Summary (Masterplots II: Short Story Series, Revised Edition)
“In the Shadow of War” is told from the perspective of a young boy, Omovo, who takes a short trip from the sleepy innocent boredom of his sunny village into the dark shadowy forest, where he experiences the terrors of war. In this story, as in much of Ben Okri’s fiction, the world of reality and fantasy merge seamlessly.
The story begins one hot afternoon in an unnamed Nigerian village. Omovo, a boy of about eleven, waits for his father to go to work. Only the radio, with its announcements of war and an impending eclipse of the Moon, intrudes on their peace. Before the father leaves, he warns Omovo to be careful because during an eclipse, the world turns dark and evil things can happen. He gives the boy his ten kobo allowance and tells him to turn off the radio. Children, he insists, should not listen to tales of war. After his father gets on the bus, Omovo turns the radio back on. He has been watching a mysterious woman veiled in black who passes his house every afternoon. He decides to wait for the woman, whom the village children believe to be a ghost, to appear.
Through the window, he watches three soldiers drinking outside at a nearby bar. When he sees that they are playing with, and giving money to, neighborhood children, he goes out to see them. The soldiers pay attention to him as well and offer him money to report on the whereabouts of the mysterious black-veiled woman. However, unlike the other children, Omovo refuses the...
(The entire section is 554 words.)
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“In the Shadow of War” begins in an unknown Nigerian village. Three soldiers arrive in the afternoon, disturbing the animals that roam the streets, as they proceed to the local bar to drink palm-wine “amidst the flies.”
Next, the narration turns to a young boy and his father. The father and son are at their home, which from the window offers the son, Omovo, a view of the soldiers. As the father and son listen to their old Grundig radio, which they purchased inexpensively from a family who was escaping the war, they hear news of “bombings and air raids in the interior of the country.” As the father grooms and then dresses himself in a coat that is “shabby” and too small for him, Omovo continues to peer out the window. He is “irritated” with his father and is focused on looking for a woman who has been passing his house every day for the past week. The woman wears a black veil over her face and is headed for the forest by way of the village paths and the Express road. While Omovo continues to watch for the woman, the war news finishes and the radio broadcaster announces that there will be an eclipse of the moon that night. Omovo’s father chides bitterly, “As if an eclipse will stop this war.” An exchange ensues in which the father tells Omovo that an eclipse is “when the world goes dark and strange things happen.” He warns Omovo not to stay out late because “Heclipses hate children” and that “they eat them.” Omovo does...
(The entire section is 1321 words.)