Not a scintilla of light: Darkness and despondency in Yvonne Vera’s Butterfly Burning


  • Chioma Opora Rivers State University of Science and Technology, Port Harcourt, Nigeria



absurd, identity, quest, waiting


The paper makes an attempt at exploring the concept of the absurd as it applies to Yvonne Vera’s Butterfly Burning. The inordinate quest for survival and human dignity is graphically etched on the sordid canvas of angst, grime and abject poverty. The author deftly links this quest with the quest of identity which is manifested in a stream of endless waiting. The world of the novel is patently portrayed as irrational. The absurd is depicted, in the vein of Camus, as the function of the conflict between the irrational world and the human being’s passionate desires. The grossly traumatised and colonised humanity in Makokoba, a microcosm of Southern Africa, represents a scathing human condition. The female protagonist Phephelaphi is cast as an emblem of a subjugated and struggling African person seeking an identity as well as self-fulfilment. Phephelaphi, as a matter of course, bears the Sisyphean burden which remains unmitigated for the stone continuously rolls to the foot of the hill. This futile, endless and laborious feat which is symptomatic of the individual’s relentless struggles on earth echoes the absurd in an irrational milieu. This is inextricably linked with an indomitable and immortal time against which African men, women and children contend as they are kept waiting in stark futility.


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How to Cite

Opora, C. (2008). Not a scintilla of light: Darkness and despondency in Yvonne Vera’s Butterfly Burning. Tydskrif Vir Letterkunde, 45(2), 124–132.



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