Short Story Analysis: Walking the World As Tutuola’s Complete Gentleman

When Amos Tutuola’s “The Complete Gentleman” closes, the Nigerian folklorist had taken the reader on an adventure into a mysterious world with talking skulls and juju magic to save a captured young lady. As with so much other “weird” fiction, readers had journeyed to discover a world that is so hard to truly define that even the genre’s masters have a hard time qualifying it. For their The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories, Ann and Jeff Vandermeer quote the genre’s grandfather H.P. Lovecraft’s definition that the weird “represents the pursuit of some indefinable and perhaps maddeningly unreachable understanding of the world beyond the mundane” (VanderMeer xv). In The Complete Gentleman, however, it is the reader’s pursuit of the world that takes center stage, and Tutuola is able to navigate them through the story’s mysterious, supernatural world by providing a capable, magical protagonist that can transform it into new shapes so its substance and lesson may be laid bare.

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