Monday, March 28, 2011

Destroying Lives, Disregarding Traditions

Elesin: The night is not at peace, ghostly one. The world is not at peace. You have shattered the peace of the world for ever. There is no sleep in the world tonight.

Pilkings: It is still a good bargain of the world should lose one night’s sleep as the price of saving a man’s life.

Elesin: You did not save my life, District Officer. You destroyed it.

Pilkings : Now come on…

Elesin: And not merely my life but the lives of many. The end of the night’s work is not over. Neither this year nor the next will see it. If I wished you well, I would pray that you do not stay long enough on our land to see the disaster you have brought upon us. (p. 50)

From Soyinka, Wole. Death and the King’s Horseman: A Norton Critical Edition. Ed.: Gikandi, Simon. W.W. Norton & Company: New York, 2003.

This excerpt comes towards the end of the play, after Pilkings has stopped the ritual from being completed. In this conversation between Elesin and Pilkings it is shown how important the ritual is to Elesin and his people. He tells Pilkings that his stopping the ritual will be bad for the future of his tribe and their culture. However, Pilkings, though he thinks that he has done right by his stepping in, is portrayed as ignorant towards the traditions of Elesin and his tribe because his mind is never changed, but instead he feels confident that he made the right decision. He tries to make small talk with Elesin and console him, but also to make him realize that his life is more important than his tribes traditions. Through a post-colonialist perspective, Soyinka uses the character of Pilkings to show the reader what imperialism was like, and in doing so showing how the outside people had no respect for the indigenous population or their traditions. Instead he shows how they would just come in thinking that they are more superior and that their ways were better, and expect the natives to bow down and follow them.

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