Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Elesin Oba (ay-LAY-sihn OH-bah), the chief horseman of the recently deceased king of a Nigerian village. Full of vitality, Elesin enjoys women, singing, and dancing. Despite his great thirst for life, he is a man of honor and wisdom. He must, therefore, adhere to native laws and customs that mandate that he kill himself prior to the king’s burial so as to accompany his master to heaven. Although he has an abundance of wives and is in his final hours on Earth, his eyes wander to a young woman who has been promised to another man; as a result of his stature, the girl is given to him in marriage. Regardless of having yet another reason to live, he is prompted by honor to pursue his death ceremony. When the critical rite is interrupted by the British colonial forces and his suicide is prevented, Elesin is disgraced and humiliated. His son, whom he had previously disowned for abandoning the tribe to attend school in Europe, now disowns him. Elesin is repudiated by friends and tribesmen and is held in prison by the British as a means of protecting his life. After witnessing his son’s suicide to right his wrong, he strangles himself with his own shackles.
Praise-Singer, a man who follows Elesin around only to sing praises of him. Although his love for Elesin is great, he knows that the world demands the death of his master. During the death ritual, he takes on the role of the deceased king to speak with Elesin. He, too, is disgraced by Elesin failing to complete the ceremony, thereby disrupting the order of the universe.
Iyaloja (ee-yah-LOH-jah), the “mother” of the marketplace. Despite her lofty position above the other women, she is subservient to men and is terrified of offending Elesin, a man of such prominence. Her respect of his mission is so great that she willingly gives her...
(The entire section is 812 words.)
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