Monday, March 28, 2011

Pilkings and the Other

When Pilkings is first introduced in Death and the King's Horseman, he is adorned in a death mask for an impending costume party. Amusa, a native administration policeman, approaches, but is horrified at the specter of the mask and what it represents. He is unwilling to discuss the impending death of Elesin with the District officer while he is wearing the death mask, as he respects and fears the local religion even though he himself is a Muslim. Pilkings and his wife Jane mock and disparage the man as being superstitious and for having his "big pagan heart" shocked (19-20). In another passage Pilkings is talking to his servant Joseph and facetiously asks the man if "that holy water nonsense also wiped out [his] tribal memory (24)." Joseph is very insulted, as he has adopted Christianity as his religion and Pilkings is slandering it.
These passage are interesting because in the first case it would not be surprising for the two colonizers to react to the alien religions in the that they do. Imperialism was often rationalized by declaring that natives must be "saved" from their pagan faiths with Christianity. However, the way that Pilkings talks about Joseph's religion reveals that the preceding insult of Amusa was not just cultural insensitivity, but disrespect and condescension towards the Nigerians. He disparages a religion that the colonizers, people from his homeland, have brought to the area, and in effect he others Joseph as well. Pilkings subordinates those over whom he has power regardless of their views or loyalty because they are black.

1 comment:

  1. The argument could also be made that Pilkings is insensitive to people of all religions. His lack of respect of even the religion from his homeland signifies a complete lack of caring about ritualistic practices. For instance, he is also condescending toward one of the missionaries from his homeland. Pilkings becomes a man that signifies evil, in a sense. He refuses to acknowledge religion and also criticizes those that take it seriously. He is not only insensitive to the culture of the Africans, but to his own culture. He is a man that only cares about appearances, and therefore disregards anything else.