socio-political and economic alienation in helon habila’s waiting for an angel

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socio-political and economic alienation in helon habila’s waiting for an angel


Most African writers direct their literary efforts towards the arousal of Socio-political and economic awareness. Marxism, in its pursuit of socio-political change attempts to redefine human existence through class. Alienation, one of the theories of Marxism has been chosen for this research using Helon Habila’s Waiting for an Angel.

The novel has been analyzed by focusing on three features of alienation; social, political and economic alienation. From this work, we found that alienation has oppressed, suppressed and subjected the masses specifically using Poverty Street in Lagos to represent the generality of Nigerians who were oppressed under the dictatorial military regimes during the 1990’s. It has also been discovered that not even the prison should negate the continuity of socio-political and economic struggle. Though alienation has crippled the less privileged, it has also served as an eye opener through which the masses became radical in nature in order to effect a change in the societal system.






Purpose of the study


Scope and Delimitation

Research Methodology

Author’s brief Biography


The concept of Alienation

Political Alienation

Social Alienation

A review of Helon Habila’s Waiting for an Angel




3.0 Introduction

3.1 Social Alienation

3.2 Economic Alienation

3.3 Political Alienation

3.4 Conclusion


4.1 Summary

4.2 Findings

4.3 Conclusion




A general opinion is that literature mirrors the society. The role of literature is more than just to mirror the society. It raises the awareness of both the individual and the society by exposing open or secret truths that people are ignorant of. Literature relates most to the society and in fact, to all aspects of the society be it historical, political, social, geographical, economic, biographical etc. Literature basically aims at effecting a change in the societal status quo. Literature is a liberating force that frees us from the inherent shackles placed upon us by the society.

The social functions of literature include the ability to record and explain personal experiences and the experiences of others, to explain a concept, to inform or educate its readers and to entertain the audience as in the case of drama and performance. Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary (2000,p.692) defines literature as pieces of writing that are valued as works of art, especially novels, plays and poems. The primitive level of literature was in the oral form before the advent of the art of writing. With the development of writing came the preservation of literature in notable forms. Written literature, can therefore be seen as the embodiment of literature in written form either handwritten or printed.

Literature attempts the depiction of man and his environments within a creative mode. Creative imagination and the use of a specialized form of communication medium-language and style makes literature different from all other disciplines. Literature draws strength from actual life. Literature deals with the joys, sorrows, poverty and above all, death which man is subjected to. Literature, like all other art forms, draws on human experience and tries to reflect the same and communicate it back to man in an ordered and artistic form.

The literature of a specific community is defined as the sum total of all works of imagination either in oral or written form which have helped to project and reflect the life and culture of that community in the three important areas of narrative fiction, drama and poetry. In most African communities, the restoration of a collective conscious sensitivity is the major concern of the Nigerian writers.

Fiction is the assemblage of a number of short stories that are meant as indicators of the authors life experiences and his practical analysis of man’s behaviour. The aim of the author is communication and the revelation of many messages using majorly combined adjectives in order to give exact description of situations.

The motivation for the topic centers on the fact that socio-political and economic alienation still thrives even in our present society. The general public must rise up against all forms of socio-political and economic alienation. This research shall pre-occupy itself with a salient message which is Socio-Political and Economic Alienation in Helon Habila’s Waiting for an Angel.


The purpose of the study is to critically examine the socio-political and economic alienation in the novel which the novelist tries to pass across to the assumed audience.

To be a means of sensitizing, creating awareness, informing and instructing the assumed audience of what is happening in the present society.

The research will be significant to students of literature and readers of literary texts.


Man everywhere shows an avid interest in his antecedents and history panders to this sentiment considerably. History is said to inhabit the space between apprehension and comprehension. While it evokes the actuality of Nigerian history, this research seeks to provide an insight as well as analyze the socio-political and economic trends that characterized the military days of Nigeria’s recent past.

Furthermore, it will serve as a guide to future researchers and correct the erroneous belief of people who see literary texts only as a means of refreshment and as a source of entertainment.


The study shall be limited to Helon Habila’s Waiting for an Angel. We shall examine the characters and their experiences and how we see a society that needs restoration. The indepth study will be based on the Socio-Political and Economic Alienation in Helon Habila’s Waiting for an Angel.


The approach in this study will be an application of Marxist theory. ‘Alienation’, one of the Marxist theories, has been chosen for this research. To be specific, socio-political and economic alienation have also been chosen for this research work. This approach considers and uses literature as a weapon that can be used for the liberation of the less privileged, masses and the down-trodden who have been relegated in the society. The Marxist approach is a modern approach where dialectic materialism is emphasized. When literature began to be recognized as a weapon for social change, Karl Marx, a nineteenth century political thinker brought about the Marxist approach as a struggle of the individual economic and political power. In its pursuit of socio-political change, Marxism attempts to redefine human existence through class.


Helon Habila was born in 1967 to a Christian Tangale family in Kaltungo, Gombe State, in the northern middle belt region of Nigeria. Habilia completed his primary and secondary education in the city of Gombe. Habila describes the very first influences on his own storytelling ability noting that his first encounter with fiction was oral, not textual. However, after learning English at around age seven, he never stopped reading.

Poet and prose fiction writer, Helon Habila studied literature at the University of Jos and lectured for three years at the Federal Polytechnic, Bauchi before going to Lagos to write for hints magazine. Extracts from his collection of short stories were published in Nigeria in 2000. The full text was published as a novel in the UK under the title Waiting for an Angel in 2002 and received a common wealth writer’s prize (Africa Region, Best First Book) in 2003. Also, in 2002, he moved to England to become a writing fellow at the University of East Anglia. Helon Habila also won the Muson poetry prize in 2000 and was the arts editor of the Vanguard Newspaper. He is currently teaching creative writing at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia where he lives. His second novel Measuring Time, the tale of twin brothers living in a Nigerian village, was published in 2007 and his latest novel is Oil on Water (2010).

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