Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)


Zifa (ZEE-fah), the protagonist, a fisherman and ship’s pilot who is a proud man unable to accept his impotence. He blames his inability to father a child on his wife, Ebiere, and on everyone else. He consults experts, but to no avail. When his younger brother, Tonyá, replaces him as surrogate father, Zifa, in a rage, ritually slaughters a goat, which foreshadows Tonyá’s suicide and Zifa’s act of atonement—his own suicide.


Tonyá (TOH-nyah), Zifa’s younger brother. He attempts to take Zifa’s place in fathering a child, a tradition accepted by Nigerian people, but finds that he cannot live with what he has done in good faith and commits suicide. Tonyá is, therefore, a victim of tragic circumstances.


Ebiere (ay-bee-AY-ray), Zifa’s wife. She is told by the Masseur that she should have a child by Tonyá, Zifa’s younger brother, because Zifa is impotent. Ebiere follows this advice, thinking that Zifa would believe the child to be his. After Zifa’s violent reaction to the act, Ebiere loses her child in a miscarriage, but she accepts the child’s death as punishment for her sin. This incident takes place in a sequel to Song of a Goat titled Masquerade (1964).

The Masseur

The Masseur, the most important person in the community. The Masseur is the symbol of strength and stability to the people of the village. He serves as the family doctor, the confessor, and the oracle. The Masseur acts as the sage. He attempts to convince Zifa that infertility will bring ruin to a family and that Zifa must accept Tonyá as a surrogate father. Zifa, in his pride, refuses to follow the Masseur’s advice.


Orukorere (OH-rew-koh-RAY-ray), Zifa’s half-possessed aunt. When she hears of Ebiere and Tonyá’s plan to conceive a child without Zifa’s knowledge, she makes a prophecy of tragic consequences. Her warning, however, is disregarded by all; Orukorere, because of her half-crazed personality, is not taken seriously by the members of her family. Her warnings of disaster, which become reality, echo the myths and superstitions that have been a large part of the people’s consciousness. Throughout the drama, she acts as chorus and conscience.