Wole Soyinka, like other Nigerian writers, characterizes the conflict of cultural and religious choices in his country and emphasizes the distinct customs of society (Tucker 9). Born into the Yoruba tribe and culture, Soyinka’s writings are clearly influenced by Yoruba culture and practices. Communities and societies in Africa today religiously partake in ancient rituals that some may consider extreme. The extent to which individuals will go in order to rid a community of its sins and faults is tested by the sadistic annual sacrificial killing of an innocent individual for communal benefit. Wole Soyinka introduces ritualistic human societies that expose the ferocity of human beings ...view middle of the document...
A sacrificial ritual must occur every year although it creates a looming sense of moral disgust within the community. The hunting of Eman, led by Jaguna and Oroge, leaves Jaguna feeling “sick to the heart of the cowardice” displayed by the villagers, revealing the uncertainty of whether the community is truly purified or not (16). The intense and circuitous chase ended with the sacrifice of a carrier, but the cynicism of the village, its elders, and usage of a carrier ritual to rid an entire community of its sins seems to undo the potential for healing, as shame and disgust remains evident in villagers after the sacrificial killing (Gilbert 49).
Behaviors and characteristics which are normally not evident are forced to the forefront. As the cleansing draws closer, actions and words become dramatically different from what would normally have been expected of the characters. Sunma believes that if she and Eman do not leave their home that Eman will be chosen as the sacrifice for the community. Her calm attitude drastically changes when Ifada appears, causing her to lose control:
EMAN. (restraining her) Control yourself, Sunma. What on earth has got into you?
(Ifada, hurt and bewildered, backs slowly away)
SUNMA. He comes crawling round here like some horrible insect. I never want to lay my eyes on him again.
EMAN. I don’t understand. It is Ifada you know. Ifada! The unfortunate one who runs errands for you and doesn’t hurt a soul.
SUNMA. I cannot bear the sight of him. (1)
Sunma’s sudden change in character amazes Eman and bewilders Ifada since she never had evil thoughts about Ifada before, or had never voiced them:
SUNMA. Perhaps. . . perhaps it is the new year. Yes, yes. . . it must be the new year. . . I don’t want a mis-shape near me. Surely for one day in the year, I may demand wholesomeness. (2)
According to Johnson, “the urge to be well is ritualized in a festival that unites even as it burdens the community into a collectivity of the damned. It is a ritual of expiation whose failure is anticipated in mutation and monstrosity. . .” The approaching of the new year’s sacrificial ritual triggers a dramatic shift in Sunma’s positive and calm disposition to one that is hateful towards Ifada and bitter towards Eman. She is so overwhelmed by the thought of Eman possibly being the communal sacrifice that she resorts to criticizing Ifada and hoping that Ifada is the one to be sacrificed since he is disabled. Sunma’s change in character...