Date of Award



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Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA) in English: Literature




"In Chris Cleave's 2008 novel Little Bee, he offers readers a literary representation of the Nigerian spirit-child for the purpose of political and post-colonial examination. Cleave's intentions are revealed through a full study of this traditional Nigerian concept. The Nigerian spirit-child, known as the ogbanje in the lgbo language and the abiku in the Yoruba language of Western Nigeria, is imprisoned in an endless cycle of birth, death, and rebirth. The concept of the ogbanje-abiku is indeed related to the overall concept of reincarnation, but it differs in the sense that the child who is unduly linked to the spirit world cannot complete a normal life cycle, thereby challenging tribal fertility, one of the most fundamental principles of West African culture. The repeated pre-natal, neo-natal, or early childhood deaths of the ogbanje-abiku render useless the aim of procreation. In the rare case that an ogbanje-abiku reaches adulthood, by prior pre-natal agreement with her spirit brothers and sisters, she often will die suddenly at a major life event- a titling ceremony or marriage celebration, for instance. Because a child is normally seen as a boon in West African culture, the phenomenon of the ogbanje-abiku cracks the foundation of this traditional assumption. The ogbanje-abiku is, therefore, marginalized within society for choosing to be born to die, but this supposition of choice is often imposed upon the spirit-child. The ogbanje-abiku phenomenon is contingent upon a rigid set of traditional values and belief patterns, but many Nigerian writers seek to reveal the "other" side of the spirit-child's story. In essence, the ogbanje-abiku is a cultural enigma, seeming to unsteadily walk the line between life and death and good and evil"--Document.


Typescript. Vita.