Frustration Frustrated: A Critique of Frustration
By Abiodun Felix Taiwo
The short story genre presents a unique experience and characteristics. Its lack of robust space and characterisation implies that the writer must be cryptic, smart, and pungent with language to make sense.
Within the limited space, however, the short story must present a fully realised experience akin to literary discourse.
This is achieved in Frustration by Taiwo who craftily navigates the social space with a depth of realism.
It is given that water is a natural gift, yet a gift that still eludes many third-world societies. The reasons for this lack and inefficiency must not be re-emphasised.
However, this lack has brought opportunities to the discourse environment, especially in this short story collection. In “What Happened at the Water Pump”, Taiwo delineates the experiences of Alani and the yet-to-be-named narrator in between whom is Tola, the mediator, and arbiter.
The scramble for water ignites a fight, but why, in the first place, should there be such a scramble and fight? Again, why should there be a fight over who should fetch water first when in an actual sense ‘nobody’ owns the water pump?
The answer to these posers is found in the common sense role of Tola who represents a bridge, arbitration, and friendship. She achieves this by frustrating the frustration that characterises Alani and his eventual friend at the water pump.
In place of this frustration, she establishes a bond, and having discovered their hideout, she teases them: “So this is where you guys come to hang out, right? What are you up to? …
Tola seemed particularly pleased that I and Alani had grown to become friends”.
The friendship, unity, bond, and camaraderie which have been achieved at the water pump are frustrated in the next story. Adio, our now-known narrator secures admission to the Big City to study at the University of Lagos. Such news should be cheery, celebrated, and embraced.
However, his inability to be transparent with his friends leads to another frustration, disunity, and separation. He is frustrated for not informing them of his intention to apply to the University in the first place; they are unturn frustrated because he did not do so.
Returning to the symbolic “Unity Square”, the water pump, Adio tells his friends of the supposed good news. But the disunity that occurs after his altercation with them is, in fact, the way forward for him since it will enable him to concentrate on his studies and to think less of them.
Such departure is a blessing in its real sense because the university will require full attention devoid of the emotional attachment of friends which will result in failure.
“Heart Break at the Water Pump” presents nothing more than a revelation of the true nature of Alani which is envy. Adio’s admission to the University and Tola’s quest to relocate to Lagos are interpreted as preplanned. After all, he has suspected the two to be in a secret affair.
Alani’s reaction is escapist, retrogressive, pure envy, and a justification for laziness, however. Again, it shows how one’s progress can be a source of frustration for another.
Treachery, sabotage, and their kinds are ingredients of envy, jealousy, and malevolence. These are fully realised in “Treacherous Sabotage”. In summary, Alani represents these evil dispositions. He, like most of what we have around the world today, is the reason for backwardness, frustration, and stunted growth.
Alani is a symbol of destruction, corruption, and moral bankruptcy. He is not only treacherous, but also barbaric, retrogressive, and uncultured. His action nips the expectations and aspirations of Adio in the bud. He has ruined Adio’s future, hopes, and by extension, the future of generations unborn. Indeed he is frustration frustrated.
In the section entitled “A Lesson”, the three stories are presented in the form of a trilogy that focuses on the polemics of religion and politics. The bishop and governor represent this interface. Their undefined roles are symptomatic of a society that cannot delineate between politics and religion. Their famous clashes are representative of the clash of ignorance, mischief, and a trap for the unsuspecting populace.
“A Tale of Failure” features the tragedy of lack of concentration, entitlement mentality, and the dearth of foresight. Emmanuel represents failure and bitterness. He is the direct opposite of Johnson who represents hard work and joy. The stories are serialised in a sequence that reveals Emmanuel’s symbolic sadness, sorrow, and regret.
In all, the three divisions, though separated, are united in one thing: frustration. Yet, they speak of frustration as an ingredient for rejuvenation, regeneration, and progress, even when it involves tragedy. Taiwo has achieved so much in the collection and has added to the literary world, another space for literary discourse. The central goal of a literary work is to present the triumph of good over evil, light over darkness, and justice over injustice. That has been achieved in this literary endeavour.