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To what extent does Soyinka present Jeroboam and his gullible congregation firstly as victims of social forces and secondly, as victims of their own greed and opportunism in The Trials of Brother Jero?

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Danielle Abulhawa DRA2001 To what extent does Soyinka present Jeroboam and his gullible congregation firstly as victims of social forces and secondly, as victims of their own greed and opportunism in The Trials of Brother Jero? "Human life cannot be represented in a fully or truthful manner without taking account of the pressures brought to bear upon the individual by his milieu, by the particularity of social situation and historical circumstance" John Cruickshank (1969) I have chosen the quote above as a starting point for my essay because I believe that Africa as a continent has seen such extremes of political and social upheaval that to overlook the importance of history, and its affects down the evolutionary scale on the people of Africa, in African literature and particularly in Soyinka's The Trials of Brother Jero would be very wrong. But how far can you make allowances for greed, selfishness and opportunism (which almost every character in the play attributes to) under the assumption that they are just products of the greed, selfishness and opportunism inflicted on the people when colonisation reared its ugly head? by the same token I feel that it is easy for an audience or reader of a play to put characters good or bad points purely down to their 'character'. When a play write presents you with characters that are so easy to interpret then you have to ask yourself, why? ...read more.


In fact in Soyinka's own words, from an essay entitled from a common backcloth: A reassessment of the African literary Image he writes of "the European observer" that: "He still fights a rearguard today. It has grown subtler. Accommodation is his new weapon, not dictation" Soyinka (1988) Accommodation of the African continent or of the minds of the African masses perchance? Chume is another of Soyinka's main characters in the play, an un-educated, naive, gullible, hen-pecked man who relies completely on the 'help' he gets from Jero. Looking at the play it is easy perceive that Soyinka has presented Chume as a victim. In the excerpt I have quoted below we can see how Chume goes to see brother Jero, desperate to find help for the mental torture he suffers by his nagging wife, Amope; Chume: My life is hell... Jero: Forgive him, father, forgive him. Chume: This woman will kill me... Jero: Forgive him, father, forgive him. Chume: Only this morning I... Jero: Forgive him, father, forgive him. Chume: All the way on my bicycle... Jero: Forgive... Chume: And not a word of thanks... Jero: Out Ashtoreth. Out Baal... Chume: All she gave me was abuse, abuse, abuse... All Chume wants is for Jero to allow him to beat her, just once, but Jero keeps him hanging on saying it is not the will of god. ...read more.


The quotation above suggests that western influences have even meant a breaking down of the unity that religion brings. After having looked at The Trials of Brother Jero, and having discussed the idea of victimisation I can only conclude that human beings, from whatever culture or walk of life, all desire the same basic things - money and material possessions, respect, power and equality (though not necessarily in that order). The idea that has cropped up so often in my essay, that the social forces which work upon the individual and the nation as a whole are a direct effect of colonisation, is probably the most interesting point of all. You can indeed find reasoning within the text to assume that Soyinka may have intended for this theme to become apparent, whether or not you regard any of the characters as victims or even if you regard them as victims and perpetrators together at the same time. Below I have included a quotation from S.E. Ogude in his essay African Literature and the Burden of History: Some Reflections in which he talks about another African playwright, Chinua Achebe (1975) Saying: "He also reveals the weaknesses of the traditional society and the ease with which European capitalism and religion supported by gun powder and cannon balls successfully challenged the dominance of traditional culture." If this is indeed true then it is a terrible, terrible shame. ...read more.

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