Available on JSTOR at: doi.org/10.2307/3334316

Abstract

The following story is written in a style which will at first strike the reader as curious. It is a specifically African narrative style in which the impress of traditional tales gets imposed on the desire to record the success to be obtained in the new towns. The language reflects a similar pressure where the idioms and syntax of the mother tongue impose on English an odd yet curiously refreshing and piquant flavor. This is not bad English but a different English in use, and as such it has a general interest besides the especial charm of this story. The work of the well known writer Amos Tutuola has been the focus of great debate on this point, some critics praising the unusual quality of language, others deploring the inaccuracies of his English judged by standard norms of the language. For all the fierce argument, “The Palm Wine Drunkard” remains justly appreciated and Mr. Freemann's work has something in common with Tutuola's, at least in its freshness and originality. Dr. Kay Williamson who has always worked enthusiastically to encourage writers from Nigeria such as the now famous poet, J. P. Clark, is encouraging Mr. Freemann to develop his own skill in writing more stories. In a letter, she made some prescient comments on the significance of this story form. “It should be 'placed' as an intermediate between a traditional type story such as the story of Indoro Bush recently published in The Literary Review (New York), and the Onitsha novel. [These are a series of cheaply priced booklets telling, in English, tales of violent love and passion at a simple level which gain them great popularity.] Expressions like 'the young sharp' are very much in that genre and so is the whole emphasis on sexual attractiveness, the brief bit at the end about his life in town and his success there. On the other hand, the first paragraph and the creature laying its spell are traditional. (The author expressed his doubt about whether the first paragraph really 'belonged' and I think that the same is true of the creature incident.) There are naturalistic bits like the scene in the compound and the boat journey which might be compared to the journey on Gabriel Okara's novel, The Voice. These journeys are as important in Ijo literature as railway journeys were in Victorian novels.” For many scholars, the adaptations writers are bringing to English as they absorb its forms into their own traditional usage is a fascinating subject. However, the story itself may be read not as a cold example of a significant linguistic situation but for the eternal delights of a fine tale told by a skilled narrator.