Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Death and the King's Horseman: Online Commentaries

Please post your online commentaries for Death and the King's Horseman here. As with your Anowa posts, these commentaries may either initiate or continue an existing discussion thread. All commentaries must otherwise comport to assignment parameters. Please remember to include your full name in your post. I will assign a zero (0) to any post whose writer I can not immediately identify.

I have asked JMU Theatre and English major Robby Bassler to guest-direct a pivotal scene from Soyinka's play in the next meeting of my 12:20 section, in Burruss 36. Robby is an Honors student who extensively researched African theatre and Soyinka's aims for this play in a previous world literature honors course. To those in the 9:05 section, I hope as many of you as can make it will attend the 12:20 class so that you can take part in this exciting drama study.

59 comments:

  1. Heather Allen
    GENG 239
    Professor Brown
    9 February 2010
    Commentary 3

    “Death and the King’s Horseman” by Wole Soyinka is an exemplary piece of literature from the African literary cannon. With ease the author is able to assemble both the culture from the tribe that is being colonized and the views and culture of the Europeans who have taken over the site. The reader is able to easily identify with both views for a truly rich reading (and probably viewing) experience.
    The pivotal scene where both the cultures collide is the final scene where Elesin is locked up, speaking with Pilkings. Elesin describes the sacrifices he had to make for his culture and finally Pilkings allows him to go on with the ceremony. What the audience/reader doesn’t expect, however, is the death of Olunde. He also showed the immense sacrifice that the people of the village have to perform (50-63).

    Soyinka, Wole. Simon Gikandi, Ed. “Death and the King’s Horseman.” New York: W.W. Norton. 2003. Print.

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  2. Tuba Ahmed
    2/8/10
    GENG 239 9:05 Class
    Dr. Brown

    “Death and the King’s Horseman” Reading Commentary

    The transaction that occurs between Olunde and Jane upon Olunde’s return solidifies the cultural divide between Western and native rationale. Although Jane vehemently denounces ritual suicide as a “barbaric custom” (Soyinka 43), Olunde questions the activity of “young men [who] are sent …by their generals in this war” and asserts it is “mass suicide,” which is infinitely worse (Soyinka 44). Thus, the hypocrisy of the West, as revealed by Olunde, foreshadows misguided beliefs regarding native customs and calls into question the real barbaric practices from the (perhaps) mislabeled ones. Olunde’s challenge to Jane regarding the concept of “mass suicide,” or war, suggests an unjustified purpose for power usurpation and active cultural suppression in a region that wants to “survive in their own way” (Soyinka 43).

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  3. Kelsey Souleret
    GENG 239

    Commentary: Death and the King’s Horseman

    In Death and the King’s Horseman, it is debatable whether Elesin’s failure to fulfill his duty of ritual suicide is his fault or the fault of Pilkings’ interference. Even though Pilkings interrupted Elesin’s task, the community places the blame on Elesin rather than on the British District Officer. Iyaloja calls Elesin a bush-rat who “fled his rightful cause, reached the market and set up a lamentation” (pg.57). She sees Pilkings’ interference as a way that Elesin found to shirk his duties and rebukes Elesin by saying “You made so bold with the servant of the white king who took your side against death” (pg.55).

    Source: Soyinka, Wole. Death and the King's Horseman. New York: Norton & Company, 1975.

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  4. Kelsey Brennan
    GENG 239

    In Wole Soyinka’s play “Death and the King’s Horseman,” Olunde speaks of his time in England: “You forget that I have now spent four years among your people. I discovered that you have no respect for what you do not understand,” (50). This comment really encompasses the essence of the story and how the Europeans do not understand, nor even care to respect the sacred rituals of the Nigerian people they have civilized. According to belief, the world will never know peace again because the ritual was not performed due to European interference. And now the British must deal with two saddening deaths instead of one “honorable” death.

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  5. Emily Collins
    GENG 239
    Commentary #3

    Wole Soyinka’s play, Death and the King’s Horseman embodies quite a lot of traditions and beliefs in African culture and demonstrates society’s dedication to preserving and respecting their beliefs of life, death and sacrifice. Elesin’s position as the king’s horseman and his role in the community is very important as he shows society that life and death are a continuous circle. But why is Elesin’s role so important in reminding people of what life and death truly are in conjunction with their traditions and beliefs? As Elesin states, “Life is honour. It ends when honour ends” (Soyinka 11) demonstrates that life itself was a demonstration of society’s beliefs about the continuation of the life cycle and that life and death and those that are living and dead are to be remembered and honored in society.

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  6. Ciera Haskins
    GENG 249
    Professor Brown
    Commentary # 3
    Death and the King’s Horseman
    February 9, 2010


    #12

    I agree with a statement Olunde makes to Jane, “No I am not shocked Mrs. Pilkings. You forget I have spent four years with your people. I discovered that you have no respect for which you do not understand.” (pg 41 Death and the King’s Horseman)
    In our everyday life some of us, more so than others, are not exposed to multiculturalism. That ignorance hinders us from being open minded to other peoples’ beliefs, traditions and simply their way of life. I noticed that a lot especially while deployed. The Poshtun people of Afghanistan have a very traditional way of doing things (Poshtunwali); however just because it is not in our “Western” culture to have chai every time a visitor comes does not mean we should take it lightly. If one were to refuse the chai, he or she would be disrespecting the family’s customs. I think it’s important to know about the culture where you dwell, especially in the Pilkings’ case; wearing the ancestral garments of death as a costume is very disrespectful

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  7. Natasha Bauer
    GENG Brown
    Commentary 2
    February 10, 2010

    “Death and the King’s Horseman” in my opinion was my favorite piece of literature that I’ve read at a University level. For once, I was truly entertained by the blatantly obvious cultural parallels that Wole Soyinka drew throughout the interaction of the natives and the British. It really was entertaining, but at the same time, informative. For example on page 41, Soyinka clearly confronts the Western world’s typical treatment of things that are foreign to them. “..you have no respect for what you do not understand”. It is, in my opinion, 100% true. The western world has always felt threatened by things that they do not understand, and for the most part, do not WANT to understand. Instead of the majority trying to learn of foreign ways, they usually condemn difference. This can be seen in history through any earl colonization period (of the Americas, of Africa and of Australia). The British and Americans always tend to stick their nose’s in things that do not need to be tampered with , just because those particular things are “strange and discomforting” to them. Soyinka also points out another typical Western flaw on page 43, “You believe that everything which appears to make sense was learnt from you”. It is true, the Western world has a tendency to take credit when it seems advantageous, but when it is anything but positive, they turn away all responsibility, at least for the most part during that time period. My final observation is on page 59 where Soyinka once again points out a typical Western flaw that unfortunately results in the deaths of the minority. “To prevent one death you will actually make other deaths? Ah, great is the wisdom of the white race”. I really commend Soyinka for blatantly “calling out” the white man on all of his flaws (because he is right in his message), most of the Western majority have no idea they can be so cruel, cynical and unjust. Sometime the Westerns are just so incompetent they think they are helping situations when they are in fact making it worse, (possible parallel to the War on Terror). I think the reason I enjoyed this play was so much was because that it was easy to understand, comical in its satirical manner, and very just in its accusations. It was definitely an interesting/worthwhile read.

    Soyinka, Wole. Death and the King's Horseman. New York: Norton & Company, 1975.

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  8. Alicia Patricca
    GENG 239
    Commentary 2
    2/10/10

    One of the things that struck me the most in “Death and the King’s Horseman” by Wole Soyinka was the clash between the colonials and the native Africans. In the author’s note, Soyinka writes “the Colonial Factor is an incident, a catalytic incident merely. The confrontation in this play is largely metaphysical” (3). However, the reader cannot just dismiss the effects of the District Officer and his wife, as their xenophobic ideas not only drive much of the plot, but complicate the lives of nearly every African they come into contact with, including Amusa and Joseph. They imitate the Africans and mock them by wearing ceremonial dress to a costume ball, and insist that the Africans are wrong in their beliefs just because they are not the same as the British ideas.

    Soyinka, Wole. Death and the King's Horseman. New York: Norton & Company, 1975.

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  9. Emily Bunner
    GENG 239
    Professor Brown
    Feb. 10, 2010

    Commentary 3: Death and the King's Horseman

    In "Death and the King's Horseman" Olunde says "You forget I have now spent four years among your people. I discovered that you have no respect for what you do not understand" (Soyinka 41). It has often been the case that travelers from the "civilized world" have tried to teach the natives of different countries the culture and religion of their "civilized world" so that the natives would no longer be savage heathens. Through this we have lost many glorious, and ancient civilizations. We lost the records of the Mayan civilization because the Archbishop Diego de Landa thought the Mayans were devil worshippers and burned all of their records. Olunde is very right, we often don't respect what we don't understand, and by trying to change what we don't understand we lose ancient ways that have existed long before we were born.

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  10. Roxanne Rohr
    2/8/10
    Death and the King’s Horseman
    Wole Soyinka

    Even though, the characters Pilkins and Jane are depicted as somewhat rude and a little naive about how they approach things, I like it. It seems like a real depiction of how at the time, Europeans were seen in the eyes of Africans. They almost seem like children with no respect, but they provide comic relief which is why I like them. They almost try to be respectful, but at the same time they aren’t afraid to offend anybody too much because I get the feeling that the Europeans think highly of themselves. “JANE: I think you’ve shocked his big pagan heart bless him. PILKINGS: Nonsense, he’s a Moslem. Come on Amusa, you don’t believe in all this nonsense do you? I thought you were a good Moslem.” (Soyinka 19).

    Soyinka, Wole., and Gikandi, Simon, ed. “Death and the King’s Horseman”. New York:
    W. W. Norton and Company, Inc, 2003. Print

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  11. I found it a little ironic when Pilkings said to Joseph, "... Don't tell me all that holy water nonsense also wiped out your tribal memory." since it sounds like they are christian missionaries to me (Soyinka 24). I am also seeing a lot of ethnocentrism with Pilkings and Jane since it sounds like they are very intolerant of the local customs, and thought, "What if the Yoruban people were the missionaries and were trying to convert the Pilkings' to their culture and how would that work out?"


    Soyinka, Wole and Gikandi, Simon, ed. "Death and the King's Horseman". New York: W. W. Norton and Company, Inc., 2003. Print

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  12. Zach Reichard
    GENG 239

    Wole Soinka’s play, “Death and the King’s Horseman,” exemplifies a classic example of the type of harassment native tribes went through, and still go through today from exploration. Throughout history you hear stories about how the “white man” came and destroyed forests, killed children and women, and burnt native towns to the ground in order to gain control of more land. This is a mirror image of any of those stories. In the play, the British cannot understand the way of the Africans. Just the simple fact that the British were raised in a different type of world makes it impossible for them to be understanding of the Nigerians. Olunde says it best when he says, “You forgot I have now spent four years among your people. I discovered that you have no respect for what you do not understand.” He could not have said it any better. For some reason when civilized worlds stumble upon native tribes that are not as sophisticated as them, they feel that it’s their responsibility to “civilize them,” and this is in a violent manor almost 100% of the time. Sometimes I wish that people would be “civilized” themselves and maybe they could learn tons of new valuable things from these native tribes.

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  13. Delaney Tomczak
    Geng 239, Commentary 3

    In Wole Soyinka's play, "Death and the Kings Horseman," the idea of a cultural lense affecting one culture's understanding of another is quite evident. The whole play revolves around the fact that the British aliens cannot understand the doings of the Africans and the African, likewise, cannot understand the doings of the British. Both cultures, raised with such different beliefs, cannot possibly exist with an understanding attitude towards one another when they were raised in such different environments. As Olunde tries to help Jane understand the death of his father and his culture's traditions, he states at one point in the play, "How can I make you understand? He has protection." Unfortunately, Jane, like the British people in Africa cannot see past her own views and her own cultural ideals of right and wrong to understand the likings of another civilization or group.

    Soyinka, Wole and Gikandi, Simon, ed. "Death and the King's Horsemen." New York: W.W. Norton and Company, Inc., 2003. Print

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  14. Anne Marie Moore
    Commentary #3
    "Death and The King's Horseman," a play by Wole Soyinka, encompasses the cultural differences between the British and Nigerians and the problems caused by a lack of understanding. In the story Elesin fails to kill himself when he is suppossed to, disturbing one of the great rituals of his people. Interestingly the Nigerians blame Elesing for his failure, not the Pilkings or the British soldiers who arrested him. As Iyaloja states "We called you leader and oh how you led us on. What we have no intention of eating should not be held to the nose." (56). This quote really stood out to me because I feel it helps the reader get a good grasp on how seriously tradition and ritual was in this particular culture. Important to the point that Elessin's son was willing to end his life in order to make up for his father's mistakes. Taking of your cultural lense, a reader is able to get a better picture of how things truly were in Nigeria.

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  15. Jordan Smith
    February 10, 2010
    Michelle Brown
    GENG 239:0004

    Wole Soyinka's "Death of the King's Horseman" is a comment on an African culture during British Imperialism. The country is part of the British Empire, but the British possess a false sense of control. The British characters just want their superiors to think that they are in charge when they are not, "PILKINGS You could tell him the truth, sir. RESIDENT I could? No no no Pilkings, that would never do. What! Go and tell him there is a riot just two miles away from him? This is supposed to be a secure colony of His Majesty, Pilkings" (Soyinka, 39). At this point the British think that the native people should obey their every command since they have already taken power away from them. Since this is not the case they must make it appear as though it is, even though it is not.

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  16. Soyoung Choi
    Michelle Brown
    02/10/10

    The book of Death and the King’s horseman by wole Soyinka is a based on true story. After the king die, people expected Elesin’s death who was king’s horseman because he suppose to led the king in afterlife as a real life. It was a custom. He readily accepted the custom, so he received special treatment by people. Even though, Pilkings rescued him from custom, Elesin committed suicide. I cannot understand Elesin and people. First, how can he readily accepted the die even it is one of their custom. I think He is one of the victims of custom even he wants to die for the king. What about people, they joined the custom. Of course, this custom is come down from long time ago and people think it is a natural thing. But I think people joined because the reality is they are not going to die which means they might be release about Elesin is king’s horseman, not them.

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  17. Shawna Bruell
    Geng 239
    9:05 MWF
    Commentary
    In the reading "Death and King's Horseman," I noticed a lot of ethnocentrism. Pilkings and Jane seem to be naive about the native peoples way of life.Their assumptions that their own way of life is better or more "proper, makes me so angry. The Yoruban customs are not respected and looked down upon by Pilkings and Jane. For example, on (page 21) when Pilkings says "probably the affect of those bloody drums,do you here how they go on and on?" A statement like this makes the reader know that Pilkings is annoyed with the drumming,which is a huge part of the culture, therefor it is really foreshadowing an annoyance with many of the culturalistic aspects, because he doesn't "get it." Does Pilkings and Jane's ethnocentrism really bother anyone else? I know there are still people today who look at the world and other cultures in terms of their own but it's not okay. We need to learn to "smash our cultural lenses" as Professor Brown would say and look at other cultures from a completely objective standpoint.

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  18. Wole Soyinka's "Death and the King's Horseman" is an exemplar of the Nigerian culture, as the mojority of the comments above have already mentioned; however, on a different line of thought, the play also touches on a more universal - and I say "universal" in the most unbiased of sense - struggle of the individual desire with societal duties. This manifests in the text with the juxtaposition of Elesin and Olunde. Elesin chooses to pursue his own desire (in the form of lust for the beautiful woman) against the warnings of Iyaloja, and he fails his duty to his people because he was fought "for the left-overs of the world" (Soyinka 56) since he was strayed from his honor because of this lust (this culture, as opposed to our own, seems to have a karmic view, which explains why the people saw Elesin at fault father than Simon). Ironically, Olunde, who seems to have forsaken his culture by studying abroad, contrasts his father's individualism with a desire to please society as he commits suicide "because he could not bear to let honour fly out of doors" (p. 61).

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  19. Sam Snelgrove
    Dr. Brown
    2/10/10
    GENG 239

    One of the most interesting themes in Wole Soyinka's play, "Death and the King's Horseman," is that of a man's duty. Elesin receives a plethora of praise for being willing to die for his king, which has been his destiny since birth. However, when he fails to die, his son takes his place, despite his promising future, because the dishonor Elesin has brought on their family is so great. When Elesin dies at the end of the play, Iyaloja rebukes Pilkings for attempting to resuscitate him, saying, "why do you labor at tasks for which no one, not even the man lying here, would give you thanks?" By failing to perform his duty, Elesin dishonored himself and his family and had become an outcast of their society.



    Source: Soyinka, Wole. Death and the King's Horseman. New York: Norton & Company, 1975.

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  20. Alex Mingo

    In the play, "Death And The King's Horseman," by Wole Soyinka, has a major theme surrounded by duty to either oneself of one's own group. This is evidenced by Elesing being blames by the Nigerians after he does not participate in the the ritual after he is interfered with by the British, and even more when his son, Olunde, who previously was, in Elesin's words, "Stole from me... sent him to your country so you could turn him into something in your own image (51)" decides to redeem his family's name and takes his fathers place. He feels so much duty to his home culture even though he was westernized and dies in the ritual, leaving Elesin to eventually kill himself too.

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  21. Erin Daniels
    Commentary #3

    At the end of the play, Iyaloja asks Pilkings, "Why do you strain yourself? Why do you labour at tasks for which no one, not even the man lying there, would give you thanks?" (Soyinka 62). Although this play takes place in 1946 during colonialism, this quote reminds me of criticisms today of the West trying to help out in Africa that say we are doing more harm than good (though we may have good intentions). As I learned in one of my other classes, one of the criticisms of the West's attempts to help is that we are using our own ideals and development strategies and applying them to cultures much different than our own where it just won't work. The same tragedy was true for Pilkings: he tried to "help" but because he could not see past his own cultural lens, it ended in disaster.

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  22. GENG 239
    Dr. Brown
    9:05MWF
    2/10/10

    In the play, "Death And The King's Horseman," by Wole Soyinka I noticed many thoughtful proverbs scattered throughout the text. The first is in the very beginning of the play it reads, "a man is either born to his art or he isn't."(Soyinka,5). Proverbs are prime examples of never mistaking brevity for simplicity which we discussed in class. This quote to me means that all of us in life are on a journey and some of us are given the right tools for our trade while others must find them.

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  23. Caitlin Fontanez
    GENG 239 12:20
    Commentary on "Death and The King's Horseman"

    In “Death and The King’s Horseman” by Wole Soyinka, many different rituals and sacrifices are made to honor tradition and beliefs. The character Pilkings is portrayed as naive and oblivious to the native culture, which makes this piece very difficult for me to read. Pilkings states, “probably the effect of those bloody drums. Do you hear how they go on and on” and “ they always have an excuse for making noise” (pg. 21),showing their cultural ignorance. The rituals that are performed in the book are portrayed as sacred and important rituals to the natives, however Pilkings describes them as simply being an annoyance because he is unfamiliar with them. As my cultural lens has been removed, I feel as though I have been able to grasp a better understanding by not judging the characters based on their culture, race or even sex, unlike the characters in the book.

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  24. Tian-Hao Wang
    Commentary 3

    In Wole Soyinka’s play, “Death and the King’s Horseman” there is a sense of hypocrisy in the actions of the British imperialists similar to act two when Jane jokes with Pilkings, “How can man talk against death to person in uniform of death?” (Soyinka 21). By trying to make Africa better by forcing their own culture upon them, Western imperialists end up making things worse in Africa. This can be seen in Pilkings trying to stop the ritual suicide of the King’s Horsemen because it is seen as wrong in western eyes. In reality, things would not have ended up better in a sense compared to what really happened if Pilkings did not intervene, where the play would end with one death instead of two deaths and a lot of trouble in between. This is similar to the real world where things usually end up worse when other cultures try to impose their own culture on others, when compared to what would have occurred if they left others be.

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  25. Brian Stout

    In Wole Soyinka’s play Death and the King’s Horseman, a lack of understanding between the Europeans and their colonials is depicted just as it was in real life. Native customs are seen as not just foreign but bizarre and barbaric. Olunde remarks "You forget I have now spent four years among your people. I discovered that you have no respect for what you do not understand" (Soyinka 41). My cultural lens interferes with my fair evaluation of this play, as I find myself siding with the imperial British. Not only seeking to “make the world England,” as the old slogan went, Pilkings is exercising a basic justification of humanity when he refuses to allow Elesin to commit the ritual suicide.

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  26. In the play, “Death and the kin’s horseman” by Wole Soyinka described religious ritual and it gave me extraordinaire feeling. Amusa and the Joseph explain that Elesin will commit ritual suicide.
    Joseph said to Pilkings “he will kill anybody and no one will kill him. He will simply die” (22). Than Joseph said, “It is native law and custom. The kin die last month. Tonight is his ritual. But before they can bury him, the Elesin must die so as to accompany him to heaven” (22). Elesin is the King’s Chief Horseman. That is the only reason he must to kill himself that night so the king will not be alone. I feel like this native law is not fair and selfish law that I never hear. However, they have been follow the native law, and this was also their part of culture but still I have bad feeling about this. Simon and Jane also discuss the foolishness of native belief. I think the author wants to give us a turning point of the story and I think this event gave us curiosity how story is going to the ending.

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  27. commentary #3
    2/10/10

    Wole Soyinka's play "The Death and the King's Horseman" is a demonstration of mainly one culture and the effect of a an imposing culture on an event. The play forces one to take off their cultural lens and see why Elesin is to commit suicide behind the King. Olunde says to Jane "I discovered that you have no respect for what you do not understand" (41). The cultural difference in practices done by Elesin's people and the Europeans are very different and Olunde is saying that the Europeans don't appreciate or understand the way things are done in their culture because they haven't taken off that "cultral lens" to say.

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  28. Natalie French
    February 10, 2010
    Commentary #3 for Death and the King’s Horseman

    I feel that Wole Soyinka’s Death and the King’s Horseman could not be any more relevant to our course. In this course we are learning how to remove our cultural lenses, so that upon reading about other cultures and experiencing them, we will not be tempted to judge them and compare them to our own. Wole Soyinka’s belief in removing one’s cultural lens is demonstrated when Elesin states, “You did not save my life District Officer. You destroyed it.” (50), and then proceeds to say “And not merely my life but the lives of many. The end of the night’s work is not over. Neither this year nor the next will see it. If I wished you well, I would pray that you do not stay long enough on our land to see the disaster you have brought upon us.” (50). Pilkings has failed to remove his cultural lenses, preventing Elesin from performing his ritual death. This causes Elesin to accuse Pilkings of destroying his culture. If Pilkings had been less quick to judge Elesin’s ritual act, he would have been able to see the impact that this ritual would have had on Elesin’s community.

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  29. Geng 239
    Commentary #3
    Death and the King's Horseman
    Audrey Sedlacek

    Wole Soyinka's play "The Death and the King's Horseman" is a great example of the Europeans not being able to remove their cultural lens and seeing that just because something is different, it does not mean it is necessarily wrong. The Europeans see the Nigerian culture as wrong and uncivilized just because they don't understand it. This right away made me think about War on Terror, as well and terrorist, because in this book Elesin thinks it is his duty to kill himself and the Europeans stop him and say it is suicide because they don't understand their culture and what their beliefs are. It made me see terrorist through a different perspective. Although, i do not support them killing people I can see how in their eyes they think they are fighting for their country and doing what is right in their religion but in our eyes we see them as ruthless murderers due to our cultural lens.

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  30. GENG 239 12:20
    Commentary #3
    Death and the King's Horseman
    Annie Armstrong

    In this play their are many instances and examples of how the Europeans do not act in an unbiased way towards the natives, attempting to push their own values onto them, even going as far as interfering with their rituals. The chief's son, Olunde, puts it nicely when he says "Before that even started I had plenty of time to study your people. I saw nothing, finally, that gave you the right to pass judgement on other peoples and their ways. Nothing at all" (pg 44). This quote can be used nicely to sum up the natives sentiments towards the Europeans, and gives them back up in a way, since Olunde spent so long in the company of Europeans. This quote can also be directed at the readers to make sure that they do not pass their own judgement and prejudices on what they are reading, and reminds them that it is not their culture they are reading about, but someone elses.


    Source: Soyinka, Wole. Death and the King's Horseman. New York: Norton & Company, 1975.

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  31. Kayla Hirschmugl
    Geng 12:20 MWF
    Death and the King's Horseman Commentary


    At the very end of scene 4, when Olunde comes back form Med-School to bury his fathers body. which is part of the tradition, he is conversing with Jane. All of a sudden Elesin's voice is heard off stage and Olunde is shocked to find out his father has not crossed over to the world of the dead yet.
    "Elesin:Olunde? [ He moves his head, inspecting him from side to side.] Olunde! [He slowly collapses at Olunde's feet.] Oh son, don't let the sight of your father turn you blind!
    Olunde: [he moves for the first time since he heard his voice, brings his head slowly down to look on him] I have no father, eater or left-overs (Soyinka, pg. 49-50)."
    After learning that your father was supposed to be dead and then showing up alive you would think that the reaction would be the complete opposite. This is a perfect example of something extreme, like a parents death, when put into a traditional situation in a different culture can be taken completely different. Instead of being happy that his father is still alive, he is tremendously disgusted bu his father's failure to kill himself and then cross over to the world of the dead to take care of the King. He is so disgusted that he even tells his father, "O have no father.. (Soyinka, pg. 50)." Which is a harsh thing to say to one of your parents.

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  32. Meredith Sizemore
    GENG 239, MWF 9:05-9:55
    Commentary #3

    There are many themes that can be deciphered or assumed from Wole Soyinka's play, "Death and the King's Horseman." However the Author's Note prefacing the play makes these themes vanish into one over arching theme. Sonyinka wrote, "The bane of themes of this genre is that they are no sooner employed creatively than they acquire the facile tag of 'clash of cultures', a prejudicial label which, quite apart from its frequent misapplication, presupposes a potential equality in every given situation" (Soyinka 3). Sonyinka continues to explain that the play is about transition in general and it is not about East vs. West, tribal vs. colonial, etc. And I think that is important to remember before reading this play.

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  33. Carrie Barbagallo
    Commentary 3
    February 10, 2010

    I agree with Audrey Sedlacek’s post about how the Europeans were unable to remove their cultural lens while viewing the Nigerian culture and therefore saw it to be wrong. This class has been about removing your cultural lens to be able to look at a culture from a different perspective, putting your beliefs, values, and experiences behind you. In Wole Soyinka’s play “The Death and the King’s Horseman” it is apparent that the conflict is derived from one culture not accepting another culture for what it is. I, too, was reminded of terrorists and why they perform their acts of what we see to be terroristic. For the terrorist, he is being loyal to his country and is seen as a hero, even though it is a tragedy on our part. Being very interested in social sciences, I remember when I learned that some anthropologists will travel to a different country to view a culture and their behaviors and was initially shocked when I discovered that if they watch someone kill themselves they cannot step in to stop the person if it is a normal part of that culture’s culture. The anthropologist is there to observe and not interfere even though his or her own culture may have entirely different views on the behavior. Looking back on this, I can only imagine that anthropologists, or anyone who studies another culture, must instantly throw off their cultural lens in order to fully grasp the other culture they are studying. I think it is important for everyone to remove their cultural lens and stop interfering with other cultures and their traditions so that things like in this play, or de Landa burning the Mayan history stop happening.

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  34. Ingred Centeno
    GENG 239, Brown
    2-11-10
    Commentary #3

    Assuming one's definition of something and/or someone is shared by everyone is a self centered tendency people commonly share. In Death and the King's Horseman, Wole Soyinka portrays this cultural egotistic point in a comment made by a European man, Mr. Pilkings, to a Yoruba man Elesin. After disagreeing that the night was at peace because of the silence surrounding them, Elesin asks “And does quiet mean peace for you?” (p. 50), which brings me to the differences of definition in words and the feelings they evoke in people from various cultures. Interestingly, for Elesin, silence did not necessarily represent peace; for Mr. Pilkings, peace AND quiet was usually paired for defining purposes. Today, it's very common to say those two together as well when describing an ideal "peaceful" environment.

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  35. Marlee Newman
    GENG 239
    Commentary 3

    Soyinka's "Death and the King's Horseman" ends in tragedy, with two deaths where there should have been only one. While neither culture understands the other, the Iyaloja's final speech reveals the parasitic nature of England/Pilkings inability and unwillingness to understand Yoruba culture. "No child, it is what you brought to be, you who play with strangers' lives, who even usurp the vestments of our dead, yet believe that the stain of death will not cling to you. The gods demanded only the old expired plantain but you cut down the sap-laden shoot to feed your pride. There is your board, filled to overflowing. Feast on it" (62). Imperialism swept across their country without attempting to understand the indigenous culture. This short-sightedness, in all their dealings with the Yorubans, brought full circle the tragic end; a deadening culture, with no past and no future.


    Soyinka, Wole and Gikandi, Simon, ed. "Death and the King's Horsemen." New York: W.W. Norton and Company, Inc., 2003. Print

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  36. Liz Wilson

    GENG 239 Weekly commentary- Death and the King’s Horseman

    February 7, 2010

    Throughout the play "Death ad the King’s Horseman" by Wolfe Soyinka, the white settlers in the play think that the only way to do things correctly is their way. They have obviously not shattered their cultural lenses like we did in class the first day. This is similar to the excerpt from "Account of things in the Yucatan" by De Landa, because he also thought that the Spanish culture was superior to that of the natives. The part in the play where this is especially apparent is when Olunde states “… I have discovered that you have no respect for things that you do not understand,” (41). The white people do not respect or understand the culture and beliefs of the African tribe, so they force their own beliefs upon them. I believe that we should respect what other cultures believe in, even though they may be different than our own.

    Soyinka, Wole. "Death and the King’s Horseman". New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company
    Inc., 2003.

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  37. Megan Barnes
    Weekly Commentary #3
    GENG 239 9:05-9:55
    February 12, 2010

    In Death and the King’s Horseman by Wole Soyinka, Elesin quotes that “Life is honour. It ends when honour ends.” Different populations would read this quote differently because certain cultures emphasize honor more than others. Some may not agree with the quote and see it as without honor, there is no reason for living.

    Soyinka, Wole. Simon Gikandi, Ed. “Death and the King’s Horseman.” New York: W.W. Norton. 2003. Print.

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  38. Jennifer Lineback
    Commentary 3
    Geng 239 12:20-1:10
    February 7, 2010

    In Death and the King's Horseman, there is a part where Olunde and Jane are talking about a ship that was blown up during the war and that it was the "captain's self-sacrifice" (p. 42). This foreshadows the events that are happening with Elesin and his duty.

    Soyinka, Wole. "Death and the King's Horseman." New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2003.

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  39. Rebekah Wilkins
    GENG 239 Dr. Brown
    Commentary 3: Soyinka

    The story "Death and the King's Horseman", written by Wole Soyinka and within a play format, tells about how the importance of cemeronial rituals and rights are and that can never die; even when control within the country of Nigeria, where this story takes place. One of the issues that struck out to be a seeming very important part of the play was when Jane Pilkings and Olunde had their conversation in Act IV. Within this scene, Olunde talks to Jane about how he sees the British as disrespectful and yet he admires their courage in battle and shows gracefulness for their help with him to aid him with schooling. He also explains about how things run much deeper in life instead of the following of norms that the British are trying to influence upon his people, stating that: "Yet another error into wich your people fail. You believe that everything which appears to make sense was learnt from you." (Soyinka, 43) This showed a lot of similarity to the writings of "Account of Things in the Yucatan", on how one culture and their beliefs are seen as barbaric to an invading culture upon their lands when there is a deeper meaning. This relates to how important it is to understand this when learning about other cultures. Not everyone will believe in the same thing and what they believe or practice in are considered a different meaning to their eyes than to the eyes of others. Some things that may seem barbaric or crazy to one culture doesn't mean that it is, for those that believe of the practice of these certain things will see them as necessary to balance out the universe and show respect to the ones that went before them.

    Soyinka, Wole and Gikandi, Simon, ed. "Death and the King's Horseman." New York: W.W. Norton and Company, Inc., 2003.

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  40. Sheri Carey
    GENG 239 9:05-9:55
    2/12/10

    Commentary: "Death and the King's Horseman"

    In Wole Soyinka's play, "Death and the King's Horseman," the character Elesin is expected to commit ritual suicide following the death of the king, but he allows the beauty of a young woman to distract him. Elesin says, “Tell me who was that goddess through whose lips I saw the ivory pebbles of Oya’s river-bed” (14). Elesin also allows Simon and British colonial powers deter him from his task. I believe that what Soyinka is trying to teach his readers is that you should not let anyone stop you from doing what you are supposed to do. If you have a commitment to your culture to perform a task and it’s something that you truly believe in, then you should follow through regardless of what anyone else says or does.

    Soyinka, Wole. Simon Gikandi, Ed. “Death and the King’s Horseman.” New York: W.W. Norton. 2003. Print.

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  41. In "Death and the King's Horseman," it is interesting to observe how each age group of women differs from the others. For example, Iyaloja, the "Mother," seems to have the wisdom that comes with old age and a desire for order and peace. For example, she says to Amusa, "Why do you come here to disturb the happiness of others?" (Soyinka, pg. 29) The middle-aged group of women seem to be a little bit fiesty, but still attentive to customs. IN the scene where Amusa tries to break up the ceremonies, the young girls lash back and become defensive of the older women. They show a respect for their elders, but they are more tempermental when their customs are threatened.

    Soyinka, Wole. "Death and the King's Horseman." Ed. Simon Gikandi. Copyright 2003. W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. Print.

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  42. Sara Pribus
    Death and the Kings Horseman

    In "Death and the Kings Horseman" on page 53 Elesin says to his young bride, "You sit and sob in your silent heart but say nothing to all this. First I blamed the white man, then I blamed my gods for deserting me. Now I feel i want to blame you for the mystery of the sapping of my will." I find this very peculiar that Elesin will blame the white man, the gods, and his young bride for his failure at not killing himself. It is Elesin who from the beginning has known that the day has come where he must transcend from this world to the next to follow his King, yet he fails to do so. Does he wait until the end of the day to kill himself in hopes that he will not have to? Elesin celebrates and talks with many people all day and then he "has" to sleep with this young woman before he dies. He refuses to blame himself for not having following the King to the next life. Instead, he blames everyone except him, even though in reality all the fault will remain on his shoulders. The community will not sneer at the young bride because Elesin did not follow his plan, the communities tradition. The community will always put the blame on Elesin even when he does kill himself at the end of the play. In the communities eyes he has still failed. On page 62 the Praise-Singer says "Our world is tumbling in the void of strangers, Elesin." This shows how he has let his people down and no blame of other except Elesin will be allowed.

    Soyinka, Wole. "Death and the King's Horseman." Ed. Simon Gikani. Copyright 2003. W.W.Norton & Company, Inc. Print.

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  43. Katie Lynch
    GENG 239
    9:05 class

    Wole Soyinka's play, Death and the Kings Horseman, allows us to gain a better understanding of Arican culture, beliefs, values, and customs and to relate some of these things to our own lives. In the play, Olunde states "I have no father, eater of leftovers" after discovering his father had failed to fulfill his role as the Kings Horsemen (pg 50). At first I was shocked but then I compared this to children today who "disown" their fathers for walking out on them or for failing to fulfill their role as a father. Both Fathers and the Kings Horseman play an important role in their respective society and culture and by failing to fulfill their roles they let many people down.

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  44. Aly’ssa Quinn
    2/8/10
    GENG 239

    Commentary: Death and the King’s Horseman by Wole Soyinka

    I thought it was interesting how Simon was portrayed in the text as not understanding the sacred tradition of the Nigerian culture or the importance of Elesin’s failure. He appears confused the whole time and compares their rituals to his own culture, showing that he is wearing his cultural lens and viewing his customs as superior simply because that is what he is used to. For example, he shows this unfamiliarity when Iyaloja tells him of the ceremony and he says, “Yes. But we don’t make our chiefs commit suicide to keep him company” (Soyinka 58). This statement shows his misunderstanding of the culture and the significance of their rituals, like we have been discussing in class.

    Soyinka, Wole. Death and the King’s Horseman. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2003. Print.

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  45. In Death and the King's Horseman by Wole Soyinka, the character of Elesin says "Why should I not want to see her? Let her come. I have no more holes in my rag of shame. All is laid bare,"(54). One can make a connection here with Anowa by Ama Ata Aidoo because of the staging directions that say Anowa should only wear a rag wrapped around her body. This idea of being laid bare and in rags seems to follow through in African Literature. It could be just the idea of being without colors or pride anymore or an idea of clothing oneself with shame. This could be a visual that follows in all African Literature as a sort of visual cue.

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  46. Kerry Laub
    GENG 239
    2/12/10

    After reading Wole Soyinka’s play “Death and The King’s Horseman,” the cultural differences between Europeans and the African people were evident in the way the Europeans viewed the African culture as bizarre and uncivilized. Pilkings and Jane seem very naive about not only the custom that Elesin must commit to, but the customs of their own houseboy! I believe it is understandable for them to think it is strange and crude for Elesin to commit suicide in order to join his departed king in heaven. However, for Pilking’s to say to his houseboy, “Don’t tell me all that holy water nonsense also wiped out your tribal memory,” (Soyinka 24) not only offends his previous beliefs in the tribal culture, but his new beliefs in Christianity, which is what Pilkings and Jane seem to believe. But their naivety in Joseph’s beliefs and his knowledge of what was going on at the moment is not what astounds me, but how by keeping Elesin from doing the duties of being the king’s horseman and committing suicide, his son does so as well, and results in two unwanted deaths.

    Soyinka, Wole. Death and the King’s Horseman. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2003. Print.

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  47. Jen Davis
    2/10/10
    Death and the King’s Horseman
    In Death and the King’s Horseman by Wole Soyinka Iyaloja tells Elesin, “Still, even those who leave town to make a new dwelling elsewhere like to be remembered by what they leave behind” (15). This quote is representative of the whole play. Although Elesin might be leaving and sacrificing himself, people always want to be remembered as the hero because they are expected to be.

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  48. Isabel Gutierrez:
    I want to add on to what Saichiko said about the main conflicts of the play, individual desire vs. societal duty and death. The play is more about these conflicts than a simple comparison between Colonial British culture and Nigerian culture, the author says so himself (Soyinka 3). This because the conflict between their cultures is based on a similarity: a fear of straying from their own cultural values that would mean abandoning its protection and degradation. The Nigerian song/poem in the beginning (Soyinka 7-9) acknowledges the universal fear of death, but while celebrating Elesin's departure, death is described as a transcendence, that is Elesin's honor and duty (Soyinka 35). By failing it, he betrays all his people for worldly desires. That is the core of the play.

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  49. Alison Schroeder
    GENG 239
    M/W/F 9:05-9:55


    I found the reading of Death and The King's Horseman a little bit difficult, yet after reading it a over a few times I was able to grasp a good lesson from it. In the play their is controversy over two different cultures takes an effect on the citizens of the British and native communities. This issue of culture specifically effected me while reading this because of how common this is show in our own culture right now. The scene where the British mock the customs of the natives is similar to how the whites used to be to different cultures just because of how different they were from us. The British dressed up in costumes and acted immature by imitating them. This part of the story makes you reconsider the actions that you do in your everyday life, just because someone doesn't do the same as you doesn't mean you need to mock their beliefs and traditions.


    Soyinka, Wole. Death and The King's Horseman. New York: W.W Norton & Company, 2003. Print.

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  50. I found the idea of community to be really interesting in Soyinka's play. Not only does Elesin have a duty to his community, but Pilkings also has a lawful duty to his superiors to intervene on the ritual suicide of the king's horseman. "Pilkings: Well, I did my duty as I saw it. I have no regrets. Elesin: No. The regrets in life always come later." (Soyinka 51) Obviously, there is a clash of culture, but morally speaking, even though Pilkings is not part of the Yorubian culture, was it right of him to stop the ritual from happening? I think the entire point of the play is to say no, it wasn't right, but does a human's duty to another human play a part in this? Regardless of culture. Or, does Soyinka undermine the moral duty of humanity? I think in a way he does. Even though the gap in culture is huge, I think that watching another man willfully commit suicide is painful enough to the point of intervention.


    Soyinka, Wole. Death and The King's Horseman. New York: W.W Norton & Company, 2003. Print.

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  51. Katelyn Bledsoe

    On page 15 Soyinka states, “Who does not seek to be remembered? Memory is the Master of Death, the chink in his armour of conceit. I shall leave that which makes my going the sheerest Dream of an afternoon.” This statement is interesting because it suggests that Elesin’s life will not be over after his death, that it will be on going. It also suggests that his honor is being challenged and with the acts he is participating in again on page 15, , Soyinka states “Should voyagers not travel light? Let the considerate traveler shed, of his excessive load, all that may benefit the living.”

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  52. Danielle Kuykendall
    2/12/10

    In Wole Soyinka's play "Death and the King's Horseman", the horseman's son Olunde says, "You forget that I have spent four years among your people. I discovered that you have no respect for what you do not understand," (41). Yoruba tradition holds that following the death of a chief, the chief's horseman must commit a ritual suicide to help the chief's spirit ascend to the afterlife. This is a custom that the British are not familiar or comfortable with, and they consider it to be a crime. It is important to recognize that different cultures may have beliefs and traditions different from our own, but they still deserve the same amount of respect and acceptance.

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  53. Courtney Versfeld
    Geng 239
    Professor Michelle Brown
    2/12/10
    Commentary 3
    Wole Soyinka’s, “Death and the King’s Horseman” is a fascinating play of the Nigerian culture and myths. It is particularly interesting that the role of sacrifice and death is such a major part of their cultural beliefs. We acknowledge this difference of human sacrifice by smashing our cultural lenses. We are given a scenario of what would happen if these “duties” were not carried out. Elesin is upset with Pilkings for stopping him from sacrificing himself as this is not a norm for Pilkings. However, the point is that although people are different and have unique ways, it does not mean yours are the right ways. This is what I depicted when Elesin says, “You did not save my life, District officer. You destroyed it.”

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  54. In Wole Soyinka's "Death and the King's Horseman", loyalty shows up a key theme. Early in the book Elesin's loyalty to his chief is called into question when they talk about his sacrifice in the ritual. "My master's hands and I have always dipped together and, home or sacred feast, the bowl was beaten bronze, the meats so succulent our teeth accused of us neglect" (10). However, his loyalty is later used against him when he is told not to go through with the sacrifice. Loyalty leads to the tragic death of his son, and ultimately, his own death. The theme of loyalty resounds strongly throughout the play, and is the ultimate demise of Elesin.

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  55. The play "Death and the King's Horseman" mainly focuses on the importance and vitality of fulfilling one's duty. Elesin has known for sometime that his role as the king's horseman comes with many significant responsabilites, such as suicide after the king's death. Elesin accepts this task and was planning on going through with it. After the king's death Elesin became distracted by the material world surrounding him. He fails to fulfill his civil duty; this in turn not only affects his own fate, but also that of the people of Yoruba. Is it possible that the actions of one man can ruin the community forever? The characters in the play seem to adamantly believe this idea, especially Iyaloja, "Now look at the spectacle of your life. I grieve for you"(Soyinka 58). This story is used to demonstrate the importance of being accountablity for one's actions and oaths. Even though it is hard to believe that because Elesin did not perform his duties that the whole community will be experiencing unrest for the rest of their lives; it is a good lesson for any reader.

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  56. Amy Kline
    GENG 239
    11 February 2010

    Commentary Death and the Kings Horseman

    I think that its interesting how Elesin is celebrating his own suicide at first, but then becomes selfish and wants everything for himself and this comes in the way of his "duty." I found it disturbing that no one questioned the morality in a woman automatically belonging to him because he had to die. What about what she wanted? What about the fact that she was married?

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  57. Rabab Hashmi
    GENG 239
    Professor Brown

    The play Death and the King’s Horseman by Wole Soyinka is a portrayal of intolerance of other cultural beliefs. The major theme of this play is death, as the plot revolves around Elesin’s duty to die for the King. This was a cultural practice for the natives, which was looked down upon by the British. When Pilkings assures Elesin that he saved his life, Elesin states, “You did not save my life District Officer. You destroyed it” (50). This inability to understand the other perspective suggests Pilkings is narrow-minded. Although Pilkings believes he is doing the right thing, for Elesin and his people he has destroyed their livelihood. The irony of the situation occurs when Elesin and his son Olunde both end up dying at the end, and Iyaloja states, “The gods demanded only the old expired plantain but you cut down the sap-laden to feed your pride” (62). Despite Pilkings and his mens’ desperate attempts to prevent Elesin’s death, the result was the death of two lives instead.

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  58. This is from Adam Moyer
    GENG 239
    Brown
    MWF 9:05-9:55

    Commentary on DATKH
    I found Pilkings' comment about crushing cultural differences to be absurd and quite offensive. He stated early in the play during Amusa's report that "You think you've stamped it all out but it's always lurking under the surface somewhere." This quote concisely sums up Pilkings' entire stance on cultural differences and the worth that such differences hold in colonial culture. It was terribly arrogant of any of the upper class residents to think that they were superior in both custom and intelligence to the natives.

    Soyinka, Wole. Death and the King’s Horseman. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2003. Print.

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  59. Andrea Kopstein
    GENG239
    Brown
    -----------------------------------------------
    At the bottom of page 48, Pilkings makes Olunde aware that there is a crisis going on, and Olunde expresses his complete unsureness as to the nature of the crisis. I found it interesting that it seemingly did not even occur to Olunde that this so-called crisis was a result of his father being prevented from killing himself and that he was so certain that his father had succeeded in accomplishing his task as planned and therefore no crisis should have occured. Olunde exclaimed,"What's going on? All this couldn't be because he failed to stop my father killing himself. If he'd succeeded that would be more likely to start the riot." Olunde had a difficult time considering and coming to terms with the fact that one culture's lack of understanding of another would lead to one culture's interference and prevention of the important customs of the other. Similarly,while an atheist does not belive in God, he/she does not reserve the right to prevent those who do from attending church. As evidence of the importance of the customs of Elesin and Olunde's culture is the apparent complete lack of grief or emotion of any kind felt by Olunde regarding his father's death. The fact Elesin had to end his life was not viewed through Oluende's eyes as a tragedy but merely a fact tha Olunde had accepted with a "calm acceptance" that was not the least bit understood by Jane. In a failed attempt to help Jane understand, Olunde explained that his father had "been dead in his mind for nearly a month." In cultures where the committing of one's own death (viewed as making the transition from realm to the other in such cultures) is not viewed as a duty that one must perform as dictated by his/her culture, it is something that invariably is accompanied by feelings of grief and followed by a long acceptance period.

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