Death and the King’s Horseman by Wole Soyinka is a telling story of culture and tradition among a Nigerian tribe. There is a message at the beginning of the play where Soyinka has “avoided dialogue or situation which would encourage” a post-colonial interpretation (Soyinka 3). We have discussed in class the difference between the intended message vs. the interpretive message of the text. I feel that Soyinka does a disservice to his audience by trying to persuade them towards a different interpretation. It was also discussed as to whether or not it was Soyinka’s intention to want the audience to see that he “wasn’t” writing towards a post-colonial interpretation to help persuade them toward that interpretation. Regardless of whether or not Soyinka’s intention was towards this interpretation or not, it ultimately comes down to what the reader interprets the text as. When I read the story, there are parts that show a clear influence of post-colonialism and race theory that helps break down and interpret the text. Soyinka should understand that it is ultimately up to his readers to interpret his story in whatever way they choose. Literature like this is written specifically for an audience to enjoy and interpret. If Soyinka decides to try and force the reader to look at the text in a certain light, then he is ultimately taking the roll of the white, westernized European that he is trying to portray in a bad light. He indirectly is trying to force the audience to read the text, something I don’t think is fair to the audience.
Soyinka, Wole. Death and the King's Horseman. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2003.