“PILKINGS – I wish to ask you to search the quiet of your heart and tell me—do you not find great contradictions in the wisdom of your own race?
ELESIN – Make yourself clear, white one.
PILKINGS – I have lived among you long enough to learn a saying or two. One came to mind tonight when I stepped into the market and saw what was going on. You were surrounded by those who egged you on with song and praises. I thought, are these not the same people who say: the elder grimly approaches heaven and you ask him to bear your greetings yonder; do you really think he makes the journey willingly? After that, I did not hesitate” (Soyinka 52-53).
In the passage above, Elesin and Pilkings are arguing about Elesin’s suicide attempt. Pilkings, a white village officer, demonstrates how conquering countries are ignorant of the culture and rituals of the countries they are overtaking. Elesin attempts suicide because it is a ritual. The ritual revolves around the King’s death – after the king dies, his horseman must commit suicide and accompany him in the afterlife. Pilkings saves Elesin thinking that he has done right: “do you not find great contradictions in the wisdom of your own race?” (Soyinka 52). Little does he know that he damns Elesin by preventing him from committing suicide.
Elesin’s damning results in shame: “I know who that must be. So she found out your hiding place. Well, it was not difficult. My stench of shame is so strong, it requires no hunter’s dog to follow it” (Soyinka 54). Because he is unable to uphold the ritual of his people, Elesin is looked down upon his people. The fact that Pilkings does not understand the ritual demonstrates how imperialism affected conquered countries; the people are damned because they cannot uphold their own beliefs. Pilkings represents the apathetic white man who is ignorant of what he is doing to the culture of imperialistically dominated countries.