Devil on the Cross
An examination of the use of oral styles in this novel by Ngugi wa Thiong’o.
The writer of this paper shows how Kenyan author Ngugi wa Thiong’o in his novel “Devil on the Cross” uses at least five different oral styles that contribute volumes to the complexity of his seminal work. These styles are each analyzed by quoting various lines from the work. Each oral style is examined for what it contributes to the novel.
“The narrator begins and ends the novel with a unique oral style, as the “Prophet of Justice,” providing poignant social and existential commentary: “The voice of the people is the voice of God,” (p. 8). This particular narrative oral style becomes evident again from Chapter Ten onwards, at the close of the novel. Throughout Devil on the Cross, Ngugi wa Thiongo; speaks directly to the reader, acting as a third-person omniscient point of view. The narrator thinking and talking to himself forms a second key oral style in Ngugi’s work. This voice is more subtle and literary than the Prophet of Justice’s oral style. A third distinct oral style is used for Waringa, the protagonist of Devil on the Cross. From the time she tells her story to the stranger at the beginning of the novel till the end after her character’s transformation, Waringa’s oral style is central to Ngugi’s novel. Throughout the description of the Devil’s Feast, Ngugi employs a religious, biblical tone, filled with allegory, allusion and symbolism. The oral style is preachy and if read aloud would fill an auditorium (or a cave). Finally, the oral style hearkening to African song is used to evoke a sense of timelessness, rhythm, and mythology. Any Kenyan novel must be filled with verse in order to truly capture Kenyan cultural history and heritage.”
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