CHAPTER THREE PLOT
In this chapter we will focus mainly on conflict, because most literary scholars on plot identify conflict as the most basic element of plot. Wymer (1978:20), for instance, claim that “the most universal element of plot is conflict, the opposition between characters or forces, the working out of which makes up the story”. Mafela (1993:67) agrees, arguing that “the principal cause of plot resides in the conflict. This means that the cause stems from the conflict. Without conflict there is no plot.”
Before we embark on a discussion of conflict, we should first indicate what plot is. We will quote a few remarks by literary experts on this aspect of literature. Serudu (1993:51) asserts that:
Most literary scholars and critics agree that plot is the sequential flow of events in time and its means and causes, effects and ends in a literary work. This means that one event is the cause of the one that follows it in a sort of relay and so on …
To our mind, Serudu’sassertion about plot is a resume of what literary critics say with regard to plot. Cohen (1973:68), in similar vein defines plot as “the arrangement of a sequence of events”. This implies that we are dealing here with a story or narrative which depicts a unified or purposeful sequence of events or which meaningfully relates events and details disconnected in time.
Heese and Lawton (1983: 102) define plot as a “narrative of events, the emphasis falling on causality”.
Redway (1982:183) elaborates:
According to E.M. Forster, the grammar of story is ‘And then’ … while that of plot is ‘Andtherefore .. ‘Story, we may say, is sequential, plot is consequential. The queen died, and then the king died’,Forster says, is the story. The queen died, and then the king died of grief’is plot.
In all the statements the underlying factor of plot is causality. There is always a cause of any event to take place. Obviously this cause creates conflict to the characters in the book. In this regard Potter (1967:24) also asserts that “plot is based on a series of events that are all partly the result of some continuing cause.”
Plot cannot be studied or analyzed in isolation. It must include the analysis of setting, point of view and characterization. Owing to the fact that plot is the arrangement of a sequence of events, action in a narrative will always be organized to follow chronologically (Cohen, 1973:68).
The plot structure of a narrative can be analyzed in terms of exposition, rising action, climax and denouement. Exposition refers to the beginning part of the narrative where the background material is provided for. It is in this section where the author establishes the setting, and creates the basic atmosphere of the story. The story begins to unfold at this stage of the narrative.
As far as the rising action is concerned, Cohen (1973:69) says (It) .. encompasses that part of the story from the first event of the plot to the climax. Here the author will indicate the development of his basic situation, suggest any important conflicts,and develop his characters.
In this part of the narrative the author develops his characters by involving them in problems which will later have to be resolved in the denouement. But before we come to the resolution or denouement, the author has to develop his story to a climax, which is the highest and most important point toich the chain of events in the rising action has been moving. Cohen (1973:69) defines this as the point where issues and conflicts in the plot are fully and clearly resolved, or which establishes the final action which leads the author to explain or unravel what has happened up to the climax.
Before assessing conflict in Mtombeni’sworks, a definition is necessary.
Roberts (1983:375) defines conflict as:
The opposition between two characters, between large groups of people, or between protagonists and larger forces such as natural objects, ideas, modes of behaviour, public opinion. and the like.
Roberts (1983:52) further indicates that conflict is the essence of plot because in conflict … human energy is brought out to the highest degree. In its elemental form, a conflict is the opposition of two people. They may fight, argue, enlist help, and otherwise oppose each other.
Cohen (1973:181) on the other hand, states that conflict is:
The collision of opposing forces in prose fiction. drama and poetry. Conflicts can take many forms: between people; between man and his environment; between ideologies, or internal conflicts which can come from any of the forces above, from feelings within a person, or from cause unknown.
From the above definitions by Roberts and Cohen, one fact becomes evident and that is conflict has to do with two opposing forces. These forces might be two people, groups or ideologies. Another important fact is that Roberts refers to protagonists which also implies that there are antagonists. It is obvious that when assessing conflict, we are bound to make reference to characterization, which is defined by Shaw (1972:71) as:
The creation of images of imaginary persons in drama, narrative poetry, the novel, and the short story.
Besides characterization, Roberts (1983:52) also mentions human energy, which is brought out to the highest degree in conflict, which implies that conflict rises up to a crisis level or climax. Climax is part of plot structure of a literary work of art. From this stage, in a well-structured plot, the intensity of the conflict diminishes, leading to the denouement, or resolution. The denouement marks the outcome of the conflict, i.e the solution of the problem. This implies that the whole state of affairs returns to a state of stability or equilibrium. If there was an ideological fight between two people, peace is restored. Roberts (1983:52) reiterates that:
Conflict is the major element of plot because opposing forces arouse curiosity, cause doubt, and create tension.
Where there is conflict in a work of art, the protagonist is always found to be exerting great energy to win and there is at all times uncertainty about ultimate success, for unless there is doubt about the outcome there is no tension, and without tension there is no interest. What we have said so far, in this paragraph, is that in conflict, there will always be doubt, tension and interest.
With regard to tension, Knott (1977:35) says:
The most elaborate plot in the world is useless without the tension and excitement that conflict imparts to it.
It is also interesting to note what Beardsley, Daniel and Leggett ( 1975: xxxiii) say about conflict:
The substance of fiction is, broadly speaking, a conflict – sometimes an overt conflict between two people …
sometimes an inner, psychological one … sometimes a confrontation of life’sinexorable forces of time and change.
It is clear that conflict can be of different kinds. It might be an inner psychological conflict within one character or external conflict between two people with opposing views, arguments etc. or it might be a resistance to change with time. In summary, the following are the different kinds of conflict that we find in a literary work of art.
Kinds of conflict
Heese and Lawton (1983:88) recognise the following as kinds of conflict:
Conflict within an individual, between individuals, between man, circumstance, fate and environment. Because drama is based on conflict, it involves its characters in choices, choices which must be made, for life demands change and action.
From the above statement we can list the following kinds of conflict in literature:
man against nature or against his environment;
man against man, as in most love stories;
man against himself, what can be termed psychological conflict, i.e frustrations as a result of clash in beliefs and principles; and
man against fate or destiny.
Brooks and Warren (1971 :172) are of the opinion that man’s contest with external forces is the simplest kind of struggle and finally the least interesting. The greatest and most typical human conflict is one in which human beings are in conflict. Another well-known conflict is where a protagonist is in conflict with himself. Simply stated, we find two main kinds of conflict, viz. external conflict and internal conflict. External conflict is where the characters struggle against the environment or each other. Internal conflict is where the character is involved with himself, i.e struggling against his moral, psychological or spiritual beliefs, e.g a character may struggle against an aspect of himself due at times to vice or virtue carried to excess.
The techniques of delineating conflict in Mtombeni’sworks
Mtombeni uses characters to reveal conflict. The characters in his works are found engaged in dialogue or soliloquy through which their intentions, problems and struggles are exposed to the reader. This technique is called the dramatic technique, whilst Hudson (1925: 25) calls it the indirect method. Nkuzana (1981 :7) defines the dramatic technique as … the manner whereby the author of prose fiction, like the dramatist, allows his characters to talk, to act or to react to various situations in the novel. He does not describe their actions and manners. The author gives the characters chance to reveal their nature through speech.
The implication we get from the above quotation is that the character becomes a participant in revealing his own tribulations. In this regard, Mafela (1993.159) says:
The dramatic technique is a technique through which a character reveals his own traits to the reader.
Sometimes we find that a character will soliloquize, and by so doing reveal to us his/her problems. This is called soliloquy and falls under the dramatic technique. In almost all Mtombeni’sworks, soliloquy has successfully been employed to delineate conflict. This technique is so effective that it becomes very easy for the reader to know the circumstances: good or bad, which surround the life of a character.
The second technique through which Mtombeni presents conflict in his works is the narrative technique, which is explained by Nkuzana ( 1981 :7) as follows:
… the author or one character in the book reveals or tells the readers more about the other characters, although this narrator may not be aware of the implications of what he is reporting. The author tends to give the reader more information, thus allowing him no scope to make his own judgement of the characters.
Altenbernd and Lewis (1966:156) call this technique the expository technique.
The expository method of characterization tells us about the figure: he is described or discussed either by the author or another character.
This means that the personality traits of a character are directly shown by the narrator’sdescriptions and explanation or by the other characters in the book. The third technique which Mtombeni employs in revealing conflict in his works is setting whereby the credibility of a character and his actions are assessed.
The actions of a character gain credibility if the setting is real (Brooks, and Warren (1971 :573).
Cohen (1973:195) defines setting as “the time and place (or locale) in a literary work. It is intimately connected with mood and atmosphere”.
With regard to atmosphere, Cohen (1973:175) says:
The mood or moods of a literary work created by the description of settings by the actions and words of characters, by the tone of an author or the voice through which he speaks. One function of atmosphere can be the creation of suspense – tenseness and expectations within a reader or observer.
Mtombeni creates conflicts in his works by means of this technique. He mainly employs the night as the appropriate time for incidents to take place. He also chooses appropriate settings for peculiar or eventful incidents to occur: Police Stations, hospitals, railway stations, restaurants and township houses.
In discussing Mtomberii’suse of conflict, we shall also assess his success or failure in creating that conflict. Conflict in Mtombeni’sworks will be examined as it is first manifested in his novels, plays and short stories.
Conflict in Mtombeni’snovels
Mtombeni wrote only two novels during his literary career: Mibya ya nyekanyeka (1967) and Ndzi tshikeni (1973). In both novels only the conflict experienced by the protagonists will be assessed, although reference to that of the antagonists will he made.
In Mibya ya nyekanyeka, the protagonist is Tlhomandloti, who is depicted as a man of about fifty-six years old, suffering internal psychological conflict brought about by his social status in the community. As a minister of religion.
who is respected by his parishioners and ordinary members of the community he sees himself as an important person whose children should also be highly esteemed. Therefore, he has great expectations of Madambi and Nyiko, his two sons, however, these two sons fail to meet the expectations of their father.
Madambi, who is always on top of his class, is a filthy young man, who does not care about his personal cleanliness. Madambi further frustrates his father by insisting on marrying Soluka, a Xhosa girl. It is through the dramatic technique that Mtombeni reveals Tlhomandloti’s objection to the proposed marriage.
Ndza ku ale/a Madambi, ndza ala ku amukela n’wingi wa Muxhosa vatuku/u va mina va va vatuku/u va Maxhosa hi le tlhelo – ndza ala. Lava nhwana wa Mutsonga, va tele ngoptu; teka un’we wa vona, a nga ri nhwana wa Muxhosa. E-e, ndza ala (Mibya ya nyekanyeka:57).
(I refuse you Madambi – I refuse to accept a Xhosa daughter-in-law so that my grandchildren be grandchildren to Xhosas at the same time – I refuse. Look for a Tsonga lady, there are many; pick one of them, not a Xhosa lady. No,no, I refuse.)
Tlhomandloti strongly refuses to approve Madambi’s marriage to a Xhosa woman. He repeatedly says: •ndza ku ale/a (I refuse you). In the Tsonga tradition, marriage can only be blessed if parents give consent. Madambi is able to marry Soluka, only when his father dies.
Using the dramatic technique, Madambi insists that:
Swa ndzi tikela tatana ku ntshunxa fundzu leri ndzi ri boheke na Soluka. Fundzu leri bohiweke hi ku hlambanya emahlweni ka Xikwembu – hikuva xi kona hinkwako – hi n’wina tatana mi nga hi dyondzisa ku hlambanya ntsena hi ntiyiso, lowu faneleke ku yima tani hi tintshava ni milambu ya ntumbuluko hikuva ntiyiso i wa ntumbuluko, hi tlhelo ntumbuluko i ntiyiso (Mibya ya nyekanyeka:57).
I have tied with Soluka. The knot that has been tied by swearing before God – because He is omnipresent – it is you, father, who taught us to swear only in truth, the truth that should stand like the mountains and rivers of nature because the truth belongs to nature, at the same time nature is truth.)
Obviously, this type of conflict is of external nature. It is brought about by external forces outside Tlhomandloti himself.
Nyiko, who should be the star of the family, is the opposite of his brother. He is obedient and exceptionally neat; but he is not intelligent. He forgets easily and is therefore, a trial to his father. This state of affairs creates external conflict in his father. These factors in his sons create a state of instability, worry and frustration. They also impede his ideal of being a highly respected person on the forefront of his community.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1.1 Aim of study
1.2 The reason for choosing Mtombeni
1.3 Biographical sketch
1.4 Mtombeni and Tsonga literature
1.5 Definition of key terms and literary approaches
1.6 Method of research
1.7 Scope and composition of chapters
2. Thematic patterns
2.1 Definition of theme
2.2 Mtombeni’s techniques of expressing theme
3.2 Kinds of conflict
3.3 The techniques of delineating conflict in Mtombeni’s works
3.4 Conflict in Mtombeni’s novels
3.5 Conflict in Mtombeni’s plays
3.6 Conflict in Mtombeni’s short stories
4.2 The various types of characters
4.3 Techniques of characterization
5. Language and style : Diction
6. Language and style: Other stylistic devices
6.2 Syntactic patterns
6.3 Preambles or introductory paragraphs
6.5 Proverbs and idioms
7. Patterned language in Mtombeni’s plays
7.2 The effects of patterned language in Malangavi ya mbilu
7.3 The extent of Mtombeni’s use of patterned language in his plays
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