In The Swamp Dwellers, Wole Soyinka exposes the conflicts between the opposing cultures present in a pre and post colonial Nigeria and also within cultures themselves. The religious Kadiye, an elder and adviser to the humble swamp people is "fat" and contrasts with the families and especially the beggar, bringing his sincerity into question and later exposing him. The hard-working locals, full of superstitions and longing rely on the land and the floods constantly ruin their crops. Kadiye cannot stop the floods and yet he still takes from the people who trust him and believe in him. Makuri, and his wife Alu, refuse to believe what their sons tell them. Makuri is prevented from getting the most out of his land because of his traditions and superstitions.
Rural life and the allure of the city are also contrasts that the swamp dwellers must contend with as Makuri's sons go off to the city like so many others, most of whom do not return to help their aging families. City lifestyles also reverberate throughout the community and the definition of "family" and filial piety and unquestioning devotion of the swamp dwellers is brought into question amongst inconsistencies and contradictions. Soyinka conveys the difficulties through the creation of characters that embody specific antagonistic or opposing personalities. Kadiye, the beggar and Igwezu each present the opportunist, the ideal or the striving for it and the effect of making choices whether in a rural setting or city bound.