0715CD136 - University of Ilorin

MAY, 2011.
This project has been read and approved as meeting a part of the
requirements for the award of a Bachelor of Arts (B.A Hons.) Faculty of
Arts, Department of English, University of Ilorin, Ilorin.
Dr. (Mr.) K. N. Afolayan
Dr. Shola Babatunde
Head of Department
External Examiner
This project is dedicate to the Almighty God, Ancient of days, who
has being my Alpha and Omega, my substance in life and to my lovely
parent Mr. and Mrs. O. I. Olanrewaju and my lovely brother and sister, Tinu,
Biodun, Abiola, who the Lord has used to make me what I am to day.
Thanks to God who has brought me so far in life and Unilorin.
My sincere gratitude and appreciation goes to the Almighty God who
by His mercy has brought me this far.
I thank Him for His grace, provision and His tender love. I express my
profound gratitude to my lovely pastor, Wole Soetan, Rev. Biodun
Fatoyinbo, Minister Ken and also to my supervisor, Dr. Afolayan for your
prayer, guidance, care and understanding. I can not remember any day of
depression with you. God bless you sir.
My appreciation goes to my parents Mr. and Mrs. O. I. Olanrewaju, I
say thank you for your love and care, expenses. May the good God bless and
preserve your life to eat the fruits of your labour.
Also to my sisters and brothers, who has been my consolidator, help
mate, I would not have gotten this far without you. You are a special gift
from God, God bless you and grant you speedy in life.
I am indeed indebted to my lecturers, I count myself lucky to have
passed through their tutelage. God bless you all.
To all my friends, Yemi Ajiboye, Opeoluwa Popoola, Yinka Usman,
Arije Yetunde, Olata Busayo, Jide Wumi, and Yusuf Damilola. Thank you
for always putting me in the right spirit in the course of writing this project
work. I cannot remember any day of depression with you. Thanks for your
encouragement, God will honour you.
Likewise, my appreciation goes to Dr. Femi Dunmade who has been
of help to me and also to lovely lecturer Dr. (Mrs.) Olujide.
Now unto God the creator of the universe, do I own my greatest
I want to say categorically that, it is not by power nor by might, nor
my strength because they all failed but by the spirit of God (grace).
This research endeavour focuses on the social and political ills
prevalent in the African societies with the view of correcting them thus,
making the contemporary society a better place to live. Using two texts from
renowned Nigeria writer, we see the economic, social and political evils
which morally degrade our society and the community at last. These evils
are being satirized to bring about transformation. Here, the sociological
approach is employed. The quota sampling system is use in this research
work, brings out the religious hypocrisy, moral decadence, marital
imbalance and corruption palpable a savage, portrait of group of dictatorial
African leader at (bay in an embassy) in our text of study. This study brings
out the evil inherent in African socio-political system and calls for a change
especially in a society.
Title Page
Table of Contents
Aims/Purpose of Study
Significance of the Study
Scope and Limitation
Sociological Theory
The Nature of Satire
Types of Satire
Critical Analysis of “The Trials of Brother Jero”
Satiric Vision in The Trials of Brother Jero
The Thematic Pre-Occupation of the Play
Critical Analysis of “A Play of a Giants”
Main Theme: Dictatorship
Use of Literary Devices
It is generally conceived by many scholars, that literature mirrors the
society. However, literature goes beyond just mirroring the society to depict
various aspects of human life.
The social, political, economical, religions and historical aspects of
human lives are portrayed through literature. Basically, there are three major
genres of literature, poetry prose and drama.
For the sake of this study, we shall concentrate on the dramatic
generic form of literature and the social mediation.
Drama represents life in a more distinctive way. It educates,
entertains, orientates and satirizes. Drama originates from the Greek worship
of gods in the classical period as a form of ritual.
This research concentrates on the concept of satire used by African
playwrights (using Wole Soyinka as case studies) to effect societal
Satire according to the Dictionary of Literary Terms (1977) is a
literary work intended to arouse ridicule, contempt and follies of man and
his institutions. It is also aimed at correcting malpractice by inspiring both
indignation and laughter with a mixture of criticism and wit. The concept of
satire is invented from the act of mockery or ridiculous, to correct the ills of
the society.
Satire is any piece of writing that uses devices such as irony. A text or
performance that uses irony, derision or wit to expose or attack human vice,
foolishness or stupidity.
To buttress this, George Ostler in Oxford Dictionary, Opines that
Satire is a composition which vice or folly is tended up to ridicule.
Sarcasm or irony is used to expose absurdity. The essence of satire
therefore is to ridicule the ills of an individual or institution with the aim of
correcting and transforming the society. Satire helps to mould individuals
character and it also exposes the point of weakness of particular society.
Social and political satire is prominent in this particular Wole Soyinka’s
work see in Wole Soyinka. Trial of Brother Jero and A play of Giant
selected Dramatext above. He treated social satire obtainable in the
contemporary Nigeria society.
According to Shorter Oxford Dictionary. Satire is a thing, fact or
circumstance that has the effect of making some person or thing ridiculous.
It is employed to mock or cause the actions of man or his beliefs. According
to the Collins Dictionary of English Language is a novel play, entertainment
etc in which typical issues, follies, or evils are held up to scorn by means of
ridicule and irony.
Jessie Coulson, describes Satire as:
“Satire is a composition in which folly or vice is
held up to ridicule, use of ridicule, sarcasm or
irony to expose folly”.
Satire is a literary technique which principally ridicules its subject which
includes individuals, organization or states often as an intended means of
provoking or preventing changes. Satire can be said to be both a specific
literary genre, and a literary manner. As a literary genre, it is said to have
reference to a poetic form which was originated in the 2 nd century B.C
Persuis, Juveral and Quritilian. This is to say that Satire was initially often
Quintilian that it required a general application to other forms of literary
expression and verbal expression.
Alexander Pope also affirms with the duty that Satire performs to a
man which is used to check the excesses of man to inform man and
denounce his follies or vices. He believes strongly in the effects of satire. He
“Know nothing that moves strongly satire and
those who are shamed of nothing else are so of
being ridiculous”.
As a literary manner, Satire is concerned with ridiculing human and
institutional follies with the intention of correcting them.
Satire may be presented in the mode of allegory and also mode imitation
through pictures and caricatures, it is indicious treatment of subjects in a
dramatic fashion, also in the mode of Lampoon which is explained as the act
in which an individual is represented in a virulent way, this makes it a
subject of a laughter. In the mode of irony which is explained as a situation
whereby the intended meaning is the opposite of that expressed by the word
In the mode of irony which is explained as a situation whereby the
word used. In the mode of Allegy which is the presentation of a subject to
represent meaning
In the mode of Allegy which is the presentation of a subject to
represent another one where they both share similar features. The most
effective mode of Satire is sarcasm which is defined as a sharp, biting or
cutting expression of remark. It can also be in the form of a bitter glibe or
taunt. The satire here tends to be direct and hard on the subject of discourse.
On the other hand, it may be through the mode of humour which is
explained to be the presentation. Finally, satire can be presented through
force, a situation whereby metaphorical language or expressions are used to
The whole question of the responsibility of the artist to the society is
perhaps as old as the responsibility of the artist to the posed as the
relationship between the artist and the public or as the functions of the artist
or the relationship between art and the society the function remains
unchanged. It is therefore in the attempt at unveiling the great role of Artists
in the society that we come across the concept of satire. Satire can be
described as a means or mechanism by which a novelist, artist or dramatist
aims at exposing the ills and vices in the society such as corruption,
injustice, lust for materialism, moral and spiritual bankrupt and exploitation
of all forms, political and socio-economic
Fallacij Roget Fowler Subiruts that satire is a
Genre defined primarily but not
Exclusively in terms of its inner
Form in it the author attacks
Some subjects using it as his menns,
Wit or humour that is either
Fantastic or absurd
Therefore, Satire is employed to mock or censor the actions of man or his
belief, it is also used to assess the state of man in his society and to create a
difference between the present situation and the ideal situation. Satiractries
to expose the abuse of a system and the actors involved. The best satire is
concerned with the nature of reality and unlike other arts which emphasizes
what appears to be real but is not. It always pretends to be something other
than what is really is.
We read satire because it gives pleasure. Some scholars have course to
disagreed on the kind of pleasure.
It give us. Some critics suggest that the pleasure is a moral one. Just as one
would agree with the former opinion, it is important to say that satire does
not give us the type of pleasure fable stories gives us, on the other hand from
satirical writing we derive ethical satisfaction because through Satire, we are
able to imbibe a code of conduct which we apply to our daily lives.
It is a fundamental and basic fact that satire entails more than
exposing societal ills and vices. Satire is a literary response to life in the city,
its basic cynicism and especially its political nature seen to require an urban
culture to spawn and thrives.
There are other less sophisticated kinds of verbal and literary vitrid;
flyting and invective. What might be best described as creative name calling,
occur almost universally but satire proper derives from a periodic
association between literature and the hypocricy of civil behaviour. While
the term itself has its etymological roots in the Latin Satura meaning a full or
mixed dish in the sense of a cacophonous variety, the Greeks had rich satiric
tradition especially evident in the Athenian old comedy which played
scatologically with the pretentious behaviour of particular contemporary
citizens recognizable to the Audience. Aristophanes Lampoons on Socrates
and Euripides are prominent examples. The great Roman poet Horace and
Juveral set the literary standards for European satire, their best work being
much imitated models even well into the 20 th century. They also lend their
names to the two essential types of satire which are the Horatian who is the
gentler kind, which exposes human folly to correct it and thus strengthens
the social fabric and Juvenalian is harsh, even abusive and sees little chance
of social progress. Horace and Juvenal use language that is colloquial and
contemporary people and current issues.
These remain the distinguishing elements of Satire which is colloquial
and contemporary, immediate and recognizably real in style and subject.
In a peculiar way satire’s generic qualities and social motives are very
close to those of the essay. The satirist, like the essaylist is intensely aware
of his or her subjectivity and attempts to engage the readers on a personal
and even conversational level. In both genres, the dominant impression is
one of immediacy of a face to face exchange in which opinion and
interpretation take procedure over fact and objectivity. The attitude is casual,
however changed with message.
Satire is a genre of literature. According to the Shorter Oxford English
Dictionary (1993), Satire can be inform of a poem, prose or composition. In
which prevailing vices or follies are held up to ridicule.
A thing, fact or circumstance that has the effect of making some
person or thing ridiculous. Satire is employed, to mock or censure the action
of man or institution in the society.
Also, the Encyclopedia American (1829) defines satire as both a
specific literary genre and literary manner. As a genre it has reference to
poetic form originated in the 2nd century by Roman Satirist Lacillius. It was
practiced with distinction by his successor Horace, Persius and Juvenal.
As a literary manner, the follies, vices and crimes of a person or an
institution are held up to ridiculous or scorn with the intention of correcting
From the above definitions, we can say that satire is every expression
that makes fun of an institution or an individual by drawing the attention of
the people to their vices with the aim of making amendments. Satire is a
major tool in bringing about societal transformation.
Satire originates from ‘Satura’ a Latin word which means ‘medley’ or
‘mixtured’ – satirical usages have being part of the folk culture since the
early communities. It featured in the Greek Culture as it was specifically
located within a Grecian fertility rite. The first satirist was Acholochus. He
was said to have been so savage that his target one Lycambas and his
daughter hanged themselves.
Furthermore, the remain rhetorician Quintillians established Satire as
a ‘Roman Phenomenon’. He claims “Satire is our own in his words “Satura
totanoshraest-Qum”. By these, he was referring to lucillus poetic practice
who was a contemporary of his works had a considerable influence on
Horace one of the keg figures in the development of satire persius was
influenced by Horace.
To Horace satire is urbane, the satirist smiles at the foibles of his
fellow men without indignation. Juvenal satire is harsh. The satirist is an
enraged moralist. Who denounces the vices and corruption of his fellowmen.
Satire here is bitter and commading.
The pre-independent African society had satire in its arts- A typical
example is the poetry of the Yorubas called “Ewi”-The Elewi, satirist
ridicule people and institutions. Element of satire can be seen in their
proverbs, riddles and jokes. After independence. However, Satire assumed a
different phrase in the Contemporary African society. It became very
popular as it is being used to attack theme of neo-colonialism, corruption,
hypocrisy, ignorance and administration and other vices. Narrowing it down
to Nigeria, we have a lot of artist who are satirist in their writings. Such
writers are Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe. In his A man of the people Ken
Sarowiwa Prisoners of Jebs, Olu Obafemi in the, The New Dawn Ola Rotimi
According to IRF Gordan (1976) Horace’s approach to Satire is the
one that tells the truth better with laughter while Juvenal states that their
anger make him to write satire.
In the 17th century satire marked the highest point in English literature
through the works of Dryden, Alaxander Pope, Jonathan Swift etc. They
attack materialism, hypocrisy, pride, cruelty and political experience in the
From the Horatian or Juvenalism concept of satire as a sting that is
deep and sharp and thus, it produces result; transformation. In the 19 th
century we talk about other satirist as Jane Austen, Thomas Peacock, Samuel
Butter, Bettoit Brecht etc.
The purpose of this research endeavour is to portray the socio-political
ills of the Contemporary Nigeria Society as represented in the works of
Wole Soyinka. The interest of this playwrights is the use of Satire as a potent
weapon to mock political problems, leadership, mediocrity vice-versa
religious hypocrisy, moral decadence, exploitation andegostic tendencies of
the people trusted with the mandate of the masses. The concern of this
research study is to enumerate the relevance of satire for the correction of
socio-political ills of the contemporary Nigeria Society. This focus make this
study quote relevant and useful for academic purposes and further related
studies. The study will also aim at addressing the imbalances in the society
and how this writers view this differences. This study is being embarked
upon in order to bring out the salient idea behind these writers use of satire
as it affects the life of Nigerian citizens.
This study is important as it brings to limelight issues that are integral
to our society which many people are not aware of. More so, this study
intends to re-emphasis and expose the use of satire by African playwright to
lash political leaders and religious leader and highly esteemed people in the
society. The work of Wole Soyinka are appraised as a corrective instrument
for socio-political problems of Nigeria contemporary society.
Through the use of satire the authors Wole Soyinka has been able to
expose the ills and vices in the Nigeria socio-political system since
independence. Attention will be drawn not only to the weaknesses in the
society but also to the attitude which must be change, if the society is to
develop and their importance and relevance to the contemporary times.
This study will also focus on the awareness of the people to the
policies of the government, the tyranny and evil that pervaded his rule and
the uptum of justice and misrepresentation of the truth. A particular
character seen as being totally power drunk and this trait is seen as been
totally power drunk and this peculiarities and idiosyncrasies. However,
powers the bottom line. The way, the shade and color of the power are now
the issue. The work is also embarked up on to establish the fact that political
and economic violence is a phenomenon satired by literary master piece.
The purpose of this research work is to add flavour to the already
existing scholarly established opinion that satire as a literary form has gone
along way not only to attack the assumed unattackable ills and vices in
human life which are mostly blinded by emotional instinct, but also as like
no other literary application brought reformation to all these ills and vices in
terms of political, social and economic ways. Another vital significance is
the correctly position that in as much as man’s existence as a social being in
intermittently unending the existence of satire would not only continue to
complete with the age of man but would remain firmly abated. The essay is
also meant to add useful literacy
contribution to the existing body of
knowledge in this field and to serve as useful literary contribution to the
existing body of knowledge in this field and to contribution and to serve as
useful consultation in this field for future researchers.
The scope of this work is firstly assessing some of the available
materials on satire (literature review) to the sourcing of Data as in studying
satire and analyzing the texts by Wole Soyinka ‘The Trials of Brother Jero’
This research work will be limited to the justification and analysis of
satire. It will be clear from our objective that even though the research deals
with satire generally, we shall limit our study to the use of satire in the
selected texts to expose the social and political malaise in Nigeria religion
and political leadership.
The limitation has been dictated by the need to attempt a thorough
research within the available time.
The facts to be used will be collected from the novel based on the
concept of satire in the novel. Here, the sociological approaches will be
used. The sociological approach views the salient happenings in the
contemporary society with regards to man.
It puts on record socio-cultural elements that cannot be researched in
present usage. The Quota system of sampling is employed. The social
problems of the society is not just religious hypocrisy which is prominent in
Wole Soyinka’s The Trial of Brother Jero but also moral decadence, where
martial imbalance is also embedded in the text to signify the total domestic
disorder of the Nigeria system. Also, A PLAY OF GIANT is a political
problem abuse of power, complexities of power, intrigues of power, craze
and hurt for power in African leadership, doctorial African leader at the
bayin an embassy in New York. A satire in the misrule of “miracden men”
Textbooks, journals, and periodicals shall be consulted from which
information will be collected. Also the tools which Wole Soyinka employs
to satirize in “The Trials of Brother Jero and A Play of the Giants’ shall be
This essay will be divided into four parts. Chapter one presents
different definitions of satire by different scholars, important satiric
strategies and the importance of satire to the individual and the society as a
whole shall be examined. Chapter two deals with the review of related
literatures. It will examine what different scholars and critics have said on
the novel under study and the use of satire as a deliberate tool by the authors
will be examined. Chapter three examines critically Wole Soyinka “The
Trials of Brother Jero.
Chapter four also examines critically Wole Soyinka a Play of Giants
showing distinctly the aspects of dictorial African leaders in the world at
large, especially in the society being satirized the characters. Chapter five
which will be the conclusion of this study is’ a brief summary and evaluation
of what the study is all about. For the purpose of analysis of the data
collected for the study, the research entails the use of textual analysis as
parameters for drawing conclusion on the research findings. In this study,
the sociological approach to literature discourse is used. This approach
studies the work of art as determined by social forces.
One of the foremost theoreticians is George Lukas. He argue that the
work of art reflects social forces and it has dialectal impact on society. The
work of art educates the society too, a part from entertaining the audience.
This theory see the central character as representing his society.
Theories depend on what the scholars under each school of thought
feel literature should be and be used for. Various critics and scholars decide
to evaluate or approach or criticize literature from their various perspective.
These variant perspective are often referred to as approaches of literature.
Hence the words, theories are approaches are synonymously used. A
pre-knowledge of the theory adopted for the critical analysis of our text will
be highly essential to our understanding. As earlier mentioned in our
We have adopted the sociological criticism under which the liberal
humanist sociological critical form is used as a variant.
This brand best suite our study as it:
“Owes its rise to the rather relunctant realization
on the part of some critics that the literature which
forms the object of their enquiry is made peculiar
by the fact that it is concerned with problem in
African society at various points in its
Irele’s position on criticism, especially his defence of the liberal
humanist sociology of literary production is remarkably espoused in African
experience in literature and ideology the emphasizes that the long cultivated
collective social force, its shape and movement in time are some of the
determinants of the direction of the artist’s mind and sensibility. Eagleton’s
analysis of liberal humanism particularly reveals of the fundamental
weakness and based it on.
“Liberal humanism has dwindled to the impotent
conscience of bourgeious society gentle, sensitive
and ineffectual… The importance of liberal
humanism is a symptom of its essential
contradictory relationship to modern capitalism.
For although it forms part of the official ideology
of such society, and the “humanitics” exist to
reproduce it, the social order within it exists has in
one sense very little time for it at all”
Irele draws attention to the potential of a literary sociology which
approaches art criticism from the study of the responsiveness of the artist to
his social background.
With all these characteristic of liberal humanist criticism, we can
deduce that it best suite our study and it can be applied in the analysis of two
of Wole Soyinka texts The Trials of Brother Jero and A Play of Giants as
the African writers makes his focus in African experiences in literature and
ideology. It is seen from the fact that both problem facing African society at
various points in Its development. Their focus even though they are
diasporian writer is on African society and the social problem that are in the
African society.
Literary scholars have different prospective on satire. It would
therefore be necessary to review these perspectives.
Ngugi W. T. view on satire is:
Satire takes, for its province, a whole society and
for. Its purpose, criticism. The satirist sets himself
certain standards and criticices society when and
where it departs from these norms. He invites us to
assume his standards and share the moral
indignation which moves him to poor decision and
ridicule on society’s fallings. He corrects through
painful, sometimes malicious, laughters (P. 56).
Ngugi like M. H. Abrams believes Satire is an art from which ridicules and
at the same time criticizes the society too. However, he believes that satire
ridiculous one when one had deviated from the norms of the society that in
as much as satire mocks it also corrects through painful and malicious
laughter seems to be looking at satire from the same way a Roman poet
juvenal sees it.
M. H. Abrahms says:
“Satire is the literary art of diminishing a subject
by making it ridiculous and evoting towards, its
attitudes of amusement, contempt, indignation or
To him, satire is a mockery aimed at making an individual or society less as
a result of the subjects folly, amusement and without due respect of the
subject Abrams definition of satire only out to ridicule alone and not to
correct in as much as satire ridicules, it also corrects or moves the subject
away from his or her folly and ills apart from just being entertaining.
Though it uses laughter as weapon to ridicule, unlike comedy that evokes
laughter mainly as an end in itself the same laughter could also be used to
correct ills of the subject.
Abraims believes that satire domdes alone.
Emeaba D. E. sees satire as:
A literary composition in prose or poetry intended
to expose, deade, ridicule, criticize or hold up to
scorn the follies, abuse or vice of a person, place,
event issue system or institution. As a mode, satire
works through bitting WIT on a person, place,
event, issue philosophy, system or institution.
Emeaba’s notion of satire is like that of Abrams too. He seems to be
saying that satire is purely a work of art which exposes, derides, ridicules,
criticizes or scorns the follies or vices of the society. He fails to state that
satire also folly. He refuses to view satire as a double edged sword. How or
in the form of prose is purely out to ridicule the follies of an individual or
society, he only sees the negative aspect of satire.
Margaret D’s view on satire is
“… a poem, or in modern use sometimes a prose
composition, in which prevailing vices or follies
are held up to ridicule”.
Margaret Dable, like Abrams and Emeaba, believes that the aim of satire,
either written in poetry or in the form of prose, is purely out to ridicule the
follies of an individual or the society. She fails to point out the other aspect
of satire, satire is a double-edged sword. It ridicules, entertains through
humour, and at the same time corrects the folly and shapes the individual in
the society. Satire is a protean term. It is one of the most heavily worked
Samuel Johnson, states that satire is a poem in which wickedness or
censured. Johnson, like the earlier scholar is of the opinion that satire
articises or diridicules the folly of the individual.
All the scholars are of the opinion that satire is a literary art that
ridicules the folly of the society and individual, and when the devices from
the norms of his culture or society. Not all scholars agree on the nation that
satires also corrects and shapes the individual in the society taring stated
what some scholars have said about satire, with all these scholars view we
will sum it all and say that satire is a form of discourse, either in prose or
verse, which makes fun of the foolish or evil behaviour of people,
institutions or society in general. In other words, the aim of satire is not just
to criticize, but also to reform.
Wole Soyinka is a writer whose interest is an exploring in depth the
socio-political situation of the African society. His works focus on analyzing
the nature of his society.
To him, a writer should be a vision of his people, one who will go all
the way to project a meaningful future for his people. By analyzing the
society, Soyinka intends to make the society come to terms with the nature
of their problems which is an indispensable step towards solving the
Opera Wonyonsi
Indeed I am definitely in agreement that art can, an
should reflect with dominant temper of the age,
those vital positive points which even in the
darkest time are never totally absent. Equally it is
necessary that art should expose, reflect, indeed
magnify any decadent rotten underbelly of a
society that has lost its direction.
Soyinka sees it as his own task and in general the task all artists to analyze
and unravel the society’s lack of awareness. Through the satirical writings,
he believes that transformation is achievable.
Also, some other writers are of the same opinion. Taking about artistic
responsibility to their society, Achebe cited in
Olu Obafemi (1992) says;
“An African creative writer who ties to avoid the
big social and political issue of contemporary
African will end up being completely irrelevant”.
Soyinka sees it as his own task and in general the task all artists to analyze
and unravel the society’s lack of awareness. Through the satirical writings,
he believes that transformation is achievable.
Also, some other writers are of the same opinion. Talking about
artistic responsibility to their society, Achebe cited in Olu Obafemi (1992)
“An African creative writer who ties to avoid the
big social and political issue of contemporary,
African will end up being completely irrelevant”.
Soyinka sees it as his own task and in general the task all artists to analyze
and unravel the society’s lack of awareness. Through the satirical writings,
he believes that transformation is achievable.
Also, some other writers are of the same opinion. Talking about
artistic responsibility to their society, Achebe cited in Olu Obafemi (1992).
Wole Soyinka in the text The Trials of Brother Jero satires the
gullibility of man. According to Robert M. Wren, as cited in ‘A New Guide
to African Literature 1983 says;
The Trials, reveal the gullibility of men and the
qualities necessary for survival in Jero spiritual
jungle… or anywhere else…
We can see from the above, we can deduce that the gullibility of man is a
vice that is not only obtainable in Nigeria but also in the world in general.
Through irony, sarcasm and the use of sharp with this satire hits or attacks
socio-political vices obtainable in the contemporary society of Nigeria.
Kwesi Owusun. A New Guide to African Literature says;
When Soyinka uses satire, it is creatively engaging
sharp with serving as a very effective weapon to
comfort the conscience of his audience
Soyinka’s satires is seen as an attack on the ‘conscience of his audience the
result of this would then be transformation or change.
Soyinka also employ the use of images and symbolism, he adopts a
dawn to earth castigation of his society. His characters and the situations
presented in the drama text can be likened to people and situations in the
society. He satirices his society through what his character say and do.
According to Eldred Jones cited in African theatre today (1976)
Soyinka use of theatre is a platform the salvation of the society he submit to
the fact that:
Soyinka see society as being in continual need of
salvation for itself. This act of salvation is not a
mass act. It come about through the vision and
dedication of individuals who doggedly pursue
their vision. Inspite of the opposition of the very
society they seek to save. They frequently end up
as the victims of the society which benefits from
their vision. The salvation of the society then
depends on exercise of the individual will.
Through satire transformation is attained, salvation come through individual
will. This is what is meant by artistic responsibility and accountability to
their society.
Ibahim Hussein, Olu Obafemi, Niyi Osundare etc are playwright in
African who makes effective use of satire to deal with topical and social
problem in Africa.
To Femi Osofisan, a number of the younger generation share ‘this’
perspective. The perspective of satire in African drama; Oyin Ogunba in
movement to Transition (1975) say about Soyinka
(Soyinka) see his community as moribund and
raises alarm. He also believes he must keep
hammering his point until it is driven home unto
the popular conscience… His while purpose being
to ridicule the oddities and expose crimes of his
society thereby emphasizing what is desirable
These again buttresses the fact that Soyinka writes for the purpose of
transforming the society.
The preoccupation of Wole Soyinka is the exploration of human
conditions. In most of his works, he satirizes the society with the ultimate
aim of analyzing and presenting the absurdities abnormalities and ills
inherent therein. His intention is solely to evolve changes in the society’s
way of life.
There are three major forms of satire which are:
Horatian satire
Juvenalian satire
Meruppean satire
This is named after an Augustan reputable critic, Horace believes mild
mockery is the most effective ways of writing and conveying a message. He
contends that satire should reflect the attitude of the writer, be easy and
unpretentious, sharp when necessary, but flexible enough too vary from
grace to gay! (Encyclopedia Britannica, 269).
Horatian satire is often gentle, urbane, smiling, ziming to correct by
gentle and broadly sympathetic laughter. The character here is urbane, witty
and tolerant man of the world, concerned about folly which he sees
everywhere, but moved to laughter rather than rage.
This is named after a Roma poet called Juvenal. The satirist believes a
satire is an upright man in the bedeviled with improprieties. Unlike the
horatian satire, Juvenalian satire is biting, bitter, angry and tends to point out
with contempt and moral indignation to the corruption and evil of men and
The character of the speaker is that of a serious moralist who uses a
dignified and public style of utterance to decrupt modes of vices and error
which are no less dangerous because they are ridiculous, and who
undertakes to evoke contempt and moral indignation at the aberrations of
man. In light of this assertion, one may regard the satire of Soyinka, Aluko
T.M., and Swift as Juvelian.
This is named after a Greek philosopher, Cynic Mennipus. It is
sometimes called Varronian satire after a roman imitation, Varro, it is
written in prose, though with interpolated passage of verse and is a
miscellaneous form often held together by a lossely constructed narrative. Its
major feature, however is a serious of extended dialogues and debates often
conducted at a banquet.
Merrippean satires uses stylized character as mouth piece for abstract
idea presented in loosely hung narrative whose pattern resulted from the free
play of the intellectual fancy. Works written in this manner could be a pure
Jonathan Swifts Gulliver travels (1952-127).
G.A. Heron in looking at the corrupt of the menippean satire says;
“The merippean satire does not concentrate of the
social behaviour of its character but on the ideas
that life behind social behaviour”
It deals less with people as such than with mental attitude
Satire as a literary device employs different modes in its presentation.
For instance, satire may be presented in the allegory form, where the writer
describes a subject under the disguise of some other object of suggestive
According to the Oxford Dictionary, allegory is the presentation of a
subject to represent another one where they both share similar features.
Satire may also be presented through the mode of irony is defined as a
situation whereby the intended meaning is the opposite of that expressed by
the word used.
Burlesque is another mode of satire which is explained as a derisive
imitation through pictures and caricatures. It is a ludicrous treatment of
subjects in a dramatic fashion. Lampoon is also another mode, it is explained
as the act in makes it a subject of laughter.
The most effective mode of satire is sarcasm. This is defined as
shaprt, biting or cutting expression or remark. It can also be in the form of a
bitter gibe or taunt. The satire here tends to be direct and hard on the subject
of discourse. On the other hand, it may be through the mode of humour
which is explained to be presentation of an “affair and actors in such a way
that excites laughter. Finally satire can be presented through farce, a
situation whereby metaphorical manguage or expressions are used to mock.
At this juncture, it will be pertinent to trace the origin of satire itself as
a literary device.
According to D.A. Curling, the word ‘satire’ emanates from the Latin
word ‘satura’. This is a name given to full dish and mixed fruit on a platter
that serves as an offering to a god.
In ancient Greece, critics used the word to represent mixture or
apparent disorder. It was from bore that literature gets the genre into the art
Girling further explains that initially the word only served as a
dramatic conflict. But later through the developing techniques and
approaches of lucillus, Horace, persus and Juvenal it was introduced to
literary criticism. Later satire graduated from being just a mode of writing to
recognized form. this was through the efforts of Horace and juvenal who
espoused the genre in their poems where the vices and follies of their days
were exposed and attacked.
The genre reached its peak in England during the period of Alexander
Pope, Jonathan Swift and Samuel Johnson in the 18th century Horace and
Juvenal progressive efforts to the development of this genre were rewarded
through the naming of their particular approaches after them. The satire
written in witty and with urbane ridicule was called “Horatian satire”, while
“Juvenalian satire” was given to that which is written with the attempt to
chastise the people involved.
During the renaissance period, satire spelt ‘satry’ or ‘satiye’, it was
believed to have been formed from ancient plays which was characterized by
rough language and franks. All the periods in English literature featured in
one form or the other satire. During the metaphysical period in the early 17th
century, satire was exhibited in the works of John Marston, John Donne and
Joseph Hall. During the Angustansi satire in English literature reached its
peak with such writers like John Dryden, Alexander Pope and Jonathan
Swift and with such works like Absalom and Achitophel, Rape of the Lod
and Gulliver Travels respectively.
The 19th century marked the turning point in the employment of satire
in literature with writers such as Jane Austen, Thomas Peacock and Charles
Viewing the source of satire form the sociological point of view, we
realize that in every society, there are ideal conventional norms but there are
other norms like bribery and corruption practiced by man to survive in the
accommodate the vice despite the fact that there are traditional rules and
norms contrary to them. The structure of the society itself creates a
difference between the conventional norms and the norms desired and
From the above analysis and definitions from different scholars at
different times one would undoubtedly agree that all those who have defined
satire are saying the same thing in different ways. Therefore one might as
well arrive at a conclusion that satire is a way of commenting on human life.
No matter where it is written, satire performs similar functions.
With this final definition, one will remember that one of the 18 th
century fathers of satirical writings in Europe, Jonathan Swift simply
describes satire as:
“A mirror in which every one see everyone else’s
face but never his own”.
It is a fundamental and basic fact that satire entails more than exposing
societal vices, it is also a mechanism meant primarily to effect a total
transformation of its target from bad to good satire plays an important role in
the society in that it moulds individual character, with the help of satire,
individual misdeeds and excesses are entically exposed. It performs many
functions in the society one of which is the fact that it reveals the extent to
which the individual and the society have gone in committing one evil or the
other. The society like the individuals is exposed together with its vices.
Finally, satire presents the ills and vices in such a way that awaken the
society to its socio-economic and political responsibilities.
Soyinka capture worldwide issues by using a West African setting.
The satirical message in the text is conveyed through ridiculing of the vices
and follies of the contemporary Nigeria society via religious institution.
His fictive output belongs to the Horatian mode of satire which
ridicule the follies with the intention of correcting society.
Through symbolism, comedy and irony, the aberrant and corrupt
nature of our religious leaders are exposed. Moral decadence, prevalent in
the society is also dealt with. The text centre around a bar beach prophet Jero
who pretends to be a true prophet but in the actual sense, he is a cheat,
arogue, and in fact the devil’s incarnate. As the play ulfolds Soyinka
presents prophet Jero as a representative of hypocritical religious and
political leader.
He presents him in a humours and comical way that we see through
the front of the holy hermit which he put on for the benefit of his deluded
The wrong mentality or orientation of some so called prophet is
brought to the force prophethood ought to be a call to selfless and sacrifical
living towards God and mankind.
However, prophets like Jero don’t have this mentality. To Jero it’s a
business, a profit making venture, the easiest way to meet ones material
needs, in one word a trade just as he call it.
The Trials of Brother Jero is a lighthearted satirical comedy based on
the activities of phoney beach prophet, Jero, Brother Jeroboam. The satire is
there, but it is almost concealed by the predominating humour which
depends on a series of undiscovered identities which threaten at any moment
to become known and upset the beach prophet’s house of cards. As this
rickety structure is rocked by one threat after another the comedy of the play
is generated.
Brother Jero is a self-confressed rogue who trades on the insecurities of his
flock (his ‘customers’ as he calls the in a moment of candour). ‘I know they
are dissatisfied because I keep them dissatisfied. Once they are full, they
wont come again. “The audience is under no misapprehension about Brother
Jero, who described his approach to his ‘trade’ from the very beginning of
the play.
Indeed, much of comedy arises from the discrepancy between what
the audience knows Brother Jero to be by his own confession and the front
of holy hermit which he puts on for the benefit of his deluded gulls.
The threat of his unmasking sustains the play, and once Chume
discovers the true nature of his mater, the whole structure threatens to
collapse. Soyinka, however, saves the knave in order to make the play’s final
satirical point.
Chume is the classic victim of the prophet’s method. The bane of his
life is a wife whose constant scolding and nagging keeps him on the edge of
distraction. All the women needs is, according to the desperate husband ‘Just
one sound beating… But I’ve got to beat her, prophet. You must save me
from madness’. (P. ) Brother Jero knows this too, but the release which this
beating would bring to Chume’s frustrated spirit would deprive the prophet
of his most faithful adherent. So he forbids Cume in the name of God to beat
his wife. He confides in the audience. “If I do, he will become contested, and
then that’s another of my flock gone forever”.
The prophets grasp of human psychology is sound. But what he does
not know is that the woman, he is thus protecting is the same dreadful
woman who has set up camp outside his house and threatens to keep up the
siege until he settles his debt to her. In their double ignorance-Chume of the
identity of Ampoe’s detor Brother Jero of the relationship between Amope
and Chume-lies a potential source of comedy which Soinka exploits.
Amope’s encounter with the unsuspecting prophet is pure comedy; it
is the first to the prophet’s carefully built up image. He escapes from it only
because the quarrel some Amope. Instead of maintain her siege with single
mindedness, pick as side quarrel with a passing fisher woman during which
Brother Jero gratefully escapes.
The comedy of the encounter is both visual and verbal. Soyinka is a
master of the prophet as his careful preparations to climb out of his window
and steal away unseen by Amope are shattered by her almost casual (without
looking around) “where do you think you are going?’ At which, according to
the playwright’s stage directions (Brother Jero fling himself back into the
houses) (P. 207) Brother Jero’s obvious disadvantage in relation to the
entrenched Amope makes him vulnerable so that his attempt to buff Amope
with the prophet façade soon crumble, and the holy man has to change his
plea from freedom to do work of Christ, to an opportunity to get money out
of the post office savings bank.
Amope is practice both in repartee and abusive complaint (as poor
Chume knows) and she completely demolishes the prophets’ façade first
with cool repartee then with her indictment:
Only Amope’s own inability to miss an opportunity for new quarrel
gives the prophet an escape from this tight situation. Brother jeroboam’s
problem with ‘the daughters of Eve’ are not yet over the suffers agonies of
self-control as the young girl returning from her daily bath in the sea
tantalizes the prophet with her body.
When a little later woman trader runs past chasing the drummer boy,
her skirt hitched up for the chase exposing her limbs, the prophet cannot
resist this second feminine temptation and gave chase from this encounter he
returns’ a much altered man, his clothes tourn and his face bleeding’. (P.
The alternation between the devout prophet lasting his flock into holy
paroxysms and the woman-chaser-getting for once what be deserves is a
good comedy. It is also part of the exposure of the true nature of Jero still so
far only to the audience. Through all his adventures Brother Jero still just
manages to mask his unholy activities from his unholy activities from
trusting flock but it seems to be only a matter of time before events catch up
with him.
The first discovery, however, is when, taking the opportunity of the
prophet’s revelation of his own suffering at the hands of the daughters of
Discard’ Chume pours out once again his sufferings at the hands of his wife
and incidentally reveals his identity to the prophet. Brother Jero is just
running into one of his routine injunctions against wife-beating when the
penny drops: ‘Brother Chume did you say that your wife-went to make camp
this morning at the house of some one who owes her money)(P. 221).
Brother Jero is unable to resist this obvious chance of vicarious
revenge against Amope, and promptly gives Chume permission to beat her.
This decision generate more comedy and a further development of the plot,
for it leads to Chume’s discovery of the connection between Amope and the
The second encounter between Chume and his wife is in dramatic and
comic contrast to their first appearance at the beginning of the play. The
comedy here derives from the fact that in the intervening.
Period Chume has become transformed by the prophets permission,
from a tame hen pecked husband to a dominating male – first Amope’s
refusal to recognize the change, then her shock when Chume’s unwanted
rough handling of her makes change then obvious, produce hilarious
The visual comedy of Chume bundling his wife bodily to the
accompaniment of her piecing screams is lively enough. The comid action
takes another dramatic tunr as CHume in the midst of all this activity make
his discovery. The moment of realization is tantalizingly delayed as he tries
to get the screaming woman to answer his questions: Did I hear you say
prophet Jeroboam?’…
Woman, did you say it was the prophet who owed you money?’’’ is
this house? Does he live there?... Is Brother Jeroboam…?
Despairing of any answer from the screaming woman Chume turns to
abystander, gets his answer and revelation dawns, “so…so…so”.
All would now seem to be set for Chume’s confrontation with his
master, and a final unmasking, but Soyinka turns away from the obvious
ending, and makes an even more telling point Brother Jero’s true nature is
no surprise to the audience. He confessed his roguery from the start. An
unmasking would have given some physical comedy, but little else.
Soyinka introduce a new character, an M.P. who appears just when
the prophet need some prop of influence. Through his help the prophet can
deal with his erst while apprentice who has now become troublesome.
I have already sent for the police. It is a pity about
Chume But he has given me a fight, and no
prophet likes to be frightened with the influence of
that nincompoop. I should succeed in getting him
certified with ease.
A year in the lunatic asylum would do him good
any way (p. 233).
The grimness of Chume’s fate must not be missed in the general atmosphere
of the comedy of the M.P’s eventual gullibility. That Chume can be treated
so unjustly is a telling comment on justice. The plumposition which Brother
Jero dream up for the M.P. too has a significance that may be list in the
general comedy; It is Minister for War’:
I saw the mustering of men, gather in the name of
peace through strength
And at a desk, in a large gilt room, great men of
the land awaited your
Word, and on the door leading into your office, I
read the words ministered for war.
The point is not laid on with a towel but the passage together with the
comment on political influence and justice gives the end of the play and its
comic satire a more acid taste. Brother Jero ends the play a more sinister
figure than he began. His roguery is now allied to power. He can easily
eliminate ordinary mortals like Chume, and contrary to his deserts (but in
keeping with the way of the preserve world) he survives his day of ordeals
and live to plague his deluded country men further for Brother Jero is a false
prophet. His people look pathetically to him for leadership and he replies
with deceit. The situation is capable of wider more sinister applications.
Soyinka captures worldwide issues by using a West African setting.
The satirical message in the text is conveyed through redialing of the vices
and follies of the contemporary Nigerian society via religious institution. His
fictive output belongs to the Horatian mode of satire which ridicule the
follies with the intention of the society.
Through symbolism, comedy and irony, the abberant and corrupt
nature of our religious leaders are exposed. Moral decadence, prevalent in
the society is also dealt with. The text centres around a bar beach prophet
Jero who pretends to be a true prophet but in the actual sense, he is cheat, a
rogue, and in fact the devil’s in carnate. As the play unfolds Soyinka
presents prophet Jero as a representative of hypocritical religious and
political leader.
He presents him in a humours and comical way that we see through the front
of the holy hermit which he put on for the benefit of his deluded
The wrong mentality or orientation of some so called prophet is
brought to the fore. Prophethood ought to be a call to selfless and sacrificial
living towards God and mankind. However, prophets like Jero don’t have
this mentality. To Jero it’s abusiness, a profit making venture, the easiest
way to meet ones material needs, in one word a trade just as he call it.
Jero: And I grew to love the trade. It used to be a very respectable one
in those days and competition was dignified… (Pg. 9).
Here, Brother Jero uses the world ‘trade’ and ‘ competition’. These
are lexis in the business world. He clearly put in another occasion that he
sees himself as a shop-keeper awaiting customers. He refers to his
worshippers or congregation as customers.
Jero: I am glad here before any customers-I mean worshippers well,
customers if you like. I always get that feeling every morning that I
am a shop-keeper waiting for customers (P. 20).
We can see a clear picture of how Brother Jero view the divine call
(prophethood). This is not far fetched from what is obtainable in the
contemporary Nigeria society. A lot of pastors or men of God have this
mentality; just like Jero. Since their orientation is wrong, there is bound to
be the abuse of the religion. This is what Soyinka criticizes.
Furthermore, the character or attitude of some religious leaders negate
what they preach. The exploitative nature of prophet Jero is exposed: how he
chats on other to achieve his selfish interest. One of the victims of this bad
attitude of his, is the old prophet, prophet Jero grew up under his tutelage.
He pretends to be working together with his master to acquire a piece of land
at the beach only for him to turn around and take over the piece of land. He
Jero: I helped him with a campaign led by six dancing girls from the
French territory, all dressed as Jehorahis witnesses what my old
master did not realize was that I was really helping myself (P. 10).
His master obvious of his intentions allows him (prophet Jero) at his
own expense, hence, losing the land to him. The old prophet being so
helpless and frustrated, I cursed him
Old prophet: I curse you with the curse of the daughters of discard. May thy
be downfall…(P. 11).
Again, Brother Jero exploitative and pretentious attitude is seen in his
relationship with his worshippers, he calls them customers. Brother Jero
likes keeping his members unhappy. He believes that as long as men are
unhappy and dissatisfied, they will seek the prophet.
Jero: …strange dissatisfied people. I know they are dissatisfied because I
keep them dissatisfied. Once they are full they won’t come again (p.
In away, prophet Jero keeps his worshippers in bondage which is
contrary to the message of freedom that Christianity as a religion spells. The
whole idea of keeping people dissatisfied and helpless is baseless in
Christian ethics. It is simply exploitation in its highest order.
Chume is another victim of Brother Jero’s exploitative character.
Soyinka satirizes religious leaders and how they work on the ignorance or
gullibility of their worshippers to achieve self convenience. For Brother
Jero, Chume’s ignorance is to his advantage.
Jero: He is too crude, but then that is to my advantage. It means he would
never think of setting himself up as my equal (P. 22).
Chume, on realizing the true nature of Brother Jero confirms it.
So…so… suddenly he decides, I may beat my wife, eh? For his
own convenience (P. 37).
Amope who is the wife of Chume, doubles as Brother Jero’s creditor.
Unknowing to prophet Jero, he discourages Chume from beating his wife in
a bid to keep him dissatisfied. However, when he realizes that Amope,
Chume wife, is the same woman that lay a siege in front of his house, he
immediately grants Chume permission to beat her up. To an extent one can
say this is wickedness, but prophet Jero does not see it that way. To him it is
the best price to pay for getting grid of ones creditor.
Jero: Oho, I had almost forgotten Brother Chume. By now he ought to have
beaten his wife senseless-pity!... never mind, it was a good price to
pay for getting grid of my creditor.
Prophet Jero’s ungratefulness is brought to the fore. Not only to Amope, he
is also ungrateful to the old prophet.
Old prophet: Ungrateful wretch! Is this how you repay the long years of
training I have given you? to drive me, you old tutor, off my
piece of land…
This attitude of Brother Jero is not distance from what we see in the
large society where business partners or debtors kill their creditors so that
they will not be asked to pay what they owe.
More so, Soyinka satirizes the weakness of some so called
sanctimonious, holy men of God.
In criticizing Brother Jero’s weakness, we see how the under goes
agony of self-sexual control.
Prophet Jero is being tantalized by a young girl who goes to the beach
every morning to take her bath. On her way to the beach, prophet Jero tells
us she is a ‘dirty looking thing’. After her bath, this same prophet says;
Jero: Every morning everyday I witness this divine transformation, o Lord
(p. 20).
We begin to wonder what is divine in lustfully looking at a woman who has
just had her bath? Prophet Jero divine transformation is not gotten from
studying the Word of God but form lusting after a woman are his weakness.
Just after his confession of having a divine transformation he says to Chume
Jero: Pray with me brother. Pray with me. Pray for me against this one
weakness. O Lord (p. 20).
Jero’s weakness is not a hidden thing. It is obvious that he has passion
for women. Even his master, the old prophet is aware of this, when his
master cursed him that daughters of eve will be his downfall, he admits to
this by saying
Jero: Actually that was a very cheap curse. He knew very well that I had
one weakness-women. Not my fault, fault, mind you.
In another instance, we see prophet Jero being carried away with a
woman’s naked wombs instead of blessing the water for his worshippers, he
hands over the duty to Chume and follows the woman in pursuit of the
drummer boy. He come back to the scene battered with his clothes torn and
his face bleeding. Many religious leaders, who profess to be holy fall victim
of one type o weakness or the other. we hear of great men of God having
extra marital affairs. These is not just morally wrong, it is religiously
Soyinka satirizes Amope’s nagging character. Amope represent those
women in the contemporary Nigeria society who through their attitude make
life unbearable for their husbands. She does not tolerate Brother Chume. She
nags a lot calling her husband all sorts of names. At a particular point, she
compares him with his mates.
She says:
I know you can’t wait to get away… do you call that work?
Your old school friends are now ministers, riding in long car (p.
To Amope, all fingers should be equal she does not respect the
sanctity and faithfulness of her husband. Her desire is that her husband
becomes rich any how, any way. She says;
You can make something of yourself one way or another they
all do. A little here and a little there, call it bribery if you like
but see where you’ve got even though you don’t think or smoke
or take bribes… (P. 34).
To her, bribery is not a big deal, it is one of those things in society. By
her words ‘they all do; we can tell how much corruption has eaten deep into
the society. It is like a second name to every body, no one is exempted.
Chume being a tolerant, gentle soft husband finds life pretty difficult
with such a nagging wife. Instead of getting support and encouragement
from his companion-Amope all he get is insuits and abuses Chume becomes
so frustrated that his leading desire is just to beat his wife.
If I could only beat her once only once… (P. 24).
Tell our wives not to give us trouble (P. 29).
Inspite of prophet Jero’s consistency as a cheat who lies at every turn,
his villainy and hypocrisy, the people remains gullible to his sinister moves.
Even a member of parliament becomes this victim. He sweet talks the
member of parliament who comes to rehearse his speech at the beach he
Jero: Protect him therefore… when he must lead this country as his great
ancestors have done. He comes from the great warriors of the land…
(P. 42).
Here, we see the misdirection to which some political leaders are
subjected to as a result of their gullibility and sanctimonious belief in
whatever some prophets tells them. This member of parliament is so gullible
that when prophet Jero suddenly disappears, running away from Brother
Chume’s anger, that he was being transported into heaven to hear further
about his ministerial post.
I must await his return. I show faith, he will show himself again
tome… this is a holy ground I must hear further from him.
Perhaps he has gone to learn more about this minister post…
(P. 48).
The issues Soyinka satirizes are what is happening in the larger
Nigeria society.
Trials of Brother Jero is a play is a satiric comedy is very important
for two principal reasons. It theme, and the playwrights choice of technique.
The play is the second most popular of Soyinka;s plays among West play is
the second most popular of Soyinka’s plays among West African students,
the first being The Lion and the Jewel. The success of the two plays has
been traced to their relative accessibility of language, considered in many
quarters as very unlike Wole Soyinka and relevance in terms of its
immediacy or contemporariness of topicality.
The Trials of Brother Jero is thematical preoccupied with the
attendant problems of the moral atrophy of religious institutions, as well as
of general social life right from the top of the bottom rungs of the social
In other words, the thematic focus is on the society’s rejection of God
and his replacement with a new god, mammon. This is very similar to
Elizabethan society as represented in Ben Jonson’s Volpone.
The main concern of the playwrights even though separated four
centuries, is the tragic consequence of a Godless-society, should the trend
persist. (Like the Blinkards which is set in Ghana but which has a theme
applicable to all colonial African states, The Trials of Brother Jero is set in
Nigeria but the theme is applicable to, largely, post independence African
There is a deliberate commercialization of religion by custodians of
other wise sacred institution. In this case it is not only Christianity; Brother
Jero represents, he represent all religious institutions.
Similarly, the commercialization is motivated by the newly acquired
‘Cargo culture; an obsession for wealth and material acquisition through
illegal means.
The spiritual leaders have also capitalized on the religious bigotry of
their members. The worshipper’s gullibility is in turn, motivated not by any
holy desire to be truly close to God but out of sheer desperation for wealth
acquisition, among selfish motives of worshippers, which make the spiritual
leader’s exploitation of members possible. The victims include market
women as represented by Amope; office message (Chume); people with
genuine and pathetic cases like the pertinent woman who desires for a child;
the politicians who are also hungry for power.
Indeed, the rate of corruption and spiritual decadence is so alarming
that the playwright seem to point out through the unfolding syntax of actions
that a society such as this is at the brink of total eclipse and extination. A
society so morally decadent whose secular life is morally bankrupt and even
for those that care to seek refuge in God (and religion) fall pray to religious
A few examples will suffice here.
At the social or secular level, most of Brother Jero’s victims do not deserve
our sympathy. Chume is a cheat, an office messenger who, rather than do the
job he is employed and paid to do, takes sick leave from some faceless
medical doctor (also at a fee) to engage in church activities with the hope of
elevation without any justification for the desired elevation.
Similarly, the politician, another cheat, rather than occupy himself
with the problems of the people he intends to serve and work on possible
solutions, is busy trying to improve on his speech ability and seeks spiritual
means to succeed at the polls. The sanitary inspector referred to by Amope,
is a cheat too. The issue here is not whether he qualifies to ride on a motorbike. He probably does, judging by his official status as sanitary inspector.
After all, Chume an office messenger owns a bicycle. Our major
concern is that he takes bribe at the expense of official responsibility. Again,
the motivating factor in the Inspector’s case is the obsession for wealth
Furthermore at the spiritual level, Brother Jero, a self confessed
religious charlatan makes his feeling known to us: as a “Shop keeper”
waiting for “customers”, not as a “true shepherd of God’s flock”. Therefore,
regardless of the pathetic case of the penitent woman, rather than offer
genuine advice that could help the woman, he most callously treats her as a
customer, a client. Like a traditional trickster he employs all pranks and
tactics to exploit the gullibility of the society, his worshippers and nonmembers like Amope to dazzle and control them completely, mentally and
The satiric elements, in summary, at the level of commerce include
Religious institutions: exploitation of worshippers;
Deciet and subterfuge: brother Jero versus his victims, Chume
leaving his office under a false, pretext, politicians, feigning
Abnormal profiteering: Amope versus Brother
Jero and later, Amope versus the fish seller. At the level of social
diaharmony, we have instance of a breakdown in communication
leading to dispute and or rancour. Example abound in Amope
versus the fish seller, woman versus the drummer boy, woman
versus Brother Jero, and finally, Chume versus Brother Jero.
Similarly, on the society’s individualism and passivity, the
playwright does not seem to spare it. For example, at the scene of
tehe ncounter between Amope and brother Jero, members of the
public simply lock on as passive observes without intervening to
help settle the misunderstanding.
The summary of the play and the significance of its thematic
preoccupation are evident in the satiric dements highlighted above. It is the
playwright’s concern for a society obsessed with the pursuit of material
acquisition, ironically at the expense of its survival.
Technically, this is a very successful drama. One of the observable
facts here seems to be the playwrights strict adherence to the Aristotelian
unities of time, place and action. There are parallels in The Lion and Jewel,
and Death and King’s Horseman.
On unity of time; brother Jero declares at the beginning of the play his
intention to let the audience know the ordeals he has in just one day a
memorable day in his life. So the play does not exceed the twenty four
duration as suggested in Aristotle’s poetics on the quotation of unity of place
the entire events are limited to a locality (The Beach and brother Jero’s
house, not so far from the Beach).
Unity of action is also apparently complied with, as there is a
singularity of action. Only an action take at a time on stage. Therefore, we
have at every event any of Brother Jero and the old master, Brother Jero and
a group of worshippers etc Even where there seem to be more than one
action at a time, for example, Brother Jero and the worshippers, the woman
pursuing the drummer by either it is technically subdued or the action is
reduced to miming while the other is active in order to avoid any distraction.
This is also the case with Brother Jero while praying for the MP before the
sudden appearance of the Matdnet-wielding Chume.
There is also something significant in Soyinka’s characterization
through the use of language.
This possibility is equally explored in the Lion and the Jewel and later
in Death and the King’s Horseman.
In the Trials of Brother Jero, the protagonist, Brother Jero, by virtue
of his religious calling, belongs to the middle class. His polished English
readily conforms to his social status. Amope and the fish seller are character
types. They represent the market women, house wives etc, therefore the
social habit presumably characteristic… of the group is exhibited in the
nagging Amope in her interaction with Brother Jero, or Chume her husband.
This is also observable in the use of invectives by the two women, Amope
and the fish seller. Chume, too like Amusa in the Death and the king’s
Horseman, occupies a lower rung of the social ladder. A messenger with a
low education, if any, expresses himself in pidgin English or badly
expressed English. In Chume, Soyinka does not score a complete success in
his characterization through the use of language. The playwright does not
seem to be consistent. At time, Chume speaks direct, impeccable English
(Pp. 30 & 32) and at times he relapses into pidgin English (P. 41) we are not
sure we can use language as basis of characterization in the case of Chume.
We suspect that Chume’s language expressions are more determined by his
mood and not his social class.
However, the MP/politician’s characteristic use of bombast and
flavoured expressions to exhibit his power of public oration and level of
education of his prototype is very apparent and successfully represented.
Other technique which are characteristic of a satiric comedy are
ntocieable too, for example, the use of irony and exaggeration. It is
politicians can be so fooled, while Amope refuses to be fooled, by the
feigned holy appearance and utterance of Brother jero. Similarly, the
gullibility of Chume is rather exaggerated, if indeed he discovers that he is
being fooled by Brother Jero; a discovery that leads to his expression, chase
his expression of freedom and which motivates him to dare and chase him
mater with a matchet. It is sudden relapse to his old self thereby becoming
even more gullible than he ever was becomes problematic for lack of
plausibility or conviction.
In addition, the MP considered to be very intelligent, also carries his
gullibility too far to think that Brother Jero who runs and disappears because
the enraged Chume is at his heels has indeed, “vanished” that he is
transported. Utterly transmitted”.
Furthermore, the success of the play is much more seen in the ability
of Soyinka to use suspense and at the same time substain its use for a long as
he wishes. For example, Amope, Jero, Chume have all a common link
without any of the three knowing it. amope does not know there is any link
between her husband, Chume and brother Jero, her debtor.
Chume, too, does not know that the person owing his wife some
money is indeed his mater, Brother Jero, The Prophet, Brother Jero, too does
not know that the woman he owes money is the wife of his assistant, Brother
Chume, it is interesting to note that it is Chume’s sudden awareness that
leads to the resolution of the conflict that terminates the plot.
Aside from the use of suspense, the playwright’s effective
management of conflict at the different levels of the play is note worthy.
Conflict in any drama is an essential ingredient. The conflicts in this
play include Jero and the old prophet, Jero and Amope, Amope and Chume,
Amope and the fish seller, the Drummer-Boy and Woman, Woman and Jero;
Jero and Chume.
On the whole, even though the playwright employ an Aristophanic
Classical Greek Model, The Trials of Brother Jero remains, essentially, an
authentic Modern African Comedy.
The themes in the text can be viewed from many perspectives. We
examine social satire from the point of view of religion, political leadership,
corruption and betrayal of ones vocation for attraction of power Soyinka
criticizes his society through the theme of religion.
This is because religion can be seen as the collective expression of
frustration of a social group and sometime political will. Hence, religion is
used as a vehicle in satirizing the societal follies and absurdities.
Religions hypocrisy is the central theme of the play. Soyinka presents
those fake and dubious prophet who turn religion into a means of livelihood.
Through the character prophet Jero, this is portrayed. He knows what each
of his worshippers yearns after thus, he keeps them classified so that they
will keep coming. In other for people to see him as a special man of God, he
gets himself into debt by buying aveluet cape from Amope. He creates an
image for himself which distinguishes him from other prophets.
Prophet Jero:
And it is not what I would call al luxury, this veluet cape
which I bought for her. It would not have been necessary
if one were not forced to distinguish himself more and
more from these scrum who degrade the calling of the
prophet. It becomes important to stand out, to be
distinctive. I have set my heart after a particular name.
They will look at my veluet cape and they will think of
my goodness. Inevitably they must begin to call me…
Articulate Hero of Christ’s Crusade… (P. 19).
We can see the different appellations he adds to his name, he wants to be
distinguished scan as holy, however, he is not actually holy. Jero calls, some
people scrum for degrading the calling of the prophet. Ironically, he is the
number one scum as what he;s life as a prophet portrays is completely
different from what Christianity preaches. He is hypocritical.
Another theme in the text is corruption this is obvious in the character
of prophet Jero. He is a liar. He pretends to sleep at the beach praying for his
worshipper were as he has a house where he sleeps enjoying the comfort of
his bed.
Prophet Jero:
My disciples believes that sleep on the beach, that is if he
thinks I sleep at all. Most of them believe the same but for myself I prefer
More so, economic corruption in the Nigerian Civil Service is brought
to the force. Amope, Chume’s wife talks about the sanitary inspector and
others who take bribe-that they make something of themselves by taking a
little bribed here and there. Soyinka here calls for a redemption of the civil
service arm so that it can be effective in carrying out its objectives.
Soyinka satirizes Nigerian political leaders through the theme of
religion. In the play, prophet Jero represent those political leaders in the
wider African states; Nigeria to be precise. Whose main purpose is to make
profit for themselves at the expense of the masses.
The member of house of representative who lacks courage to make a
speech and who nevertheless wants more power, represent those political
leaders who once in position, will do anything to remain in that position till
death takes them away. All these and many more absurdities are the
characteristics of bad leadership obtaintable in the Nigerian contemporary
society. We know there is a need for a change, thus, Soyinka uses his play as
a medium advocate for this transformation.
The play, written by Wole Soyinka a savage portrait of group of
dictatorial African leaders at bay in an embassy in New York City, United
The play was purposely written to show the resemblance between the
recent historical characters/African leaders and long or one time leaders in
Africa who were known for their authoritarian or tyrannical rule and these
include: Macias, Ngwema (Late) of Equitorial Guinea, Jean Basphole.
They are ruthless and five no room for freedom of humanity. They
mismanage the resource of the nation.
The play is a satire in the mis rule of the “miracle men” of African
leadership. They are those leaders who have been entrusted with power but
have misused it. The play makes no pretensions as to its focus and its
intentions. However, it subtly treats a number of issues all relating to power:
abuse of power, complexities of power, intrigues of power, craze and hurt
for power, the world of the super power and other dimensions, all dealing
with power.
Through Kamini, we see a true picture of the Idi Amin regime, the
turanny and evil that pervaded his rule and the upturn of justice and
misrepresentation of the truth. Kamini is seen as being totally power drunk
and this trait is seen as been totally power drunk and this trait is seen in
reality in all the African leaders portrayed in the play. Each has his own
peculiarities and idiosyncrasies. However, powers the bottom line. The way,
the shade and color of the power are now the issue.
Idi Amin the giant of Giants is presented alongside other dictators in
away that ridicules power. In a bid to hold on to the booty of power, they
lose their loyal workers and brain professionals The “mindless” terrors are
deaf, drumb and blind to those around them.
The imminent fall is expected – the fall of Kamini – (or “Idi Amin”) is
the fall or the tragedy of all the African leaders in this play. The notion of
the tragedy of Kamini therefore is false as it is not the tragedy of Kamini
alone but also that of the super powers – the United State, Russia and United
Kingdom – that have sustained his likes in power.
What happens at the ends of the play is that the central figure, Kamini,
becomes an individual hero suffering by himself through his own lusts,
faults and excuses. Kamini is individual hero suffering by himself through
his own lusts, faults and excuses. Kamini is consumed by power as he seeks
to be a life president. He desires to put everyone under and he tries to put
power in his pocket. Each of the leaders is seen in the light of Kamini’s
plight and tragedy. In a bid to protect and hold onto power indefinitely, he
loses. He is no match for the “super power” After all. The plot is developed
through the use of satire, irony and conflict.
In literature generally, literature is a fictional representation of reality.
It is meant to morrow and project what is obtainable in a given society for all
to read, ruminate on and learn with a view to changing the society for the
Wole Soyinka’s play of Giants is a satire on some personalities in
African history that have all the tinge of colorations captured in the play.
The reality of the pictures painted in the play with fictional characters
or personalities are mentioned. Verisimilitude is achieved through the
dramatic style and behaviours of these characters. The play is therefore not a
figment but a recollection of true-life, experience of African leaders and
their style of leadership: One is not supposed at the boldness of the writer
intention from the outset.
He actually wants to depict the true picture of the African ruler in
question. Soyinka does not really intend to hide the identity of the leaders.
The play’s African leaders are the fictional representation of the
historical antecedents of the following rulers in Africa: Republic and Maa’as
Nguema of Equitorial Guinea. All these were despots in African history that
had brought untold misery, hardship and pain to their people. The list of
these “giants” is endless. The play is therefore illuminating on the gross
inadequacies of these “giants” while they were rulers. They were above the
politics of persuasion, but they needed power and resorted to using voodoo.
This tyrannical style of leadership is not a tale or a fiction but a fact which is
well recorded in history.
The international hypocrisy of the western world is equally printed in
the play. The super power (America, Russia, and Belgium) promote leaders
(puppets) and remove them at will depending on “their interest” at a
particular time. This interest may not necessarily be the interest on the
Africans when their expectations from such African leaders are no longer
minister of Cong, Patrice Lumunba was toppled with the connivance of
Belgium, and Mobutu of these super powers, thus the African continent is a
theatre of war for these powers to test, sell and use their ammunitions.
Nationalism and Africanism is borne out of desire to get independence
from all shades of slavery. This feeling is a genuine. One among the
Africans. The projection of this feeling by the “giants” in their rulership is
corrected but one is shocked at the crueland bestial style of this projection.
The irony of the situations is painted vividly. The champions of African
ideals are the ones destroying African values such as hospitality, good
neighbourliness etc. They kill and maim their citizens who do not subscribe
to their system of rulership. The play therefore displays the foolery of these
leaders using the feeling of equality as a ploy to attack the hegemony of the
white in the global diplomacy.
Furthermore, the play is too real for one to ‘think-thanks’ or pseudo
leaders. They are more than enough in our society needed in sending out
fake messiahs but it is ironical that the same people who should protest are
the sycophants or hallelujah singer praising these giants. This is the bane of
the leaders take actions without knowing the full implications, hence, the
resources of the continent are mismanaged. Africa has been pauperized
because of the poor economic understanding of her leaders. While elephant
projects as the “statues of giants” are embarked upon, thus jettisoning the
genuine needs of their people. The resources are either untapped or wasted.
Africans continue to goan and beg for food. This is a fact and not a fiction.
In conclusion, it is evident that the play captures the totality of the
goings-on in our world today… it is too be fictitious.
The play centres on some set of tyrannical or dictatorial African
leaders at the bay in an embassy in New York. The four African heads of
state Benefacio Gunema, Emperor Kasco, Field-Marshal Kamini and
General Barra Tuboum-believe in dictatorship by acquiring so much power,
brutality of power and dehumanization. They are ruthless and five no room
for freedom of humanity. They mismanage the resources of the nation (P. 4)
believing that they the power (P. 10).
These leaders give no room for human self expression and exploit the
helpless masses. They derive pleasure in wars, ‘we fight, we kill or we die;
(P. 21). They see themselves as being born to rule and refer to themselves,
especially Kamini, as Life President (P. 26). They acquire power through
any available means, even through voodoo and imprisoned the ones who
dare to challenge their authoritarian rule. Gunema sentenced to death those
who plot against him.
The evils of these leaders do not end on there; they also go as far as
violating the dignity womanhood. They have no regard for the women-force
themselves on women and do have sex with them forcefully (P. 58). The
amigos believe that rebellion is contagious disease and so they spend much
to acquire destructive weapons in case of war or coup d’etat (P. 63).
Other themes in the book include hatred, racism, egoism (ego-centric),
power trussle and imperialism.
The action takes place at the Bugaran Embassy to the United Nations,
New York. The timer is a few years before the present.
The play, A play of Giants, has the following characters: Benefacio
Gunema, Emperor Kasco, Field-Marshal Kamini, General Bara Tuboum
(These are the four African Head of State), Gudrum, a Scandinavian
journalist, Chairman of the Bugara Central bank, Sculptor, Bugaran
Ambassador, Mayor of Hyacombe, Professor Batey, Two Russian
Delegates, Two American Delegates, Task force specials, Guards and
Secretary-General of the United Nations.
The author introduces the characters himself to the reader by a way of
prologue or interlude at the beginning and in the course of the play
respectively. He took a critical look at the resemblance between the African
Heads of State and recent historical characters has been too pronounced;
leaders like Macias Nguema (late) of Equatorial Guinea, Jean Basptiste
Bokassa of the Central African Republic, Mobutu Sese Koko of Congo
Kinshasa and the Hero of heroes, the Field Marshal El-Haji Dr. Idi Aminof
The play is divided into two (2) parts: Part One and Part Two.
The author makes use of narration in the course of the play. He also
displays element of conflict through the aggressive African Heads of State
and the representatives of United Nation and America.
In the preceding chapters, we have examined the socio-political issues
satirizes in the contemporary Nigeria society Wole Soyinka. These
playwright through their artistic techniques have been able to correct and
bring about re-orientation of the Nigeria citizens. Here we see to what
extent, transformation of the contemporary society have been made possible.
Through symbolism, irony, humour and other artistic techniques such
as character places and situation. There is no doubt that the society
represented in the texts is a true reflection of Nigeria society.
Talking about transformation and re-orientation of the people, this
satirical work has been to reach us not to believe or get carried away with
anybody that claims to be a prophet. Happiness and satisfaction is not gotten
from anybody is a product of what is within ones mind. Under moral
decadence as ridiculed by Soyinka, couples are encouraged to be
companions indeed to each other.
Thankfulness is another issue emphasized by Soyinka people are
expected to be grateful or thankful for the benefit they receive from their
fellow man.
Politically, Wole Soyinka’s A Play of Giants.
The texts lighten our hearts with satirical comedy that drums into our
consciousness and sensibilities which brings about transformation
manifesting in knowledge and societal development.
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