Moral education and self-improvement in How to Become Rich and Avoid Poverty and Sozaboy

     How to Become Rich and Avoid Poverty by J.C. Anorue is a didactic text aimed at a male audience that demonstrates the steps one should take in order to achieve self-cultivation. Part religious tract, part self-help book, this text lays out many social and moral conduct codes for the reader. What I noticed while reading Anorue is how Anorue’s text relates to other African narratives of male self-improvement such as Soza-boy and Uzodinma Iweala’s Beasts of No Nation. Both Sozaboy and Beasts are child soldier narratives, and much of the criticism I have read about this genre (which I am researching for my final paper for this class) describes the connections between child soldier narratives and the moral improvement plot and/or educational development narrative. In child soldier narratives such as these, we have narrators on a quest for moral and educational development who end up in the chaos of war.

The narratives of self-improvement and education prevalent in texts like Sozaboy show up in some of the teachings of How to Become Rich. One example is the section on page 27 (56 in Newell) titled “Short Story about Rose Mary.” Anorue states, “This Harlot is Rose Mary and she is known as ‘The one in town’ She is beautiful and educated, but she refused to marry a man. She can marry twenty husbands a day and you can always see her in a private car, along the roads […] Please my dear young men, If you want to become rich and live long life. Beware of Harlots.” In the case of Mene from Sozaboy, he wants to become a soldier so he can become respectable and marry his love interest, presumably so she herself can avoid the reputation and fate of women like Rosemary. This logic leads him down a tragic path into war, and raises questions about the relationship between self- improvement texts such as How to Become Rich and the nation-state. While men such as Mene attempt to conform to the rules laid out by these texts, which will supposedly make them good citizens, these citizens have few options outside of obeying the state’s will. In Sozaboy, the state appears coercive in its attempts to recruit soldiers. All this makes me wonder how texts like Anorue’s function as a way to disseminate the ideology of the state in the service of moral development. I would be interested to hear others’ thoughts on this.

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