'Postcolonial Triangles': An Analysis of Masculinity and Homosocial Desire in Achebe's A Man of the People and Greene's The Quiet American

Beth Ellen Kramer


The love triangle, claims Eve Sedgwick in Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire, is useful "as a figure by which the "commonsense" of our intellectual tradition schematizes erotic relations, and because it allows us to condense in a juxtaposition with that folk-perception several somewhat different streams of recent thought" (Sedgwick, 21). There has been minimal work done, however, on the integration of Sedgwick's view of triangulated desire into studies of postcolonial representation. Many scholars only address the similarities between imperial oppression of the colonized land and masculine dominance of the female body, and thereby ignore the homosocial bonds that emerge in this structure. In my discussion, I will explore two postcolonial works whose plots contain triangulated desire, Graham Greene's The Quiet American and Chinua Achebe's A Man of the People. Although these works present different views of the postcolonial situation, both novels use the triangulated model of desire to create gender hierarchies. By integrating Girard and Sedgwick's theories into my reading of the two works, I will show how each author uses the triangulated model to promote an image of patriarchy and masculinity which matches that of Great Britain during the First and Second World Wars. Within this study, I will analyze how the structure of triangulated desire can represent the inherent power disjunction in the master/slave relationship; I will also relate the placement of the female object in the triangle to the idea of the subaltern and to the actual placement of women in both Western and Third World Countries after the Second World War. My talk with ultimately address how the triangulated model of desire both confronts and denies the realities of postcolonial power.

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