1.0 Introduction

Feminism has continued to dominate the temporary literary discourse as african societies are becoming increasingly of the urgent necessity to liberate and fully exploits the potential of women to enhance peaceful co-existence and socio-economic development. As an introductory chapter the focus here is to provide the background to the study, outline the problem as well as the aim and objective of the study .it also specifies the scope, limitations, and also the method the research employs for its analyses and its benefit to the society and scholarship .additionally ,the authors biography is briefly captured.

1.1 Background to the Study

Women in Africa, to a large extent, are virtually regarded as ‘second class’ human beings who are meant to be seen and not heard. Their lives revolve solely around procreation, motherhood, merging into the man’s world without protesting, and “brainwashed into accepting their slavish status” (Fonchingong, 136). Acholonu (217) opines that the African woman is “trapped in the claws of the taboos and the restrictions that only help to propel male chauvinism.” The oppression and suppression of women is not peculiar to the African woman alone. It is a worldwide phenomenon that women have had to grapple with in the last few centuries. Katrack (163) has further stated that “as a female child grows from childhood to womanhood to motherhood, she is controlled and owned by her father, her husband, then her sons”, thereby ensuring the continuation of the subjugation of women in the patriarchal society.

According to Judith Astelarra, quoted in Azuike “feminism is a proposal for social transformation as well as a movement that strives to end the oppression of women.” (3). The passive, docile and insignificant woman is thus replaced by an assertive, strong willed, courageous and hardworking woman who is ready to take her destiny in her own hands and to decide her own fate. Women are, in this changing role of social consciousness, refusing to be “somebody else’s appendage” (Palmer 39). The writer therefore has the responsibility of shaping the minds and social awareness of members of every society in order to ensure the emergence of a society that does not discriminate on the basis of one’s gender.

Molara Ogundipe-Leslie’s STIWANISM, an acronym for Social Transformation Including Women in Africa, seeks the transformation of the society that fully integrates women. This is aimed at changing and reshaping the minds of people, especially men, with regards to gender discrimination and inequality. Female writers are therefore concerned with the amelioration of the unfavourable condition of women by trying to change all political, economic, societal beliefs, norms and values that are detrimental to women. In other words, there is the need for reforms that can change the mindset of men and their prejudiced notions about women. These reforms and their enforcement will help reduce and eventually eradicate the subjugation of women that drives them to such extremes of anguish and despair that some even resort to murder as the only option for the attainment of freedom.

In a bid to liberate themselves from male oppression and dominance and also to better their lot in the society, women have tended to organize themselves into socio- political groups. This later metamorphosed into feminist movements. Through this process, they strive towards emancipating themselves and ensuring the attainment of equal social status and access to opportunities with the men. It is in the context of this feminist-reformist theoretical background that Zulu Sofola’s Sweet Trapand Ola Rotimi’s Husband Has Gone Mad Again are analysed. In these plays, the stifling and oppressive social environments that women live in are aptly portrayed.

Indeed, Ngugi has rightly put it that “Literature does not grow or develop in a vacuum; it is given impetus, shape, direction and even area of concern by social and economic forces in a particular society” (15). This statement lends credence to the fact that literature is a mirror of the society and draws from human experiences in order to give the true reflections of realities in the society. This social context thus explains why the term ‘verisimilitude’ aptly defines literature; for it is basically an imitation of life, as is lived in the physical world. The oppressive and dehumanizing situations women undergo in these plays seem extraordinary, but these are real life stories that have been modified and recreated for the society’s awareness. The plays, in effect, is a dramatic indictment of the oppressive attitudes of men towards women and children that they are supposed to love and care for. It therefore has direct relevance to our contemporary society.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

Feminism has remained a topical issue in literary criticism with widespread implications for gender equality and human development across sectors. Increasing attention is being accorded the negotiation of women liberation in contemporary African literature. However, there has been a limited success in the struggle for gender parity in Africa. Negative stereotype of women as docile, passive and weak still prevail in most male-dominated societies. Despite the growing body of works on feminism, there is of prevalence of violence, subjugation and oppression and of women in African society. Consequently, this study investigates the depiction of feminism in the Nigerian novel and the different forms of gender-based role, violence and how Zulu Sofola and Ola Rotimi treat these issues in their plays. The strategies employed by the author for the liberation of female gender is also examined.

1.3 Objectives of the Study

This research explores the subjugation, oppression and discrimination of women in a patriarchal African society. Zulu Sofola’s Sweet Trap and Ola Rotimi’s Our Has Gone Mad Again are analysed from the feminist point of view as to critically investigate the oppressive experiences of women in Africa. The focus of the study is to analyse how patriarchal oppression and suppression of women encourages discriminatory treatment and infringement of women’s right. also the various established norms and cultures that relegate women to subordinate positions are examined. In addition, the research explores the strategies adopted by women to battle with patriarchal oppression as portrayed in the plays.

1.4 Scope of the Study

Although the plays can be interpreted from different perspectives, this research interrogates various dimension of feminism as depicted in Zulu Sofola’s Sweet Trap and Ola Rotimi’s Our Has Gone Mad Again. The study cross examines the treatment of in the plays. Furthermore, the research explores how Zulu Sofola and Ola Rotimi use characterization to depict the stereotype view, discrimination and marginalization of women in African society. The two plays treat different dimensions of feminism in Africa and they form the primary texts that will be used for analysis. In addition, articles and journals with related contents to the study will be analysed. Consequently, womanism will be used as analytical framework.

1.5 Methodology

This research follows a textual and descriptive method based on a combination of traditional library research and textual analysis. The primary sources include Zulu Sofola’s Sweet Trap and Ola Rotimi’s Our Husband Has Gone Again, while secondary sources include several academic articles, e-books, journals and books related to feminism. The two plays form the basic material for this research. In addition, an interdisciplinary approach was used while drawing views on feminism from the fields of Literature, Philosophy, History and Sociology. The analytical framework for this study is the feminist literary criticism.

1.6 Significance of the Study

Since the 1970s, patriarchal domination and marginalisation of women has been a central concern of literary studies in Africa, as feminist theory precipitated a critical debate around the representation of African women. Literature and society have strong relationship, and it is for this reason that this research becomes an imperative at this time. To this end, the research becomes of great significance to all who work for the liberation of women in Africa. Organizations and institutions working for the subversion of cultures and laws that oppressive women and the entrenchment of law to protect and guard against the violation of the right of the female gender will find support from a study devoted to the issue of feminism. It is, most importantly, believed to make significant contribution to the body of knowledge and serve as reference material for researchers in the field of literature as well as gender studies in the universities in Africa and elsewhere. It, therefore, helps to enrich current perspective on feminism in Africa.