device is used to keep readers uncertain of the outcome of an event in a story. A reader finds himself asking what will happen next? The story of Lonely Days seems unended. The reader is not told what happened after the elders rolled out punitive measures against Yaremi. Her husbands property is to be confiscated and she is to be sent into exile. The reader will want to know if these punishments were carried out and what became of Yaremi afterwards.
Yaremi: She is the protagonist of the story. In her early fifties, Yaremi is beautiful and hardworking. Her real troubles begin after the death of her husband who died of typhoid fever. The relations of her late husband accuse her of killing him. They hate and ostracise her. Her two daughters are living with their husbands. Her only son is stuck in the city of Ibadan, working as a furniture carpenter. He seldom returns home to see his mother. Yaremi is only left with her grandson to keep her company and help her in her taffeta dyeing business.
Yaremi is later required―according to tradition―to choose a new man to replace her dead husband. She rejects the offer to the shock and anger of the elders and the villagers. Her daughter, Segi, visits her and identifies with her. She encourages Yaremi to stand her ground, but at the end of her visit, she takes her son away to enroll him into a school thereby living Yaremi lonelier than she is. Her lost-in-the-city son pays her a fleeting visit worsening the situation by his nonchalant attitude towards his mothers predicament. On the heels of his departure, it is heard that Yaremi is to be exiled and her husbands property confiscated. Yaremi solemnly declares that her dead body will have to be what the people will send into exile because she is prepared to fight till the last drop of her blood.
Ajumobi: Ajumobi is Yaremis husband before his death. He is a hardworking man. He has a strong control of his household just as it is typical of a man. He is a farmer and a hunter. Boastful, he never fails to regale Yaremi with his hunting exploits. He loves his wife and spoils her with his games; but beats her when he could no longer stand her verbal attack. His death brings untold hardship to Yaremi who never dreams she is going to join the league of widows in the community. Before his death, he had a dream of marrying a new wive which usually caused quarrel between him and his wife. After his death, he continues to appear to his wife in dreams with words of consolation and comfort. Some people even claim to have seen Ajumobi on two occasions in the village. Adebowale uses the death of Ajumobi to portray the many tribulations and injustices meted against women after the death of their husbands.
Alani: Alani is the third child and only son of Yaremi. He is a furniture carpenter in the city of Ibadan, where the process of his citification takes place. He seldom visits his mother in the village because his home holds no attraction for him. So he does not stay long during his once-in-a-decade visit to the village. He represents a typical picture of someone who has lost his root and identity, needing the help of his uncle, Deyo, to conduct him round his fathers property. If not for anything, his visit worsens Yaremis already bad situation. It confirms that Yaremi is all alone in her predicament.
Woye: Woye is the son of Segi and grandson of Yaremi of about eight years old. He plays the role of a comforter in the life of his grandmother, Yaremi, when there is nobody to console her. Woye, somehow, fills the vacuum created by the demise of Ajumobi, helping Yaremi in the production, transportation and marketing of taffeta cloth which is regarded as the best in the village. Woye is playful and naturally happy, enjoying the company of goats and dogs. Woye is a bit lazy, but when fired up, he can use his number game as a motivation to do the work he is expected to do. He loves to go to school; therefore, he decides to follow his mother, Segi, back to his fathers village to start schooling, when his mother visits Yaremi. Woyes departure is painful to Yaremi, but she has no choice than to allow her grandson to get education.
Uncle Deyo: Uncle Deyo is the brother of Ajumobi and uncle of Segi, Wura, and Alani. Uncle Deyo is kind and considerate as he helps Yaremi with the repairs of Ajumobis thatch roof after his death. He is the one who pointed out that Alani looks weird and out of place with the ways of the people. He even chides Alani for deserting his mother, Yaremi, when she is in need of someone to take care of her. Uncle Deyos help is needed to conduct Alani round the property of his father.
Dedewe, Fayoyin and Radeke: These are the three women who are insulted, assaulted, and humiliated sequel to the death of their husbands. They represent the theme of inhumanity against women in our society. After the death of Dedewes husband, she is accused of killing her husband. She is forced to confess to the sins of jealousy of the mistresses of her husband and adultery. Fayoyin is giving a libation to drink to cleanse her of all the sins she must have committed against her husband. After that, cold water is poured on her head to facilitate the clean shaving of her head. Her look is completely altered after the exercise. In the case of Radeke, she is asked to kneel before the dead body of her husband to sing the widows traditional song of innocence and lamentation. These women are made to choose new husbands after their purification rites. During Yaremis turn to pick a new husband, these women are around to encourage her to obey tradition.
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