The Famished Road by Ben Okri: Chapter One and Two Analysis

The first paragraph begins with a creation story. The fact that the writer begins with a creation story depicts an idea he is imprinting in the reader’s mind. In most mythical stories, there is always a creation story. The Famished Road is Okri’s great attempt to write another mythical story. Best of all is that unlike all the other mythical stories, it is explicit and tells the tale through the eyes of the protagonist.

The world of the spirit children signifies a paradise. This is why every time, they long to go back. Okri also brings in the mythical belief about spirit children. Spirit children are believed to die during infancy or later on in their lives. This is why

We were often recognised and our flesh marked with razor incisions. When we were born again to the same parents the marks lingering on our new flesh, branded our souls in advance… Those of us who died while till children tried to erase these marks, by making beauty spots or interesting discolorations of them. If we didnt succed, and were recognised, we were greeted with howls of dread, and the weeping of mothers.

The Famished Road – Page 4

Simply because of the pain, they bring along, most mothers pray to not have them. However, Okri introduces a protagonist who longs to stay despite all odds.

Azaro’s decision to stay

Perhaps one of the most intriguing parts of the story is this. Azaro’s decision to stay back on earth was simply because he was tired of dying and meeting a new family all over again. In all sincerity, Azaro’s decision to be born was not his. However, he is willing to fight to make sure he does not die again. The fact that he is willing to stay despite all the odds reveals a survival instinct. As the story progresses, Azaro faces the most horrible challenges. However, his survival instincts kick in almost all the time. He is also interested in understanding the ordinariness of human life as well as it’s peculiarities

Chapter Two

As a reward for his decision, we find Azaro witnessing several incidences. Okri reveals how Azaro constantly hallucinates. This is quite explainable considering that he co-exists in both worlds. In this chapter, we see that Azaro is indeed not an ordinary child. During the period he falls ill, he tries to plead for survival. In this fit, he dies. However, Azaro calls out to their king who intercedes on his behalf. This signifies the concept of fate and will. This theme is common amongst playwrights like Shakespeare and Sophocles. In Sophocles plays, the character despite having the will eventually succumb to fate. This is contrary to Shakespeare’s plays. Okri employs the concept of fate and will in this chapter. Azaro’s fate is death but he conquers this with his will to survive. By crying out to the king, Azaro has changed the binding rules of fate.

There is an allusion to the Bible in the resurrection of Azaro. Regardless of the fact that his parents are not religious people, his mother gives him the name Lazarus. Interestingly, despite the social construct on religion which attracted the name, his mother changes it to Azaro. The reason being that he becomes ”a subject of much jest.” Interestingly, this depicts a withdrawal from the westernized religion and an acceptance of a new kind of belief; the improvised belief.

Azaro, still connected to the spirit world, can predict several happenings. We get to know Azaro’s setting. It is an extremely poor society. In addition, people believed in the supernatural as a way to take their minds off their current status. A fire destroys their rented home. There is the depiction of oppression in the society as the landlord arrests his tenants. The happenings after this reveal the chaotic society Azaro finds himself in.

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