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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Analysis of Adebayo WIlliam's "Ritual and the Political Unconcious" by Eric Vaughn

Considering the fact that I attend an all male college founded on traditions, I have a different understanding of the ways that traditions are kept and left behind. These ritualistic activities unite the college under a common ground that ultimately sets us apart from other places and that is why most of us go here. We don’t want to be away from women but something here draws us in. The traditions become a romanticized part of our lives that we are proud of. Regardless of wether or not this sort of pride is bad or not, it is difficult to not feel some extent of it.

Weighing the impact of these scholastic traditions, I can only imagine the importance of traditions of a society--a particular group of peoples’ way of life. In Adebayo Williams’ analytic post-colonial critic of Soyinka’s Death and the King’s Horseman, Williams stresses the importance of ritual suicide in the Yoruba way of life. This ritual suicide is used to guide the deceased Yoruba King in the afterlife. If the King is left unattended he wanders around causing harm and destruction to the Yoruba people. So for their safety, the King’s Horseman must commit ritual suicide. The act is considered an honorable deed. However, Williams notes the flaws of other people to recognize this culture as its own. The Englishmen in the play think the idea is silly and foolish when the Englishmen themselves are no better.

Williams mentions how the Yoruba market is highly valued in their society, to the extent of being like heaven. This is especially true at nighttime because the Yoruba people believe there is a greater spiritual presence at this time. However, the term heaven for Yoruba has a different significance than in English Christianity. For English Christian minds, heaven is a holy place of light and innocence whereas the Yoruba heaven is a place where all spirits dwell. Their highest spiritual time is at night, but English see nighttime as a high spiritual time for demonic activity. These cultural misunderstandings compose all of the problems in the play and as well as the interpretations of it.

Williams stresses the lack of understanding for the Yoruba way of life by the English in the play. He makes a good point supporting the common understanding that Soyinka’s main point is undisputedly proven that oppressing cultures often do not take the time to understand or appreciate other people’s lifestyles. They simply impose their own. Williams supports this point by recognizing Olunde’s condemnation of the English not taking the time to understand the Yoruba people as well as contempt for his father not completing his ritual suicide. Olunde is essentially between both worlds. He has taken the time to understand the English way of life for four years but has not forgotten his own.

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