This essay is a pragmatic reading of moral and socio-political decadence in Femi Osofisan’s Midnight Hotel. It does this by analyzing ten out of twenty-five proverbs deployed in the text. In analyzing the proverbs, this essay observes that each has at least an ad hoc constituent which requires semantic modulation to get at the meanings of the proverbs. This modulation is not arbitrary, but contextually negotiated until the reader reaches his optimal relevance.
Wilson and Carston argue that metaphors are cases of ad hoc constructions (7), for instance, when a speaker says, ‘The boy is a lion’. While a literary scholar would see this as metaphorical, Wilson and Carston believe that the above sentence is a case of the use of an ad hoc constituent-lion- that if modulated the meaning becomes clear:
lion = a four legged carnivore
lion* = the king of all animals; ferocious and brave
If this sense of lion* is transferred to the sentence, one would understand that the speaker means any of the followings:
a) The boy is the leader of his peers
b) The boy is ferocious
c) The boy is brave
Ad hoc Construction has to do with meaning modulations that occur to pertinent constituents in utterances. These modulations could be widening or narrowing (Wilson and Carston 9). It is this sense of analysis that this essay transfers to the proverbs used in Osofisan’s Midnight Hotel. This is because this paper understands that proverbs are largely cases of metaphor. Osofisan’s Midnight Hotel is a classical humourous play which reflects the socio-political, abysmal, perverse, corrupt, sordid, squander mania spirit that ‘graced’ the Second and Third Republic that Nigeria has experienced. Many of the works on the play see it as a humourous art which chastises the moral, social, economic, and political life of Nigeria. Hence they see Osofisan as a satirist. Apart from Clement Ajidahun who does a linguistic analysis of the playwright’s deployment of animal symbols in most of his plays, the other critics examine Osofisan’s Midnight Hotel from literary perspectives.
1.1 LITERATURE REVIEW
Femi Osofisan has had interviews with scholars with whom he shares his drives, aims, and ideological concepts behind his works. One of such is with Ossie Onuorah Enekwe where he says that:
To get desperately close to the spectator, to each and every one I have trapped in the darkness or half light, to penetrate very close and intimate, like a knife in the ribs. I want to make that spectator happy but uncomfortable. I want to turn him open, guts and all, spice him, cook him in the filthy, stinking broil of our history. I want him washed inside out, in the naked truth, and then I sew him back again a different man. (18)
The playwright’s closeness to a reader of Midnight Hotel is predicated on the contemporary subject matters raised in the text. It is true the essence of the play is to effect a social change (as it is with most literary works), but this change cannot occur if the reader finds it...