Courage in the Time of Harmattan by Ugochukwu Udorji
In Courage in the Time of Harmattan by Ugochukwu Udorji we have the theme of conflict, letting go, ego and paralysis. Narrated in the second person by an unnamed narrator the reader realizes after reading the story that Udorji may be exploring the theme of conflict. The young boy finds himself in conflict with Chike over a piece of fruit. Which he has claimed as his own after knocking it down with the stone. The stone itself may be important as it in many ways acts as foreshadowing for the continued conflict in the story. This occurs when the boy gets entangled with Ebube over Ebube hitting the boy’s wheelbarrow. Rather than letting it go the boy fights Ebube. This may be significant as the boy is following his father’s instructions rather than letting the incident go. In reality there is no need for him to fight Ebube. Which may leave some readers suggesting that the boy is acting in a manner that is inappropriate.
A simple misunderstanding has led the boy to conflict. A conflict he did not need to engage with. It is difficult for the reader to have sympathy for the boy when it is clear that the boy could have avoided any type of conflict. He allowed for his feelings towards Ebube to override any sense of logic. The incident may or may not have been a mistake but there was no need for the boy to engage violently with Ebube. Who ultimately wins the fight? If anything the boy is allowing for a memory of his encounter with Chike and the words previously spoken to him by his father when he was younger to dictate his actions. This may suggest that the boy has not grown and in many ways remains paralyzed.
This is something that the reader feels is not realized by the boy. Who may consider his father’s words to be outdated only because he has lost the fight with Chike and feels humiliated by the children who have watched the fight. Without knowing it the boy has put the spotlight on himself when there was no need to. He has allowed for his ego, stemming from the encounter with Chike, to overpower him. If anything the boy has turned from a victim into somewhat of a bully even if Ebube has deliberately pushed his wheelbarrow. The boy may also consider the memory of Chike to be predominant in his mind considering that he was so young when it happened and remains young. Unfortunately as readers we do not see any development within the boy. We have two incidents to relate to. When the boy was younger and one several years later but still young. We have very little to go on apart from what Udorji has offered the reader. Which may be Udorji’s point. He may be deliberately highlighting the lack of real growth when it comes to the boy.
The end of the story is interesting as the boy has to taste his own blood. It is this that allows for the boy to reflect on things and question his father’s words. Though it is difficult for an individual to walkaway should they encounter the same circumstances as the boy? Udorji may be suggesting that when it comes to conflict. It is better to walk away rather than to engage. To think of other things (Ebube’s mother’s soup). It is also possible that the boy’s father’s advice is inappropriate. He appears to promote violence but it has taken the encounter with Ebube for the boy to question this. Perhaps the boy is not as paralysed as the reader might of thought. Maybe he will be able to let go of events that have previously dictated the course of action he takes when encountering hostility or conflict. However the fact that the boy does not regret his actions suggests he has learned nothing and is sure to repeat his mistakes.