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Thursday, September 21, 2023

Language and Style in “Unexpected Joy at Dawn” by Agyei–Agyiri

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This post is a detailed analysis of Agyei-Agyiri’s novel titled “Unexpected Joy at Dawn.

Here, you will find out the Language, style and techniques as well as the figurative devices used in Unexpected Joy at Dawn.

First, what are Language, Style and Techniques?

In a simple definition, these are literary/ creative elements that a writer uses to put his train of thoughts together in a written or oral version.

Usually, a writer is defined by his own style. For instance, the English’s Shakespeare and Africa’s Soyinka are celebrated for their creative purpose, originality, authentic style and contributions to the literary world.

Ageyi-Agyiri is not an exemption. In Unexpected Joy at Dawn, we see the creative use of language and style.

The author expresses his opinion about certain issues through his self-invented characters.

The question now is, what are those literary elements that culminate in the creative writing of Unexpected Joy at Dawn?

Well, you are a few scrolls closer to the answer. If you are really keen on understanding the creative use of language and style in Unexpected Joy at Dawn, you have no option but to read this article to the end.

Let’s get started!

Language Used in Unexpected Joy at Dawn

Generally, the language used in Unexpected Joy at Dawn is very simple and comprehensible. The writer makes use of words, phrases and sentences we use in everyday conversation.

This makes the story very enjoyable and relatable to the educated and average reader that may come across the novel.

After a close reading, we realise that the novelist adopts a creative style of writing so that the language used in Unexpected Joy at Dawn is directly proportional to the characters’ literacy level or social class.

In other words, the language used by the characters to dialogue suits their educational status. For instance, some of the characters speaks standard English while some communicates in pidgin.

For example, Idem uses pidgin in page 50: “Omo Ghana no go go ooo.” The bank manager of Expense Bank speaks standard English and in fact uses epigram: “Caution is the first order of security.”

We also see the use of indigenous words, phrases and proverbs in Unexpected Joy at Dawn. These include Danfo (commercial bus in Lagos), Aplanke (commercial bus conductors in Lagos), Ekaaro (“good morning” in Yoruba).

From the foregoing, we see that those statements are used by different people in the novel. It is also worthy of note that they do not have an equal educational background.

Again, we understand that the novelist deliberately uses indigenous words and phrases in Unexpected Joy at Dawn to mark the cultural identity of the characters, and by extension Africanise the novel.

The significance of this linguistic approach by the novel highlights one this, and that is the plausibility of the novel which also makes the subject matter relatable to the reader.

That explained, we are going to take this discussion a little further by explaining some of the figurative devices used by Agyei-Agyiri in Uexpected Joy at Dawn.

It is important to identify the figurative devices used in Unexpected Joy at Dawn because they are the items that form the style and techniques deployed by the author.

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The meat of the matter now is, what are the literary elements used in the novel? Keep reading, you will find them just below.

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Styles and Techniques Used in Unexpected Joy at Dawn

The style and techniques used in Unexpected Joy at Dawn include but are not limited to Epigram, Irony, Mistaken Identity, Humour, Personification, Metaphor, Forshadowing and Paradox.

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However, for better understanding, let’s explain them one after the other.

1. Epigram

Epigram can simply be referred to as a short witty saying. This could be a phrase, clause or sentence that is commonly used by people to convey ideas or thoughts with secondary meaning.

In the novel, the writer deploys epigram as a style and techniques of putting the characters’ thoughts into words.

For example, when the clerk and the driver of Expense Bank conveys money without taking necessary security measures, the Manager frowns and corrects them by saying “caution is the first order of security.” Page 60

Another use of epigram as style in Unexpected Joy at Dawn is “We keep our heads because we know where to plant our feet.”

2. Use of Irony in Unexpected Joy at Dawn

Agyei-Agyiri makes good use of irony in Unexpected Joy at Dawn. This literary element highlights the opposite of what is meant or expected either in words or by the actions of the characters.

Unexpected Joy at Dawn is replete with many ironies that keep the chain of events in the novel running. Here, we are going to discuss the use of situational irony and dramatic irony in the narrative.

  • Situational Irony in Unexpected Joy at Dawn

The novelist deploys many situational ironies in the novel. This means that there are situations whereby the direct opposite of the reader or the characters expect happens.

Interestingly, the sections where this form of irony plays out in Unexpected Joy at Dawn carry secondary meaning. In many cases, they turn out to be a form of satire on a particular person or act.

In part 1, for example, situational irony plays out when Massa dies after Nii has spent so much for her treatment. Much more so, she dies on the day she visits the healer’s place for recovery.

Naturally, both Nii and the reader hopes that Massa will recover from her illness one day. In fact, we were filled with much hope when she visits the healers place. But in the end, the opposite happens, and Massa dies.

Another example of situational irony plays out in the novel when Mama Ojoro travels to visit Nii in his bank at Ghana. What happens? Both of them missed each other in the same bank hall.

It is also funny how Nii runs away from her sister whom he is looking for.

  • Dramatic Irony in Unexpected Joy at Dawn

When we say dramatic irony, we mean a situation whereby a reader is aware of an event in a novel/play which a character in the novel is not aware of. In this case, the reader is a step ahead of the character in the novel.

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A very good example of dramatic irony in the novel is when Nii works in her sister’s site for two days without pay.

We understand that is could not have happened in the first place if Nii knows that he is actually working in his sister’s site or vice versa.

Given the above examples, we can conclude that author uses irony in Unexpected Joy at Dawn enormously.

3. Mistaken Identity

Mistaken Identity is another style used in Unexpected Joy at Dawn.

This technique plays out when Mama Ojoro and Nii couldn’t identify each other in the novel. It is funny how they missed each other after much effort they put in reuniting themselves.

For instance, if not for mistaken identity, Nii would not run away from his sister, neither would she mistake her brother for a robber.

Also, mistaken identity causes Nii to work in his sister’s site for two days without pay.

4. Humour

Given the above circumstances as seen in the novel, the reader is made to laugh at the folly of the characters— Nii and Mama Ojoro.

Indeed, it is brilliant of the author to have described the unfortunate scenario of character mix up and mistaken identity as discussed above in a light tone.

Thereby lightening up the mood of the reader after seeing the miserable condition of Nii and his family.

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5. Personification

To a large extent, Agyei-Agyiri uses personification as a style of creative writing in Unexpected Joy at Dawn. Inside, he gives human attributes to inanimate objects.

Here are some examples of personification in Unexpected Joy at Dawn:

  • …the day getting old
  • The dust played game with the wind
  • The fire was running towards the far side of the hill
  • The door moved backwards.

6. Metaphor

Additionally, the writer makes use of metaphorical sentences to describe certain characters, objects or events in Unexpected Joy at Dawn.

Let’s examine some examples as fleshed out in the novel below:

  • This is a nation on wheels
  • He was still a tree stump
  • Universities are museums in pieces

Those are some of the metaphors in Unexpected Joy at Dawn.

7. Symbolism

To an extent, the author uses symbolism in Unexpected Joy at Dawn. For instance, some characters and events used to represent certain ideas other than their literal meaning.

A very good of symbolism in the novel is the conjugal relationship between Mama and Joe. Their marriage is a symbolic representation of the Pan-African movement which the novel strongly pushes.

The author further pushes the agenda of Pan-Africanism by portraying the couple as interdependent and reliant on each other’s resources.

The Xenophobic attack on aliens in Katamanto Market is another example of symbolism in Unexpected Joy at Dawn. The aftermath of this disruption is quite pathetic and irredeemable as portrayed in the novel.

Interestingly, the sorry state of Kantamanto market is the perfect symbol for the crumbled economy of Ghana.


We have been able to examine the definitions of language, style and techniques as well as how they are used in creative writing. Also, we discussed how the use of epigram, irony, humour, personification, metaphor etc play out in Unexpected Joy at Dawn by Agyei-Agyiri.

Did you like our analysis? We hope so. Please, comment below and let us know what you think about this post. You can also tell us the book you want us to review next. Support us too by sharing this post. Thank you!

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