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ENGL 367: British Drama Colonial Encounters: Tales of a Fantasized Return to Africa in the Wake of Diaspora: A Close Look at The Dilemma of a Ghost By Amy Storti


The dilemma tale functions in The Dilemma of a Ghost as a way to resolve the conflict between Africans and African Americans created by diaspora by overcoming the lack of ancestral roots of African Americans.

Primary Source

(Image Credit: Amy Storti)

The Dilemma of a Ghost by Ama Ata Aidoo is a play about Ato Yawson a Ghanian man that goes to school in America and returns to his family with an African American bride, Eulalie. Ato’s traditional african family conflicts with Eulalie’s modern american way of life as he is torn between them. The conflict between Eulalie and Ato’s family, largely his mother Esi Kom, symbolizes the conflict between Africans and African Americans in culture in the effects of the African diaspora.

About the Researcher

(Image Credit: Amy Storti)

Amy Storti is a junior at Wells College pursuing a degree in English Literature. She also writes for her local Her Campus chapter at Wells.

African Dilemma Tales

A dilemma tale in African culture is typically an oral tale with a morally ambiguous ending which the audience traditionally draws a conclusion from. A dilemma tale is often followed by discussion from the audience as they debate who was ‘just’ or ‘right’ in the very ambiguous story. This traditional format for stories is often used as a method to deliver moral teachings.

Secondary Sources

Al-Khafaji, Ammar Shamil Kadhim. “Australia Ama Ata Aidoo’s Diagnose and Representation of the Dilemma of the African American Diaspora in Her Play ‘Dilemma of a Ghost.’” Advances in Language and Literary Studies, vol. 9, no. 1, Feb. 2018, pp. 136–140.

Al-Khafaji is an English Literature lecturer at the University of Baghdad. In his essay, Al-Khafaji establishes The Dilemma of a Ghost as an African dilemma tale and defines the term. Al-Khafaji also gives some insight into Akan culture as presented in the play and how that affects the dynamic between African and African Americans within the play.

Wilentz, Gay. “Toward a Diaspora Literature: Black Women Writers from Africa, the Caribbean, and the United States.” College English, vol. 54, no. 4, 1992, pp. 385–405.

This source deals with specifically the role of black women in the effects of the African diaspora. It also defines diaspora literature and discusses the cultural conflict between African and African Americans.

Williams, Piper Kendrix. “The Impossibility of Return: Black Women's Migrations to Africa.” Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies, vol. 27, no. 2, 2006, pp. 54–86.

Williams’ essay here focuses on African American women in literature that attempted to return to Africa. These women were often in search of an idealized identity or sense of belonging in African culture.

African Diaspora

(Image Credit: Wikipedia)

African Diaspora refers to the mass dispersion of African peoples in the Americas and Carribean due to the transatlantic slave trade which was active from the 1500s to the 1800s. Millions of people were affected by this forced migration and many of their descendants remain in the americas as a result.

Historical Context: Malcolm X

(Image Credit: Russell Mondy)

Leaders like Malcolm X advocated for black americans to form their own nation within American before returning to Africa and reassimilating into African culture. Malcolm X changed his last name to ‘X’ because his former last name was given to his ancestors by their slave master. This also signifies that the ancestral history of African Americans begins and ends with the legacy of slavery.

Related Resources

Bascom, William Russell. African Dilemma Tales. De Gruyter Mouton, 1975.

African Dilemma Tales is a book that contains examples, and hundreds of variations of these examples, of African dilemma tales. Bascom also defines what a dilemma tale is and the function it serves in African culture.

Black Panther. Directed by Ryan Coogler, Marvel Studios, 2018.

Black Panther is a 2018 movie directed by Ryan Coogler based off the Marvel comic of the same name. In the 2018 film, the protagonist, T’Challa, conflicts with his lost cousin, Killmonger, who was born in America, severed from his African roots. The conflict between T’Challa and Killmonger symbolizes the conflict between Africans and African American in culture in the effects of the African diaspora.