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A Pip Into The Gulag: A Comparative Study of Incarceration In Alex La Guma’s The Stone Country And Zeleza’s Smouldering Charcoal

Victor Oijagbe Ogbeide


This paper is a comparative study of incarceration in two African novels. The concept of the modern prison as a form of deterrence and rehabilitation can be traced to 18th century Europe. With the passage of time however, many authoritarian leaders have come to regard prison houses as veritable places to forcibly confine their political opponents in their bid to desperately remove them from the socio-political space. Apart from a few criminals in the two novels many of the prisoners are prisoners of conscience. Ironically, as observed in the two works, while the unforgiving circumstance in the prison and the brutality of the prison guards have conspired to deepen the depravity of the criminal elements in the prison, the political prisoners have become even tougher in their conviction to fight the evil regimes that confine them there. The paper contends that rehabilitation and deterrence can hardly take place for the genuine criminals in the two novels because these items  seem to have vanished from the administrative guidelines of the prison officials. The way forward therefore, the paper concludes, lies in good governance which will not only prevent the need for political repression or imprisonment but also see prison as a genuine instrument of reform.


Prison; incarceration; rehabilitation; criminals; conscience; political consciousness

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