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The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born: Book Review

Book name: The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born

Author: Ayi Kwei Armah

The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born by Ayi Kwei Armah is a novel that focuses on the immorality that led to the political upheaval and unrest in Ghana in the 1960s, before the fall of Kwame Nkrumah, the country’s first president. The author concentrates on the life of an unnamed protagonist, an unnamed man who works at a railroad station and acts as narrator. This narrator experiences hardship because of his moral values. A scene that sets the mood of the book is when the “man” is approached by an unknown individual in the railway station who needs assistance, the unknown individual came after hours purposefully- for he clearly understood his actions. When the man informs him he cannot assist him as he is not responsible for the services he needs and must return tomorrow during working hours as the responsible clerk will be available, the unknown individual gets frustrated and angry, especially at the fact that he does not want to take his bribe to fasten things up.

The man finds himself in a tug of war, with one side being of the clear moral decay- where men who were loathing the practices of the oppressors, are now using the same tactics they loathed, with the other side being one which is occupied by very few, the path of ethics and morality. The man narrates his day to his wife, how he was offered a bribe at work, to his amazement he receives more backlash from his wife as she asks why he did not accept it because everyone is doing it. The entire Ghanaian society is so engulfed in the corruption quagmire that only the corrupt are celebrated. The novel reveals that corruption is the bane of most countries.

Characters 

  • The man: The man is nameless throughout the book, he works at a railroad station, he is the husband to Oyo and they have two little kids. The man struggles to fathom the corruption landscape in Ghana, he constantly battles with ethics, he receives pressure from both his wife and mother, with the wife frustrated by their economic state, and constantly comparing him to his high school friend Komsoon who is a minister, and further he receives pressure and insults from his mother inlaw who constantly regards his as a loser and failure. The man, who acts as the book’s narrator, represents the honest members of society in Ghana. Armah uses him as the main character to depict what the life of the ordinary Ghanaian citizen looks like
  • Oyo: The wife of “The Man” loathes the financial state and quality of life they are leading, she longs and fancies the life led by the Komsoons, the fancy life, the life of glitters. Oyo is the man’s wife. She admires wealth, regardless of how it was gained. She represents those poorer Ghanaians who have no problem with corruption or ill-gotten wealth when they consider their current situation. She always blames her husband for her suffering.
  • Komsoon: A political leader (corrupt minister) who is doing what every leader seems to be doing in the government- corruption, and he finds himself fleeing from law enforcement later on in the book when they are after the corrupt leadership. Koomson is Nkrumah’s socialist minister and the man’s former classmate. He represents the corrupt and selfish political system. He lives in comfort with his wife, Estella, and forgets about the plight of the poor
  • Estella Komsoon: the wife of Komsoon, a political leader, she’s presented as a woman of class, she loves and appreciates all the fine things that come with money, regardless of the manner in which it has been acquired.
  • The teacher: is a middle-aged man full of wisdom who has given up on life and sees no hope for Ghana, he has lived long enough to understand the demeanor of people when they get into public office. He represents the citizens who think life will change after the colonizers leave, only to be disappointed. He is also the man’s friend, and they occasionally discuss Ghana’s political situation. the man draws from the wealth of knowledge the man possesses.

Review by Tokelo Hlagala