Death and the King's Horseman Questions and Answers
by Wole Soyinka

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Does Death and the King's Horseman prove there was a failure of the native tribe to maintain their cultural identity?

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In creating fictional works, authors rarely set out to "prove" things. The concept of "proof" is largely associated with mathematics and with scientific experiments. When one considers Wole Soyinka's goals in Death and the King's Horseman, one can see that he aims to distinguish between the individual and the group.

While the play is clearly concerned with important cultural values and practices, Soyinka is writing about specific individuals and their actions at a specific time, rather than making broad generalizations about an entire culture. Elesin's own understanding of the actions he does or does not take undergo a significant change during the course of the play. We can understand Elesin as a representation of the conflicted position of one man at a time of great political, religious, and cultural upheaval.

Rather than reject the responsibility of taking his own life in service to his king, Elesin postpones participating in the ritual because of his own selfish desires. When he...

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