Wole Soyinkais Africa’s chief writer and most prominent fictional figure. He was Born 13July 1934 near Abeokuta, Western Nigeria. He received his early education inNigeria and later attended University of Leeds, where he earned a Bachelor ofArts degree in English. Soyinka genres including autobiography, literarycriticism, political essays, poetry, drama and novel.
He is most recognized forhis creative writing, and in 1986 he became the first African to win the NobelPrize for Literature. HISTORICALCONTEXTSynopsis’Death and the king’s Horseman’ is a play that tookplace in Nigeria during British colonial rule. It narrates the responsibilityof Elesin, who was a noticeable chief and the king’s chief horseman.
It tellsthat the king had died a month ago and was to be buried that night. Soaccording to the local law, his dog, his horseman and his desired horse must escorthim to the world of ancestors. Before leaving this world, Elesin notices abeautiful girl at the market whom he chooses to marry. It happened that thegirl was already in relationship with his son, Iyaloja, the ‘Mother’ of themarket, does not refuse the wish of the dying man.When the district officer Pilkings learnt about theprepared ritual suicide from his black sergeant Amusa, he orders him to arrestElesin and the couple. who hands him his report on a piece of paper. Amusa seeing what they were wearing; “anAfrican costume of a death cult” he refuses to speak to the couple because theclothes they were wearing have the power of death. Amusa unable to achieve his mission goes back toreport his failure to Pilkings who leaves to command the operation himself.
Olunde who had comes home to bury his fatherasked Pilkings not to interfere, but it was all in vain. He leaves to see his father’sdead body after hearing distant drums announcement. After sometime, Elesin isbrought in, humiliated and painfully ashamed. He falls at Olunde’s feet, but herefuses to identify him.
We later see Elesin at his improvised prison wherePilkings gives him a regrets message from his son Olunde, for his reaction. Soon afterwards, Elesin’s people comes in withburden, a courier by which Elesin should send the waiting king a message totell him that he must set out on the journey alone. The courier contained theface of Olunde. Seeing the face Elesin strangles himself to death. The young wife closed his eyes unable towithstand the scene. THEBEAUTYFUL ONES ARE NOT YET BORNAYI KWEI ARMAHAyi Kwei Armah who was born in 1939 in the port cityof Takoradi, Ghana, belonged to the first generation of postcolonial Africanwriters.
He left Ghana in 1959 to attend the Graton School in Graton, MA.Afterwards, he attended Harvard. His writing has been profoundly influenced bythe pungent combination of political, cultural and economic ideologies in thestruggles to end colonialism. His careerhas included journalism, letter campaigns, and pedagogical theory as well asfiction. THE BEAUTYFUL ONES ARE NOT YET BORN.”The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born” is st inTakoradi Ghana. It mainly focuses the period when corruption was well-known andone was judged by the wealth one has, without asking how that wealth was made.
This resulted to wealth, spiritual and environment decadence reached it peak.The story opens and closes on the road. A picture ofa decrepit bus bearing the man, who is fast asleep, splutters to a stop in thedark night. When we come to the end of the book, we are told that it is earlymorning when the man just woke up from a long sleep. He is watching the verynew bus, taking off on its long journey. The man just woke up from a longsleep. These link us with the beginning of the story. This is man on the roadwalking home.
Synopsis:The unnamed hero of The Beautyfly Ones are Not YetBorn, has been thoroughly disheartened by his country’s weakening. We see ahigh school-educated civil servant for the national railroad; being tornbetween two conflicting desires. Man want to provide a comfortable life for hiswife and children and at the same time, he is disgusted by what is required toget rich in Ghana; partaking in the bribery and corruption that go along withalmost every public business. His refusal to engage to fraud and corruption hurtshis family; this makes him feel embarrassed of his own honesty. To escape from the reality of life, the protagonistgoes to visit a friend the Teacher, to whom he pours out his problems. Theteacher provides an uneasy sort of ease, although he does not argue with hisfriend’s right to remain honest. What the teacher does is to clarify theprotagonist’s sense of his own dilemma. Koomson is seen coming to man’s home to seek forhelp when the regime is overthrown in a coup.
Man smuggles Koomson out throughthe latrine hole. After getting him safely away on the fishing boat, he swimsashore and returns home to a country run by a new government and the round ofcorruption begins again. A crisis take place when the regime is overthrown ina coup and Koomson, a corrupted character comes to his home to seek help. ‘Theman’ helps to smuggle Koomson out through the latrine hole.
After getting himsafely away on the fishing boat, he swims ashore and returns home to a countryrun by a new government and the round of corruption begins again. The novel’s portrayal of an alienated and confusedindividual has elicited comparisons to the existential novels of French writersJean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus; its lengthy passages of psychologicaldescription and its difficult syntax mark it as an heir to the works ofEuropean modernists such as James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, and D.H.
Lawrence.(Brooks, p. 127). The novel was criticized by various African writers likeChinua Achebe who took Armah to task for insufficient respect for Africa.(Achebe p.40)COMPARING THE IMAGE OF DEATH IN DEATHAND THE KING’S HORSEMAN AND THE BEAUTYFUL ONES ARE NOT YET BORNThe similaritiesbetween these two novels are that they are both postcolonial novels. Thewriters try to show the impact of the colonizers among the local people.Soyinka in his play “Death and the King’s horseman” shows the distraction thecolonizers did to the Yoruba people.
This occurs when Pilkings tried to hinderElesin ritual. This caused deaths of two people. Elesin and Olunde in thecommunity. In “The Beautyful ones are Not Yet Born”, Armah emphases on someforms of corruption that depart from valued values and principles ofpost-colonialism. In death and the king’shorseman, the image of death is viewed as phenomena.
The whole play is centredon death. It revolves around theattempts s of a Yoruban village chief to commit rituals suicide against theefforts of the local British magistrate. It is an escape.
He has nothing left to live for and has shamed himselfby not dying when he meant to. Without thinking, he quickly kills himself. Iyalojasays these in the final line of the play, “Now forget the dead, and forget theliving, turn your mind only to the unborn” (p.63). She highlights thesignificance of death in the society and acknowledges its role.
It is answerablefor making the unborn, the future, and realistic. Olunde choices suicide as ameans of redeeming the honour of his society and expiating what must haveseemed to him as his father’s abominable cowardice and treachery. But ratherthan easing the burden of the people, Olunde’s suicide only compounds their desolation.
The praise singer again captures this moment of historic stress:”…What the end will be, we are not Godsto tell. But this young sprout has poured its sap into the parent stalk, and weknow this is not the way of life. Our world is plummeting in the void ofstrangers.” (p.75) It is difficult to identifythe point at which Olunde’s role as a cultural hero ends and where his role asthe rear-guard defender of a backward looking political order succeeds. In TheBeautyful ones are not yet born, the writer uses a metaphor of death. Death ofconscious. We see that the optimism of bright young hope is replaced bycynicism and consciousness of failure.
Over the entire country broods a mood ofhopeless gloom. The prospect for most of these people is bleak. Their lives aremarked by spiritual sterility, boredom, and loneliness; from the night clerk’scry of anguish: “but l sat here alone, and l was wishing somebody would comein, and all night long there was nobody.
The soul destroying monotony ofcolourless jobs, in oppressive offices is hardly more endurable because home ismuch worse. The optimism of bright young hope is all too easily replaced bycynicism and consciousness of failure: but along the streets, those who can,soon learn to recognize in ordinary faces being whom the spirit has moved, butwho cannot follow where it beckons, so heavy and the small, ordinary days ofthe time” despair is written on the face of almost every character. Death is desirable in ‘Death and the King’s horseman,In the Yoruba culture, death is not something that is feared.
It moves one pastthe earthly confines of the body and moves one soul to a better dwelling. Deathalso functions as a means to attain honour in the society. Elesin’s death wouldconfirm that he lived obediently and would save his people.
When he fails todie and destroys his chances of attaining this honourable status, it is his sonOlunde who steps up and fulfils what his father could not. Death is notsomething that either man fears, but rather something that should bring admiration.In ‘The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born, death isconsuming everything and it is destroying. Rama Krishna, horrified by thethreat of decay he saw around him, he had and decay, withdrawn into thespiritual life, practising yoga, and living on a frugal vegetarian diet. In afrantic attempt to avoid corruption and decay, he decided never to touch awoman, but to save his semen, and rejuvenate his brain by standing on his head.
In spite of his efforts, corruption and decay overtook him:”…It was of ingestingthat he died, so very young, but already his body inside had undergone far moredecay than any living body, however old and near death, can expect to see. Itwas whispered-how indeed are such things ever known, the disease had completelyeaten up the frail matter of his lungs, and that where his heart ought to havebeen there was only a living lot of worms gathered together tightly in theshape of a heart”. (p.56)Maanan being a symbol of patient sufferingrepresented the millions of Ghanaian women betrayed by husbands who have failedthem and politicians who have exploited and destroyed them. Maanan’sdisillusionment drives her to insanity.
When we last see her she looks “likesomething that had been finally destroyed a long time back”. She is the finesand through her fingers and muttering: They have mixed it all together!Everything!”In Death and in King’s horseman, death is a rite ofpassage. A cycle of birth, death and after life. The dead are not forgotten. Theancestors are pleased and valued as guides and companions. The not yet born arealso cherished, and new babies might be ancestors returning to physical life.Elesin’s accountability as king’s horseman is to ratify the changeover fromlife into death in a ritual manner, to remind the whole community through hisdeath that life is a range. We see Elesin and the women of the village arepreparing for his death, and the masqueraders take the ceremonial seriously, asa reminder that the ancestors are present.
Amusa being a muslim too shows thathe has respect for the stolen clothes Pilkngses wear to the ball shows the ideaof death through the play. Elesin being on transition has special rights. His appealfor the Bride, although unforeseen, must be approved. Since “the claims of onewhose foot is on the threshold of their abode surpasses even the claims ofblood.” Iyaloja knows that the child to born of Elesin and the Bride will be strange,”neither of this world nor of the next”. As if the timelessness of the ancestorworld and the unborn have joined the spirits.
“Olunde dies in his place and Elesin since he didn’tcomplete his transition. He did so after seeing the disorder established by thefather and son retrogressive roles, kills himself. Simon and Jane are dismayed,but Iyaloja and the bride are docile and accepting. The Bride “walks coollyinto the cell” to close Elesin’s eyes in the appropriate, ceremonial way. Inthe last line of the play, spoken by Iyaloja to the Bride, “Now forget thedead, forget even the living and turn your mind only to the unborn.”In the Beautyful ones are not yet born, death is a cycleof birth, death and decay, mostly notable in the form of a man-child throughAboliga the frog who goes through the whole life cycle in seven years. This man-childis a symbol for the post-independence Ghana.
According to the story, thepicture was the, man-child in its grey old age; totally old in everything savefor the smallness of its size, a thing that deepened the element of thegrotesque. The manchild looked more irretrievably old, far more thoroughlydecayed, then any ordinary old man could ever have looked “… it had been bornwith all the features of a human baby, but within seven years it had completedthe cycle from babyhood to infancy, to youth, to maturity, and old age, in itsseventh year it had died a normal death.” (p.63). The argument Armah is makinghere is that the childhood advances almost immediately into the eventsassociated with adulthood. That is, beautiful marriage, war, wrecked dreams,corrupts government, disease, and manifold deaths. Ghana is a newly independentcountry but deep in corruption, just like the manchild looks ‘irreversibly old,in too short a time and undermine. Far more through the activities of the man,new hopes of better life in future begin to be felt.
The man, in chapter fourteen of the novel, comeshome happy and met the wife in front of his hall door; being happy, he had an analecticlook into the past ‘thinking of youth and days in school when the eyes ‘somethinghe could only think of as a deep kind of love, a great respect (p.160) theresult of this is the warm embrace that follows between them, a union of theMan and the wife after a long period problem of disunity. According to Ogede,this type of alliance of husband and wife, ‘signals the Ghana in their struggleto rid it of corrupt practices, despite its apparent lack of remedy as depictedby the ‘irretrievable old’ nature of the old man-child.Koomson used to live in an insolent luxury at theexpense of others when he was a minister. After the military coup whichoverthrows his Party, he is afraid of being killed and seeks refuge in theman’s room. The stench that emanates from his body especially his mouth due tohis decay is unbearable to the man:”…The smell wassomething the man had not at all foreseeable. It was over pouring, as if somecorrosive gas, already filled half liquid, had filled the whole room,irritating not only nostrils, but also inside, of eyes, ears, mouth,throat….
.the man though he would surely vomit if he did not get out from thisfoul smell” (p.161-163)The passage above, shows how Koomson’s decay suggestmoral corruption.Death as a ritual of sacrifice. When Elesin first appears on stage he is full ofdetermination to carry out his duty both to the king and to the entirecommunity.
He has a duty to be loyal to the king as his personal friend and tothe community because only by going through the sacrificial death will order inthe community be maintained. Failure to die would be a violation of aprevailing tradition and as far as the people are concerned, it would causetheir king to wander endlessly and this would have disastrous results on thecommunity. Elesin’s determination to face death is dramatizedthrough the “Not- l bird song” he does not only recite, but perform the song.He dances and moves towards the market square, chanting the words and mimickingcharacters. Elesin seek death willingly sets him above other people in thecommunity.
“…It is not he who callshimself Elesin Oba it is his blood that says so”. In The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born’ death can beseen as Alienation. The man moves through a dystopia of fragmented individualsand lost connections. He identifies with ‘lone and empty’ departing trains(p.15) and his fellow commuters travel in pockets of isolation; everyone alonewith his troubles.
(p.103) the Atlantic caprice, which should serve as arallying point for communal indignation against the new power-structures,divides and isolates, making the ‘angry ones’ feel the loneliness of mournersat a festival of crazy joy.” (p.10) inthe fourth chapter, we see a lamp lit tableau of solitaries, prostitute, marketmammy, Madonna and child each wait in silent isolation from one another.(p.35), and in The Teacher believes that anyone in his society who wants to behappy end up must involve in corruption practices. This makes it is difficult forhim to look after his parents and marry, hence he runs away from his home toleave lonely life. When the man goes to him he finds the teacher sleepingnaked, reading and listening to music (p.
91) we also see that, The teacher,Maanan and Koffi Billy are alienated from themselves by resorting to drugabuse. The man is alone in his decency and loneliness is a burden to him. CONCLUSION:Soyinka and Armah havedevoted themselves to building national cultures. In the above discussed text,they use the image of death to criticize corruption and betrayal of the classof African leaders that occurred after independence.