Hybridity in Ezekiel Mphahlele's Down Second Avenue
The criticism that Mphahlele's awareness of his being a "hybrid' person imparts an inability to his being able to "write his story himself " is a criticism contrived out of literal derivations of the Greek components of the word "autobiography". The textual landscape of Down Second Avenue includes many varied and detailed arenas, the rural setting and its many dimensions, the city and its many dimensions. In the sense that autobiography is part of the genre of biography in the postclassical European tradition, that being the life accounts of saints and princes, the criticism is perhaps true to some extent. However, in the aspect of the autobiography being a search for identity and hybridity being the essence of Down Second Avenue, it is hybridity per se that is the author's story.
A genre is works classified in terms of shared characteristics. 1 In studying the advent of autobiography as a genre in its own right, it would seem to be a particularly modern form of literature, a hybrid form of biography. Also, the distinctions between the forms of the biography, personal history or diary and novel are becoming questioned in that the autobiography is not an account of wisdom accumulated in a lifetime but a defining of identity. 2
The word "hybrid" is usually used in conjunction with genetic analysis of plants. A hybrid in its biological context is sometimes a sterile offshoot. Hybrid can be defined as "mixed ancestry" As a word; "hybrid" carries denotations of the physical as well as the metaphysical. In Down second Avenue, Mphahlele examines both a hybrid society, that being South Africa 1930- 50 as well as its composite sub-societies, extensively hybrid within themselves. Mphahlele's awareness of having a mixed ancestry is rooted in more than one dichotomy. His rural identity is opposed to his urban identity, his vocation as a teacher/academic is opposed to his employment as a messenger boy, his...
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