Re-interpreting Rural-Urban Moral Binarism in Amma Darko’s "The Housemaid" and Binwell Sinyangwe’s "A Cowrie of Hope"
Many studies of the African novel amplify the devaluation of the city preferring the countryside where the balance between human beings and nature is ostensibly better sustained. However, recent trends in the African novel which depict social anomie and mass disenchantment as resulting in urban-rural reflux call for a new strategy towards re-thinking the city. This paper offers a new approach of looking at the city by confronting the rural bias which tends to privilege the countryside over the urban space. The study aims to discoverer why characters’ experiences are as unpleasant in the village as in the city. It employs a close-reading technique that engages the city as a ‘living space’ in two selected African novels, A Cowrie of Hope by Binwell Sinyangwe from Zambia and The Housemaid by Ghanaian Amma Darko. The two novels are selected for being representative of recent novels focusing on the city. In the two texts, the city becomes the logical home, not a transit camp for the multitudes that besiege it. Because it is there that major decisions are made for rural migrants, it comes across as an empowerment locus for womenfolk as they seek visibility and fulfilment. However, events in the two novels suggest that although the city offers recompense to African women who flee the countryside to escape its patriarchal structure, women living in the city are not necessarily happier than their counterparts in the village. In the end, neither the village nor the city is a haven; each demands choices that are both personal and public.