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...
(The entire section is 812 words.)
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Amusa is a sergeant in the native administration police, a black African working for the white British colonialists. His position is a difficult one: he is not trusted by Simon Pilkings, his superior, because Simon cannot conceive of an African as being intelligent or honest, and he is no longer trusted by the villagers because he works with the whites to enforce ‘‘the laws of strangers.’’ Amusa was converted to Christianity two years before the play begins, but he still feels profound respect for native beliefs. He will not speak with Simon so long as Simon is wearing the egungun garments, but Amusa does not hesitate to follow Simon’s orders and arrest Elesin to prevent his suicide.
The Bride does not speak at all during the play. Already engaged to Iyaloja’s son, the Bride is seen by Elesin and taken to bed by him; no one asks for her consent. When Elesin is arrested she sits silently beside him, and upon his death she closes his eyes in fulfillment of her wifely duty.
Iyaloja is the Mother of the market, the spokesperson and leader of the women of the village. She is the voice of wisdom in the play, the one who can see beyond Elesin’s charms to the danger he represents when he swerves from his responsibility. When Elesin asks for the young woman as his Bride, Iyaloja has no choice but to hand her over, even though the young woman is engaged to Iyaloja’s own...
(The entire section is 885 words.)