Nigerian Culture, Tradition and Family Values in Death and the King’s Horseman by Wole Soyinka

In the book Death and the King’s Rider by Wole Soyinkaas, the author uses Nigerian culture, traditions and family values to engage you in the history. Yet it is the interference of colonialism that acts as the story’s catalyst. If it was not for the arrogance and cluelessness of these foreigners, this story could have taken place, but its purpose would have been very different.

Without the influence of Nigerias colonizers such complex characters as Amusa, Olunde, and Joseph would not have occurred. It is obvious that through there interaction with the foreigners shaped who they were as people. Whether it be their religion, their goals and aspirations, or how the colonized themselves looked at their culture. Through the influence of Christianity foreigners were able to separate some of the tribesmen and women from their tribes, get them to adopt a foreign religion and God and then look at their beliefs with contempt, such was the case of the servant Joseph. Then you had a more complex character in the form of Amusa who accepted Christianity yet had respect for the old ways and customs. This was evident when he would not even looked at the Pilkings who out of their lack of respect wore a sacred costume to a masquerade ball. He was the most curious character to me because I could not figure out was he truly drawn to Christianity and the beliefs of!

these outsiders, or was this simply a case of giving up what one believes because it could make life a lot easier for this person. Then one can look at Olunde, son of the Elesin Oba, who crept away to the mother country for education. When he left I do not think that he had such an appreciation for his culture and traditions. Yet, through time around his white counterparts made him realize the lack of respect that the colonizers had toward other cultures and people.

Next one can look at the perspective of the story, which a good portion of the time is centered around the Pilkings and their perspective on the whole situation. You have these outsiders who view all of the culture and traditions of this area as primitive. This perspective mainly comes from colonizers because they have to assert themselves as being more civilized and superior for them to put their beliefs and lifestyle on the people in which they colonize. This can be seen when Jane tells her husband to be smart when dealing with the indigenous people of this region. This makes it seem as though the Pilkings look at the Nigerians as inferior people because of their traditions.

Lastly, I look at the main idea of the story which showed the colonizers lack of respect for the Nigerians culture through the interference with a tradition that has occurred long before their arrival. Their beliefs actually changed the outcome of the story because Elesin Oba the man who had previously pursued death changed his belief that it was his duty to die when Mr. Pilkings came to stop him from completing his task. This broke a long tradition that probably had never been questioned until this clash of European and African values occurred. It also caused the premature death of Olunde. In his attempt to redeem his fathers dishonor he sacrifices himself. All of this can be attributed to colonialism. All of this can be looked at as an interference by a technologically advanced culture onto a less advanced culture and placing their values upon them.

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