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Death and the King's Horseman: Giving up the Battle

Uploaded by joe on Dec 13, 1999

From the Western perspective, it is hard to understand ritual suicide as anything positive or helpful to the living. There almost seems to be no Western equivalent to the "duty" of Elesin in Death and the King's Horseman. However, Wole Soyinka gives us a comparable situation in Jane's description of a captain blowing up a ship to save the people on the shore. It's a moment of hypocrisy on Britain's part, both trying to prevent Elesin's suicide and lauding a Western suicide which purports to do the exact same thing - save the living from destruction. It's also clear that Olunde sees this ridiculous parallel, but he does not make Jane see the connection. Instead, he lets the matter drop, which, in the Western perspective is puzzling. We want everyone to see the truth and explain it, and think worse of Olunde because of his inability to show Jane what's really going on. But it is really his own unique viewpoint and actions that show that what he does is much smarter than our want of brute force. Olunde's intelligence stems from thinking before acting. Yes, Jane gives perfect ammunition to explain why his father saving his people from destruction and going to a much better place, but that doesn't mean the best solution is for him to point this out. Changing people's opinions in discussion might be a Western virtue, but opening one's trap is not always the best strategic option. Olunde's education and background combined give him a unique vantagepoint on action, and he sees that he can best help his people by waiting and evaluating the situation. There are three essential reasons why Olunde avoids pointing out the obvious to Jane. First of all, while Jane seems intelligent and ready to accept what he says more than any other Brit in the play, it is also true that Westerners like to discover the truth and "reality" themselves. Being led by Olunde might cause an immediate rejection of whatever he has to say because she has an ingrained belief in the inferiority of his early upbringing, and thus in any beliefs related to his culture. The truth will be much stronger and more immediately convincing for her if she discovers it herself. So, even if he spoke and pointed out smartly the connection, it wouldn't be as credible to her. Other than the small amount of boasting pride he might...

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Uploaded by:   joe

Date:   12/13/1999

Category:   Literature

Length:   3 pages (736 words)

Views:   1841

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