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LANGUAGE AND STYLE - Blossoms of the Savannah

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The language used in literature is different from that used in other disciplines. Language in literature goes a notch higher because it is not only used originally but also innovatively. This contributes to aesthetics or beauty in literary texts hence appealing to the readers. Style on the other hand can simply be defined as the unique manner of doing something. Just like everybody has a walking style and hair cutting style, playwrights have unique ways which they use to pass their messages to the audience. There are a number of stylistic devices in the novel Blossoms of the Savannah. This guidebook will enumerate some of these devices.

Vivid Description

The writer uses words to paint clear mental images on the readers’ mind.  This enables the audience to understand the text better. As the Kaelo’s are preparing to depart from Nakuru for Nasila the scenery is vividly described. “He was gesticulating violently, apparently reprimanding loaders for being slow and inept (p.1). This description points out clearly the character of Kaelo as stern. The welcoming ceremony of the Kaelo’s family by uncle Simiren’s family is vividly described “Chunks of meat went round...selected a piece from the tray” (p.12). The description helps in showing the generous nature of Kaelo as well as his meticulous planning abilities. Life at Nasila is vividly described “the intermittent crowing of roosters… a rare atmosphere of tranquility and serenity...” (p.14). The description is used to contrast the peaceful mood of the rural Nasila and the urban town of Nakuru that is characterized by hustles and bustles.

Simiren’s polygamous setting is described vividly “Three main houses stood within a well-tended and a evenly trimmed kei apple perimeter hedge… (p.14). “The sixteen or so children aged between three and sixteen were perched on benches, stools and chairs” (p.16). This description shows high birthrate in the family. It also paints a polygamous family in Nasila.  The vivid description of Ole Supeyo (p.23), “he lifted a corner of his shirt and scratched his belly while his other hand stroked the stubble on his chin…” shows his wealthy status in the society.

Oloisudori is described in uncomplimentary terms “wide gap…black eyes….looking like a warthog” (p.92). The description signals Oloisudori’s mean character and the readers can even form a picture of a criminal before much is disclosed to them. There is a vivid description of how women in the past dealt with an old man who sexually mistreated a young girl (p.117). Taiyo’s bold visit to Joseph’s bachelor house is vividly described (p. 130). It shows the feelings of the two lovers who are restrained by culture. The attack of the two girls by two men in which Olarinkoi saves them is vividly described. “He sprang like a ghost” (p.141). This shows the risk the girls are going though in the hostile Nasila environment. 

The search conducted by thirty men with Kaelo and Joseph is vividly described to show the urgency of getting the girls’ molesters (p161). The resigned Resian is vividly described after she is required to serve Oloisudori and his group (p.172). “She walked to an oloponi tree at the centre of the garden. Finding a log underneath it, she sank down…her shoulders drooping…” It shows Oloisudori’s insensitive character. The journey by Oloisudori and the couple is vividly described (p. 190,191). It shows Oloisudori’s cunning and scheming character. The journey by Resian, Olarinkoi and the pick-up driver is vividly described to show the ill manners of the two young men (p. 212, 213). The escape by Resian and Nabaru is also vividly described to show the risk involved by the two females with strong character (p. 247).

Similes

 A simile is a stylistic device that compares two things indirectly with an aim of drawing a mental picture in the mind of the reader. Before the Kaelo’s relocate to Nasila, some women from Nasila visit Mama Milanoi. They signal a future menace since the girls are not circumcised. The author says, “The words came to haunt her like a demented spirit” (p.8). This is later seen when mama Milanoi and Kaelo have to live alone in their old age after Taiyo and Resian go to the ranch and later to the university (p.13). “They had likened him to a mono- eyed giant who stood on legs of straw.”(p.13).Kaelo is compared to a giant because he holds a senior position in his home, as the head in his house yet he has chosen to be very weak by having only one wife and two daughters. The elders feel Kaelo is not stable. He should be supported by many sons like Simiren. Ole Supeyo compares effects of FGM with effects of dehorning cows. “Like cattle that required being dehorned to reduce accidental injuries to each other, a certain docility was required to keep more than one wife in one homestead” (p.22). This simile shows the chauvinistic nature of Supeyo.

“The sense of foreboding from the threat was still hanging in the air like the sword of Damocles.’ (p.27). This simile shows the apprehensive mood in which the girls are in after they are accosted by the callous young man. Mama Milanoi says her husband had bullied and scolded her “like half-witted child” (p.29). This shows how Kaelo considered her as a child. It also reveals the low position of a wife in a Maa family.

Uncle Simiren danced, his bald head shining like a piece of iron sheet in the afternoon sun.” (p.45). The simile shows the industry, age and alienation of Simiren as well as the celebratory mood in the event. After the drinks, voices of laughter of the revelers are described as: “they rose and fell like sound of waves beating upon flooded river banks to show the exuberant carefree mood (p.50). A simile describes Resian’s condition of insecurity, “Lonely stalked her like a lost young leopard.” (p.57). This shows the danger that looms in the new environment. Kaelo comments, “Your daughter Resian is like an overfed lizard in the afternoon sun” (p.64).The simile is used to comment on the lazy character of Resian. 

Olarinkoi is described as “sitting quietly and staring unblinkingly like a leopard would while stalking an antelope (p.75). This shows Olarinkoi’s antisocial nature. It also indirectly reveals his real intention in Kaelo’s home. Yeiyo Botorr expresses her contempt for Resian’s assertive character in a simile. “One with olkuenyi (bad spirit) was shunned like plague” (p.78). “It was easier to fall in love with a serpent than with Olarinkoi” (p.80). Taiyo’s statements shows that Olarinkoi is antisocial and nobody would wish him to be their friend. Mama Milanoi cannot bear the pricking language of Resian on Oloisudori. She says, “You spoke like one with a demented spirit?” This shows Mama Milanoi’s fear towards Oloisudori and her meekness to Kaelo. 

Kaelo comments, “Why do you run like one who has seen an apparition? (p.96). In this simile, Kaelo-Resian cold relationship is shown. After Oloisudori’s visit, the couple has sleepless nights. “They turned and turned like ilmintilis being roasted in the fire” (p.107). The simile shows the torture that the couple undergoes. After Oloisudori informs the couple that he is to have their two daughters, “a disaster loomed large like ominous black clouds” (p.121). 

To express her aggressive character, Resian is described by use of a simile. “She sunk her teeth into the flesh like a ferocious animal” (p.221). After the ordeal, the writer says, “thoughts came back like a remote collection” (p.223). This simile evokes a sympathetic attitude on the part of the reader. To show the caring, sacrificing and protective nature of Nabaru, the writer says, “Nabaru scooped Resian like a little baby” (p.246).

Metaphors

It is a style which employs direct comparison of two things without using “as…as” “like” etc. with an aim of forming a mental picture in the reader’s mind. Ole Sumpeyo terms Oloisudori as a randy he goat so as to show the height of his sexual immorality. He warns Kaelo to keep off his daughters. (p.26). Ole Musanka describes Kaelo as a tiny strand of hair that has been blown away from its owner’s head by a gust of wind. (p.51). This shows that Kaelo is part of Maa culture and is owned by the Maa culture.” (p.51). It also brings out the wise character of Ole Musanka. To express her contempt and annoyance, Resian describes Oloisudori, “what an ill-mannered devil this man is.” (p.93). After the heinous act by Olarinkoi on Resian, rape, the sun is described as a bowl of red (p.226).

Personification

It is a stylistic device in which a novelist uses human attributes on non-living things with significance to the novel. For instance Nakuru is described as “That beloved town that was the mother of all flamingoes” (p.2). It is evident that the flamingoes make the area very attractive and probably that is one of the reasons Taiyo sheds tears and is hesitant to leave it for Nasila a rural set up. It could also be interpreted that Nakuru is enlivened by the flamingoes making it relaxing. On reaching Nasila, the tranquility is expressed, “a cool fresh breeze swept in and caressed her face soothingly.(p.14).The breeze in this case is emphasized by being given a human quality of caressing. A pot of ugali is said to hiss cheerfully at the side (p.280).The exaggeration is aimed at emphasizing on the significance of the happy event. 

Dialogue

It is a novelistic style in which the writer presents the actual conversation between characters. It brings a break from prose and therefore breaks monotony on the part of the reader. Taiyo and Resian converse about their new residence (p.3). The dialogue shows their mixed attitudes towards Nasila. Resian is afraid of the new home. She fears that the new shop may not pick something which may make the family needy in the future. However, Taiyo encourages her to have faith.

While taking a walk around Simiren’s compound, Taiyo and Resian converse on the apprehension and rivalry among the four houses. This exposes the enmity in a polygamous marriage. The dialogue between Joseph and Ole Kaelo serves to warn Taiyo and Joseph against having any love relationship (p.70).

The heated conversation between yeiyo-Botorr, mama Milanoi, Taiyo and Resian on p.77 reveals Resian’s assertiveness and daring character. It also shows yeiyo-botorr as conservative. The dialogue between Taiyo, Resian and yeiyo-Kiti gives the girls more information about Minik Nkoitoi and adds curiosity on the part of the girls to see her in the future (p.151).

On the other hand, the heated dialogue between Kaelo and Resian (p. 210, 211) brings out Kaelo’s character as mean and abusive while it portrays Resian as sentimental. Lastly, the conversation between Resian, Taiyo and Minik on (p. 280) in Minik’s office brings out the manager’s character as courteous. 

Flashback

It is a style in which a novelist takes us back to a time in the past with an intention of informing the reader on past occurrences. It reveals critical information to the audience as well as helping in plot development. We are informed of how the Kaelo’s got married twenty two years ago and how Kaelo got employed by Agribix Limited. In order for mama Milanoi to view the future in the right perspective, she first recalls on the past (p.7). Kaelo flashes back how he had first spotted Jane, his wife in a church service (p.9). The flashback helps in identifying Mama Milanoi as religious.

Through a flashback we are told of the humorous story of how Ole Supeyo would take Kaelo to the forest and instruct him to count a lot of money. From this flashback, we discover their deep rooted friendship (p. 21). The flashback in this case is also a source of humour. Mama Milanoi flashes back to a time when Kaelo married her twenty two years ago and how her parents were happy to get a wealthy son in law (p. 28). The flashback informs the audience of the concern Jane’s parents had for their daughter. Taiyo has a flashback on how she excelled in music festivals and was awarded and garlanded. An FM radio station sponsored her to attend an extravaganza (p.44). This flashback is essential in revealing Taiyo as a talented girl. It explains why she is interested with the Maasai dance as well. Mama Milanoi flashes back when an old man like Oloisudori would not have been allowed by culture to marry young girls. (p.114).in such a case Mama Milanoi would have appealed to an elder’s court which would rule him out of elders. It would also fine him.

Irony

This stylistic device entails a writer depicting what is contrary to what is expected by the reader. For instance, Mama Milanoi optimistically thinks that it would be easy for the couple to marry off their two girls at Nasila than Nakuru town (p.8). However, this proves to be difficult later in the novel. The two girls put up a spirited fight against their marriage to Oloisudori. Resian escapes from her prophesied marriage to Olarinkoi while Taiyo escape shortly after undergoing FGM.

It is ironical that Kaelo detests his daughter Resian simply because she is born a girl instead of a son as he wishes. Since the baby is innocent and did not contribute in her sex, we expect the father to appreciate her. Furthermore, according to biological sciences it is the man who carries male genes (p.10). It is ironical when Kaelo dismisses elders as practitioners of archaic traditions when they mount pressure for him to be polygamous yet later he supports F.G.M on his daughters which is an equally archaic humiliating practice. This clearly portrays greed that overwhelms him as well as his weak character (p.113). It is ironical that Kaelo had been warned against the criminal record of Oloisudori from Supeyo but still falls for his snare (p.108). It is ironical that after Joseph wins the hearts of Resian, his heart is filled with frightening premonition (p.136).

Although the first day at Simiren’s place begins happily, it ends while the girls are disappointed after they are accosted by a callous young man. It is ironical that mama Milanoi feels she has failed in giving Kaelo a son and even praises and praise God for a baby boy (p.29).It is ironical that the idea of Enkamuratani and Olmurunya was hatched by women themselves (p.87). Many years later this practice becomes a source of humiliation and pain to the female population. It is ironical that FGM that adversely affects women in the Maa community is practically done by women (p.227).

It is also ironical that Olarinkoi, the mysterious young man Resian detested later saves their lives. (p.142). Still, it is ironical that when Kaelo calls Resian to inform her of marriage to Oloisudori, Resian thinks she is being called for admission in the university (p.182).Lastly, it is ironical that Emuata (a heavy copper ring is primarily made to make brides beautiful yet it is heavy and uncomfortable to the females (p.263). 

Symbolism

The physical appearance of the two sisters and their mother is symbolically expressed, “Taiyo and Resian both head and shoulder taller than their mother, stood on” (p.11).The height of the two girls is physically compared to that of their mother. The height could be interpreted in terms of their contribution to female emancipation. The deeper meaning is that Resian and Taiyo’s role in fighting gender inequality is greater than that of their mother.

At the time of the planned circumcision of Resian, the sun is described, “it’s sad yellow light … discordant howls of hyenas...” (p.243). These symbols reinforces the mood. Also, as Nabaru and Resian leave the desolate village, there is a heavy downpour. The rain symbolizes hope in future. (p.248). At the ranch, Resian is led to a house with a soothingly cool carpet which cools her tired and thorn pricked feet (p.260). This symbol assures the comfortable life the future holds for Resian.

The conspicuous departure for Egerton University by Resian, Taiyo and Minik is symbolic. (p.246). They leave behind Oloisudori’s burnt vehicles. It symbolizes their victory over Oloisudori’s army, patriarchy, FGM and stereotype.

Local Dialect

It involves the use of Maasai and Swahili words in the novel by the author. The usage enriches the setting of the fiction; the Maasai geographical area of settlement and the rural set up aspect of the novel. It makes the story credible, authentic and alive as well as anchoring the elaborate theme of culture. In depicting the serene atmosphere, the author says, “Interspersed were the olive- green ilorienito(brown wild olive) trees whose fragrant…cluster of bushes of olobaaniIlkilenya climbers grew…” (p.15). Yeiyoo botorr (p.16), means eldest wife. Her presence portrays the different level of power in a polygamous marriage.

Still to emphasize the beauty and serenity the writer says about Kaelo’s home, “clusters of oleleshua, osinoni and olkirrpanyany bushes dotted the compound. (p.31). People visit Kaelo’s new home so as to observe the girls with an aim of commending them as inkainito (p.36).

Enkaitoyoni and enkamuratani came to make acquaintance with potential clients.(p.36). After feeding and dancing, people take esuguroi drink to gladden their hearts (p.46). Esuguroi is a fermented honey beer spiced with aloe. It is believed that Resian has Kisirani, an evil ominous harbinger to a terrible thing (p.78).

There are many other instances of use of local dialects such as intoiye nemengalana, olmurunya, papaai, enkoiboni, inkainito, shuka, olbitirr, mzee, mheshimiwa, patureishi, elangatare, oloiboni and many others. The meaning of these Maasai and Kiswahili words has been provided in the text or in the glossary of terms at the end of the novel.

Foreshadow

It is a stylistic device in which something ominous is signaled to happen in the future. Mama Milanoi experiences a pang of strange premonition that twists her nerves unpleasantly (p.17). This suggests the lurking danger especially because her daughters are in the status of intoiye nemengalana. Once they arrive in their new house, Resian says, “I feel an oppressive silence.”(p.32).This points at the rough episodes she encounters later (p.32). Taiyo and Resian experience a long night characterized by mournful calls of night birds (p.55). This signals the bad experience ahead. On page 138, Olmultut (a bird of bad omen) coos sorrowfully at Resian’s gate. This bird is a harbinger of bad news. Its cry is ominous (p.138).

Rhetorical Questions

It is a stylistic device which employs questions which do not necessarily require answers but are aimed at stimulating critical thinking. To show that Kaelo is going through a hard reflective moment, he asks, “Was not everybody doing business with him? Was he really that bad? Was it the usual business rivalry and envy? (Oloisudori) (p.27). These questions show the dilemma in which Kaelo is in. Mama Milanoi wonders what they stand for as a family. Are they traditionalists or modernists? (p.62). This shows her dilemma towards F.G.M and her daughters. Resian asks, “Was there a curse for being born a woman?” (p.205). She rhetorically asks, “Was it jealousy consuming her? (p.49). This is about the growing love between Taiyo and Joseph. Nabaru argues on page 277, “if the Enkamuratani threw away the olmurunya and refused to wield it again, what would happen?” it is a call for women’s awakening to rise to the occasion and fight F.G.M.

Oral Literature Devices

Narratives

Kaelo had learnt that Odomongi and Orok-kiteng, the legendary twin homesteads of the founder that begot of the five clans of Nasila: Ilmolelian, Ilmakesen, Ilukumae, Ilaiser and Iltarrosero were the cradle of Nasila people (p.37). Mama Milanoi’s dilemma is aptly described in a summarized narrative. Her situation was like that of ole Nkipida who was chased into a deserted hut by a lion just to be confronted by a hungry python at the door (p.60). This describes the conflict brought about by F.G.M. There is a common myth that by spilling blood through F.G.M bad spirit is purged away” (p.78). Joseph narrates a moving story of the legendry Olarinkoi (p.81). In the story, women entertain Ilarinkon warriors who demeaned and sexually exploited women (p.86). The story also tells the origin of F.G.M (P.87).

Song and Dance

On page41, during the homecoming ceremony, a bevy of beautiful young women dance exciting traditional dance. Men also do a springy dance (p.41). It is from this dance that Taiyo falls in love with Joseph Parmuat. He leads primary school children into a song about welcoming the returning hero, Kaelo (p.42). Taiyo composes a song which she sings in her heart. The song is dedicated to three women who collaborated with men to oppress women folks (p.153).

Girls from Intapuka e Maa sing a song (p.281). This song makes the two girls shed tears for it praises intoiye nemengalana. (p.281). It also reveals women assertiveness and readiness to fight oppressive cultural practices as well as song of hope, victory and equality.

Proverbs

They are short statements laden with a deep meaning. They are mostly used by the elderly people as a measure of wisdom and experience. Ole Kaelo on p.25 says, “The man with the meat was the same man with the knife.” This signifies that for him to get contracts, he must work with the corrupt Oloisudori. On p.25 Ole Musanka quips, “When an old rat begins to smell, it returns to its mother’s home” (p.52). Meaning that Kaelo is old and had to return to Maa culture as well as home for a sense of belonging. What the superstitious Yeiyoo Botorr says to mama Milanoi about Resian is in form of a proverb, “To hide a boil that is under the armpit is unwise” (p.78). Meaning the girl’s condition of intoiye nemengalana is vicious and will soon burst. While encouraging Resian to escape to the ranch Olarinkoi says, “Home is never far for one who is still alive” (p.211).

Suspense

It is a device in which the writer creates a pleasurable emotion of anticipation and excitement regarding the outcome of events or phenomenon. In the novel, an air of suspense surrounds Olarinkoi. Kaelo does not introduce him to us at any point in the novel nor does he mention him. (p.79). The audience is let to think about him evoking curiosity which keep them reading. The breaking down of the lorry near the ranch attracts suspense (p.252). Readers wonder what is to happen next. They worry of the character’s safety. When Minik calls Taiyo and Resian in her office and stays for long without breaking the silence, suspense is created. Especially because she is holding two letters with unknown contents (p. 279). The readers remain in suspense for long as to whether Resian will agree to be married by Oloisudori or not. They also keep reading and to see whether she will be circumcised by force by Olarinkoi’s mother and be married by Olarinkoi as his mother had prophesied.

Dream

Kaelo has a dream in which Resian consents to marriage by Oloisudori (p.195). The dream shows the level of greed in Kaelo. While in a strange room belonging to Olarinkoi’s people, Resian has a dream in which she meets Minik. The dream fires her ambition. (p.220). Resian dreams a triumphant dream where she battles enkamuratani’s crew who want to circumcise her by force (p.244, 245).

Allusion

It is a style in which there is a reference to something which is supposed to be known but not explicitly mentioned. A writer can refer to history, politics, the bible, literature and so on. In this novel, there are literary and biblical allusions. Resian quotes from a famous speaker, “What pained one most was not the injustices carried out against one by the adversaries but the silence of those who called themselves his or her friends at the time the injustice was done” (p.231). This literary allusion is in reference to her mother who kept quiet all the time they were being exposed to barbaric Nasilian cultural practices. There are several cases of biblical allusion. Resian remembers the tribulations of the Biblical Job. (p.230). She suddenly fell on her knees and hugged the legs of the old woman washing them with tears” (p.234).The allusion in this context is that of Mary in the St Luke in the Bible where she chooses to anoint Jesus using her hair. In this context, the respect Resian has for the enkabaani is emphasized. Still, Resian reminds herself of what the Bible says, (p.257). Some scriptures on optimism are quoted. The Joseph in the bible alludes to the Biblical Joseph who sacrificed for Christ by offering his tomb to be used by Christ (p.277). Joseph in the novel finally sacrifices by dying for the sake of Taiyo.

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