Socialist realism, a slogan adopted by the Soviet cultural authorities in 1934 to summarize the requirements of Stalinist dogma in literature: the established techniques of 19th‐century realism were to be used to represent the struggle for socialism in a positive, optimistic light. Socialist realism had its roots in neoclassicism and the traditions of realism in Russian literature of the 19th century that described the life of simple people. Socialist realism held that successful art depicts and glorifies the proletariat's struggle toward socialist progress. It demands of the artist the truthful, historically concrete representation of reality in its revolutionary development. Moreover, the truthfulness and historical concreteness of the artistic representation of reality must be linked with the task of ideological transformation and education of workers in the spirit of socialism. Hence, this paper gives a critical presentation of what socialist realism is using Ngugi Wa Thiongo’s I Will Marry When I Want and Festus Iyayi’s Violence as a case study. The texts have their historical and fictional settings in Kenya and Nigeria respectively.
The Marxist theory, upon which the socialist realist literature set their canon, is that which is characterized with class stratification and struggle. Therefore we see two categories of characters; the Ahab Kioi wa Kanoru, Jezebel, and the Kiguunda, Gicaamba, Wangeci, Njooki in I Will Marry When I Want and Obofun, Queen and Idemudia, Adisa, Osaro, Omoifo, Mama Jimoh, in Violence they both portray the bourgeoisies and the proletariats respectively. Based on the Marxist theory, that states: let the rulers tremble at the communist revolution.
The poor has nothing to loose, but there chains.
There have a world to win.
Working men of all countries, unite!
The texts gave a truth and faithful presentation where the working class organizes liberation activities, in the examples below from the texts respectively. Gicaamba says;
One man’s ability is not enough
One finger cannot kill a louse,
Many hands make work light
Development will come from our unity
Unity is our strength and wealth (115).
Similarly, Idemudia revolt and protest against their low wage for their labour, paid by Queen. He says;
We cannot accept the money. We want an increase
on a daily basis! We go on strike (267).
The texts go on to give a detail account of critical conditions of the lives of the characters. In I will marry when I want, Ngugi gave a vivid history of the lives of the Kenyan before in the attainment of the Uhuru (independence), Kiguunda says;
The emergency laws became very oppressive
We were jailed
…to detention camps
…raped with bottles
But Mau Mau led by Kimaathi and Matheenge
…organized unity of the masses
We beat the whites
And freedom came (27).
Likewise in Violence, Iyayi depicts Idemudia and Adisa’s abject poverty by
The kerosene was finished in the kerosene stove. There was no
food in the house. And both of them are hungry… (14). The condition of his and his friends made them to compare their living to that of the rich (Queen and Obofun)
One man has enough to eat, in fact so much that he throws some away And exclaimed; “It’s so unfair” (20).
Further depicted in these texts respectively, is the denial of access to social amenities and the unequal social relationship between the two groups of people in the society. The poor are deprived of right to live a better life while is been enjoyed by them (bourgeoisies) only, Gicaamba says;
All the good tarmac roads…
Good hospitals belong to them
…we the poor
Have only dispensaries at Tigoni or Kiambu
Sometimes the dispensaries have no drugs,
Sometimes people die on the way… (38).
When Adisa to Idemudia to the University Teaching Hospital, she was told by the doctor that “there’s...