The Theme of Powerlessness, Meaninglessness and Normlessness as Reflected in Dinaw Mengestu’s Trilogy

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Tsegaberhan Wodaj Ambaye


This study focuses on the themes of alienation in the three fictional works of Dinaw Mengestu; “The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears” (2007), “How to Read the Air” (2010), and “All Our Names” (2014). This research aims to investigate specifically the causes of powerlessness, meaninglessness, and normlessness forms of alienation that enumerates by extracting the fundamental concern that human being faces in the course of immigration. This study deals with the major concerns and matters of the immigrants’ causes and reactions of alienation regardless of the reasons of their exodus. The main reason for focusing on the concept of alienation in the selected novels is that this area of literary theme has not been given enough attention to be studied comprehensively in the context of African (Ethiopians) immigrants’ life. Besides, no other Ethiopian literary work has portrayed these themes of meaninglessness, normlessness, and powerlessness of better than the selected three novels which have dealt with the pain and sufferings of alienation in the lives of the. This study tried to explore the immigrants ‘sense of alienation in the hosting country and in the process of immigration where life as an immigrant was unbearable, forcing them to try towards the process of economic. An attempt is made to explore the multiple dimensions of alienation and the alienating factors based on Melvin Seeman’s aspects of alienation: powerlessness, normlessness and meaninglessness. The selected three literary immigrant novels reveal the feelings of alienation as a central thematic preoccupation. The researcher has used textual analysis to explore the selected literary works and captured the portrayal of alienation of the African immigrants which allows us the understanding, processing, and witnessing of human suffering.

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