a metaphysical analysis of amos tutuola’s “the palmwine drinkard” and d.o. fagunwa’s “the forest of god”

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a metaphysical analysis of amos tutuola’s “the palmwine drinkard” and d.o. fagunwa’s “the forest of god”



Background to the Study

The word “metaphysics” is derived from two Greek words “Meta” which means “after” and “physika” which means physics (or nature). Metaphysics literally means after nature or after physics which deals with things of the mind, soul and other things outside this world.

The indepth meaning of metaphysics is not known because people often, mistake it with similar meaning in contexts.

Metaphysics is a branch of philosophy. Its definition may not be as definite as one could know. However, there are different types of definition of metaphysics by different scholars like Aristotle, Democritus and Plato.

The Oxford dictionary (1995: 533) states that metaphysics is “the branch of knowledge dealing with the nature of existence, nature of truth and that of knowledge”

Aristotle in his Understanding Metaphysics (1903:170) defines metaphysics “as the four elation of all sciences as it is the science of being with the natural world and beyond”. In Aristotle’s case the word “beyond” refers to the supernatural world or realm. Metaphysics could also be the integration of the natural world of man with the other world of the unknown according to Aristotle, it is the science of reality.

The two novels under study Tutuola’s. The Palmwine Drinkard and Fagunwa’s The Forest of God are elemental case studies of metaphysics as they have it in them , elemental case studies of metaphysics from the beginning to the end. In their own unique way, these two writers express their aesthetic visions through their characters which emanates from a common stock of tradition, the Yoruba metaphysics mythology and collective, apprehension of the universe.

Abiola Irede in Tradition and Yoruba Writers (1975: 79) comments on Fagunwa and Tutuola that:

The significance of their work is this inherent

in the symbolic framework and connotation of

their novels. A simple but valid interpretation

of Tutuola and Fagunwa’s pattern of situation

in their novels suggests that man stand a dynamic,

supernatural, moral and spiritual world lived in

by obscure forces and this of course is a mythical

representation of the existential condition of man

as expressed in Yoruba thinking.(79)

Tutuola and Fagunwa’s personal beliefs of metaphysics was transferred to their use of characters like in the Forest of God we have Anjonnu – Iberu, the gnome of the ant hill, Death and so many more while in The Palmwine Drinkard we have the Incomplete gentleman, The half-bodied baby, Dance, Song and Drum and other characters. The use of charms which he used to prove his power in The Forest of God, his beliefs in ghosts and also the turning into a bird, the talking trees all portray the metaphysics in this novel.

Although, they both use almost the same thematic basis for their works, Tutuola failed in the literary tradition of which Fagunwa was a forerunner as most of the things in The Palmwine Drinakard are direct translation from Yoruba to English.

Scope and Limitation

These two fictional works have been used to give better interpretation of metaphysics as a branch of study. The range and scope therefore were emphasis on various views of metaphysics as depicted Fagunwa and Tuituola.


This research work will go further in buttressing the point that the forces above and below man are not just fiction or fallacy but real and will portray the aesthetics of metaphysics through this related works and personal interpretation.

Organization of Chapters

This study or research has five chapters. Chapter one is the general background to the study and also the introduction. While chapter two consist of literature review which sought to review what scholars have said about metaphysics. Chapters three and four deals with the analysis of metaphysic in the two texts studied The forest of God and The Palmwine Drinkard respectively. And finally chapter five is the summary and conclusion of the research.

Authorial Backgrounds

Amos Tutuola (1920 – 1997)

He was born in the city of Abeokuta in 1920. His parents were Christian cocoa farmers. metaphysical analysis At the age of twelve he started to attend the Anglican Central School in his home town. metaphysical analysis His formal education lasted only five years because he had to leave after the death of his father to learn a trade. He went to Lagos to train as a blacksmith in 1939 and from 1942 – 1945 he practiced his trade for the Royal Air Force in Nigeria.metaphysical analysis After the war, Tutuola worked with Lagos Department of Labour as a messenger and as a storekeeper for the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation.metaphysical analysis In 1983, he traveled to the United States to become an associate of the international writing programme at the University of Iowa. He got married and had six children, though highly educated he used Yoruba English for his works.metaphysical analysis

His first novel The Palmwine Drinkard published in 1952 attracted enormous criticism from within and outside the country. As Dylan Thomas said “The book was brief, thronged, grisly and bewitching” Moore (1962:39) Lindfors (1973:32) also stated that “it was delightfully odd and unexpected.metaphysical analysis

Tutuola’s other work include My life in the Bush of Ghosts (1952), Simbi and the Satyn of the Dark jungle (1956).

He died of hypertension in 1997 as he was aptly described by an American author Michael Swamwick in his Profile of Amos Tutuola (1997:59) who stated that:

“I will always detest that I never had the opportunity

to meet the man, what an excellent company he must

have been what a fine laugh he must have had!.

Daniel .O. Fagunwa (1903 – 1963)

He was born in Oke-Igbo in the year 1903. He taught between 1930 – 1939. He won a British Council Scholarship and left Nigeria for Britain in 1946. He came back to become an education officers in 1955 – 1959.

At this time he had been noted as a literary figure who was interested in his mother tongue. His work Ogboju Ode ninu Igbo Irumole was published in 1939 and his Igbo Olodumare was published in 1946 and both were reprinted in 1949 and 1950 respectively. He died on 7th December 1963 when he fell into the River Niger at Baro on his way back from the North where he had gone to collect some materials for a novel he was writing.metaphysical analysis

Though Fagunwa died young, his works have lived on after him. Both novels have been translated to English language and acted by both professional and amateur actors and actresses.metaphysical analysis


The basic tools employed in methodology of this study is the sociological approach to literature. This is because both novels have the Yoruba speakers imbibed in them as their bases.


Crowther, .J et al., (eds) (1995). Oxford University Dictionary. London: Oxford University Press.

Aristitle (103). “Metaphysics” Quoted by Collingwood in An Essay on Metaphysics. London: Brentwood.

Whitehead, N.A (1929). Process and reality. New York: Macmillian.

Irele, .A. (1975). Tradition and Yoruba Writers. Ibadan: University Press.

Jelili, .W. (2004). Metaphysics in Africa: A Study of D.O. Fagunwa’s Forest of God. An Undergraduate research Work.

Swamwick,. M. (1997). Profile of Amos Tutuola .New York: Locus.



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