Helon Habilas Experimentation With Our Mind -Reading Capacity In measuring Time


By MaikOrtserga

There is a wide expanse of ground common to literary criticism and cognitive science; thus, there is no need doubting the fact that the search for knowledge is a cooperative exercise which interdependence of disciplines seeks to achieve. This type of cooperation has contributed immensely to research and has expanded the frontiers of knowledge since no discipline is an island.

Intrigued by the widening of cognitive studies into literary and cultural studies, Richard Hoggart, author of the Classic, The Uses of Literacy, says “it must be centered in literary studies because that’s where you learn a real discipline of criticism and reading.

A major domain in cognitive science is that which is associated with social cognition, or the mode of knowledge both shaping and being shaped by social experience. Habila’sMeasuring Time not only reflects but support or enables processes of social cognition. Social cognition as pointed out by Herman, involves problem-solving strategies used to manage the problem of other minds. Simply put, it involves the processes, by which humans attribute mental states, property, thoughts, desires, intentions, and dispositions to other people and to themselves, (Introduction to Cognitive Cultural Studies, 151).

Possibilities for Mind-reading in Measuring Time

We may open this analysis with a seemingly meaningless question – Why did Auntie Marina skip the unhappy aspects? When Auntie Marina, in Measuring Time, narrates to the twins the event of their mother’s death which is also the event of their birth, the novel records that she “never dwelled too much on the unhappy aspects of the story; she had a light touch, skimming and flying over the surface, always aiming for the folktales, happy reversals of fortune and resolutions” (15). How do we know that this skipping of the unhappy aspect is to be accounted for by Marina’s desire to draw sympathy for the beautiful but sickly mother of the twins who has passed away?

As a particularly attentive reader of Measuring Time, one could patiently explain that Auntie Marina’s skipping of the unhappy aspects of the events has been occasioned by the desire to portray Tabita in a positive light such that we become sympathetic towards her and not Lamang, her uncaring husband, who as it is obvious marries her because of “the financial benefit of such marriage” (14). Habila would have told us so. He wouldn’t have left us under the impression that Marina’s account betrays her sympathy for the poor Tabita. But writers have been using what certain characters say about other characters to inform us about their feelings since time immemorial. This is Habila’s experimentation with our mind reading capacity. Interestingly, Marina uses a theory of the mind to impute a triumphal heavenward journey to Tabita who died fifteen months after her wedding. The novel records: “The sound of thunder that roared outside as Tabita’s spirit left the room became angels’ trumpets welcoming the ascending spirit; the furious flashes of lightning became guide angels’ torches lighting the path to a new celestial home” (16). Marina’s account here is nothing but an attempt to make us believe that Tabitha is too blameless to have gone to hell instead of heaven.

Consequently, Auntie Marina, while watching the wedding photographs with the twins, would look at their mother and repeat over and over: “See how she smiles happily” (19). One could explain this as her way of making the twins, especially Mamo who inherited his mother’s blood disease, to feel that in spite of the sickle-cell anaemia, he can still be happy as the mother seems to be. This, of course, is a strategy to solve the problem of another mind. Measuring Time, like Habila’s other novels, demands that we process the complexly embedded intentions of the characters, configuring their minds as represented by other minds, whose representations may be subjected to various interpretations. The sickly Mamo himself confirms Auntie Marina’s intention to make him feel that all hope is not lost which we deduce when he comes to think that “it was these stories that kept him alive.” He imagines the stories insinuating themselves into his veins, flushing out the sickle-shaped, haemoglobin-deficient red cells that clog the nodes in his veins and cause his joints to swell painfully (19). Yet as the twins become older, doubts creep in as they see in the wedding picture that the glow on their mother’s cheek hid an incipient dark tinge of sadness and apprehension (19).

Also, with a character like Mamo, the cognitive mechanism which evolves to process information about thought and feelings of human beings is constantly alert right from his childhood, checking out his environment for cues that fit his impute capability. Thus as soon as he learns to read, Mamo builds a narrative around the words engraved on a blue plastic plaque above the living room door – Christ is the head of this house, the unseen guest at every meal, the silent listener to every conversation (57). The novel records:

Mamo had built a narrative around the words on the plaque: he’d imagine a famished, ghostly Christ hovering unseen as the family ate, occasionally stretching a nail- scarred hand over a family member’s shoulder to pick a piece of chicken, or akara, from a bowl (56).

From the above quotation, we can infer the mental state of a young sickly child with immense creative capability and with a potential for a rich array of intentional stances. As he grows up, Mamo’s mental alertness is noticed by his uncle, Iliya, who looks the young man directly into the eye and speaks: “You have a very good mind. It is up to you to do what you want with it. You can also go on a journey, like your brother, but a journey into your own mind. You’d be surprised at the things you will discover” (85). The uncle ends up offering Mamo a job as a teacher of history at the community school, an offer which the young man accepts.

We are told that while in the staff room, “Mamo would recede into his mind, to build an invisible wall between himself and the rest of the room. One of the ways he did this was by developing elaborate imaginary stories around people and events. He called it the ‘what if’ game. His favourite subject was the poet, Okigbo. He’d say to himself: what if the poet isn’t really dead? What if like uncle Haruna, he simply wandered away from the battle field? What if he and uncle Haruna wandered away from the battlefield together…? He remembers how his uncle had once mentioned the name Chris. What if it was actually Chris Okigbo he was referring? Through the use of theory of the mind, Mamo provides a cinematic account of an event at the warfront in 1967 involving his uncle Haruna, who suddenly appears in the village years after he was considered dead at the warfront, and the poet Chris Okigbo about whom he had read. While on a mission to destroy a bridge with his comrade Toma and a seargeant, uncle Haruna wanders off and is captured by a team of Biafran Soldiers led by Chris Okigbo (86). In fact, what comes to us as Haruna’s ordeal in the hands of the Biafran soldier is an attribution from the mind of Mamo and not what has actually taken place: this kind of narrative is in agreement with Lisa Zunshine’s assertion that:

As a sustained representation of numerous interacting minds, the novel feeds the powerful, representation-hungry complex of cognitive adaptations whose very condition of being is a constant social stimulation delivered either by direct interactions with other people or by imaginary approximation of such interactions (Why We Read Fiction 10).

The above quotation goes a long way in explaining why Mamo is found of allowing his mind to wander and interact with people whom he has not met and in places he has not visited. Interestingly, we are also told that when Haruna suddenly appears in the village, dirty and unkempt, at a time he is already considered dead at the war front by the villagers, and cannot even say anything about his war experience due to his gradual loss of memory and mind, everyone still continues to attribute heroic qualities to him. The narrator records that, “what impressed the twins most was how everyone in the village still talked about him, about his adventures; imaginary exploits and heroisms were attributed to him even by those who had never seen him” (46).

The above shows that the minds of people often hear what they want to hear and believe what they want to believe even where the reality is contrary to what they are being told. Measuring Times thus demonstrates, at various levels, Habila’s experimentation with our mind reading capacity.


  1. I simply want to tell you that I’m all new to blogs and actually savored this blog. Very likely I’m planning to bookmark your blog post . You actually come with perfect article content. Thanks a lot for revealing your blog site.

  2. I simply want to mention I am newbie to blogging and site-building and actually liked your page. Likely I’m going to bookmark your blog . You certainly come with incredible well written articles. Kudos for revealing your blog.

  3. Does your website have a contact page? I’m having a tough time locating it but, I’d like to send you an e-mail. I’ve got some recommendations for your blog you might be interested in hearing. Either way, great site and I look forward to seeing it grow over time.

  4. One thing I’d prefer to touch upon is that weight loss program fast can be performed by the right diet and exercise. Ones size not merely affects the look, but also the overall quality of life. Self-esteem, depression, health risks, plus physical skills are damaged in an increase in weight. It is possible to do everything right but still gain. If this happens, a medical problem may be the primary cause. While too much food instead of enough body exercise are usually guilty, common health conditions and popular prescriptions can greatly amplify size. Thanks a bunch for your post right here.

  5. I do enjoy the way you have presented this particular matter and it really does present us some fodder for thought. Nonetheless, through what I have personally seen, I just simply hope as the opinions stack on that men and women keep on issue and not get started upon a tirade involving the news of the day. Anyway, thank you for this superb point and although I do not really go along with the idea in totality, I respect the point of view.

  6. I do agree with all of the ideas you have offered in your post. They’re really convincing and will definitely work. Nonetheless, the posts are very brief for newbies. May you please lengthen them a bit from next time? Thank you for the post.

  7. Thanks for the guidelines shared on your blog. Something also important I would like to mention is that weight-loss is not information about going on a dietary fad and trying to lose as much weight as you’re able in a couple of weeks. The most effective way in losing weight is by taking it gradually and right after some basic tips which can enable you to make the most through your attempt to drop some weight. You may be aware and be following most of these tips, yet reinforcing information never does any damage.

  8. A person necessarily help to make seriously posts I’d state. That is the very first time I frequented your website page and to this point? I surprised with the research you made to make this actual submit amazing. Excellent job!

  9. I’ve been browsing on-line more than three hours these days, but I by no means found any fascinating article like yours. It¡¦s lovely value sufficient for me. In my opinion, if all webmasters and bloggers made good content material as you did, the web will probably be a lot more helpful than ever before.

  10. Pretty section of content. I just stumbled upon your site and in accession capital to assert that I get in fact enjoyed account your blog posts. Any way I’ll be subscribing to your augment and even I achievement you access consistently rapidly.

  11. Excellent post. I used to be checking continuously this blog and I am impressed! Extremely helpful info specifically the remaining phase 🙂 I take care of such info a lot. I used to be seeking this certain information for a very lengthy time. Thanks and best of luck.

  12. I believe that avoiding processed foods is the first step to lose weight. They will taste great, but highly processed foods currently have very little vitamins and minerals, making you eat more just to have enough vigor to get throughout the day. In case you are constantly eating these foods, changing to grain and other complex carbohydrates will aid you to have more vigor while having less. Thanks alot : ) for your blog post.

  13. Hey there. I want to to ask a little something…is this a wordpress web log as we are planning to be transferring over to WP. Additionally did you make this template all by yourself? Many thanks.

  14. You are not the average website article writer, gentleman. You certainly have got some thing powerful to increase the net. Your own style is really robust that you could almost pull off being a negative article writer, yet you’re even amazing at articulating what you have to point out. Keep in the great work gentleman!

  15. I have not checked in here for a while as I thought it was getting boring, but the last few posts are good quality so I guess I¡¦ll add you back to my daily bloglist. You deserve it my friend 🙂

  16. I wanted to post you a very small word to be able to say thanks as before on the wonderful pointers you’ve provided in this case. It has been really particularly open-handed with you to provide without restraint what some people could possibly have sold for an ebook to generate some dough for themselves, chiefly since you might have tried it in case you wanted. These thoughts additionally worked to provide a fantastic way to fully grasp that most people have the identical keenness like my own to realize many more when it comes to this matter. I’m sure there are several more pleasurable sessions in the future for individuals that look over your blog.

  17. Do you mind if I quote a few of your articles as long as I provide credit and sources back to your weblog? My website is in the very same area of interest as yours and my visitors would really benefit from some of the information you present here. Please let me know if this okay with you. Thanks!

  18. It is appropriate time to make some plans for the future and it is time to be happy. I’ve read this post and if I could I desire to suggest you few interesting things or tips. Maybe you could write next articles referring to this article. I want to read more things about it!

  19. Wow! This can be one particular of the most helpful blogs We have ever arrive across on this subject. Basically Excellent. I’m also an expert in this topic so I can understand your hard work.

  20. Hello just wanted to give you a quick heads up and let you know a few of the images aren’t loading properly. I’m not sure why but I think its a linking issue. I’ve tried it in two different web browsers and both show the same results.

  21. I do believe all the ideas you’ve offered in your post. They’re really convincing and will certainly work. Nonetheless, the posts are very short for beginners. May you please extend them a bit from subsequent time? Thank you for the post.

  22. Get help to stop drinking. Helping women quit drinking alcohol. Coach Mary Wagstaff. Feel better, mind, body and soul. Mindfulness based coaching and alcohol recovery. Yoga for recovery.

  23. Hey there! I just wanted to ask if you ever have any problems with hackers? My last blog (wordpress) was hacked and I ended up losing months of hard work due to no backup. Do you have any methods to prevent hackers?

  24. Hello there I am so thrilled I found your webpage, I really found you by accident, while I was browsing on Yahoo for something else, Regardless I am here now and would just like to say thanks for a tremendous post and a all round thrilling blog (I also love the theme/design), I don’t have time to go through it all at the moment but I have saved it and also added your RSS feeds, so when I have time I will be back to read much more, Please do keep up the awesome work.

  25. I have not checked in here for a while because I thought it was getting boring, but the last few posts are great quality so I guess I’ll add you back to my daily bloglist. You deserve it my friend 🙂

  26. Howdy very cool web site!! Guy .. Excellent .. Amazing .. I’ll bookmark your site and take the feeds also…I’m glad to search out numerous helpful information right here in the submit, we’d like work out extra strategies in this regard, thanks for sharing. . . . . .

  27. I just could not leave your site prior to suggesting that I extremely enjoyed the standard info a person supply for your visitors? Is gonna be back continuously in order to investigate cross-check new posts.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here