In A Dance of the Forests, what is Soyinka trying to help his audience understand through the parallels between characters, actions, and attitudes in the present and the past?

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In my opinion, the concept that the author is trying to help the audience understand in A Dance of the Forestscan be summed up in the words of Dead Woman:

The world is big but the dead are bigger. We’ve been dying since the beginning.

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In my opinion, the concept that the author is trying to help the audience understand in A Dance of the Forests can be summed up in the words of Dead Woman:

The world is big but the dead are bigger. We’ve been dying since the beginning.

When you talk about the “parallels between characters” in A Dance of the Forests, you are speaking about a large amalgamation of living and dead as well as mortals and gods. What is important to understand is that Soyinka presents Yoruba culture for a Nigerian audience, so for an American reader, explanation is needed. As a short explanation, we should remember that Forest Head has disguised himself as a mortal human named Obaneji. He has invited four other mortals into the forest to welcome Dead Woman and Dead Man. The god Aroni has already taken the two under his wing due to their lack of acceptance by the living. The Forest Dance begins (and contains a kind of trial of the two living beings), but is interrupted by Eshuoro. The dance ends with the rebirth of Demoke through music and movement.

It is through Dead Woman’s observations that we learn the most about connections between the living and the dead. We learn that the past is extremely important in that it is “bigger” than the present. In fact, the past can directly affect what is happening now. The author, Soyinka, believes that the past is actually found within the people living in the present but that there is still a large divide between the two that causes tension and discord. The only way this divide can be traversed is through rituals such as the Forest Dance. These ceremonies, according to Soyinka, are vastly important for unification.

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The main theme of A Dance of the Forests is the struggles facing Nigeria and other African nations that had recently achieved independence. This was a time of great optimism in Africa. Soyinka was heavily criticized for presenting the problems in Africa's past and warning that these problems could reoccur in the future, as the balance of people in the continent simply wanted to celebrate.

Soyinka is trying to use the parallels between the past and present to show that contemporary Africa would still face the same struggles of poverty, violence, and class discrimination that they had in the past. He isn't condemning anyone or pointing fingers, merely showing that his compatriots would have to be ever-vigilant to skirt the failings present in Africa's past.

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