How does Death and the King's Horseman increase cultural awareness?

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accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Soyinka in this play presents his audience with two very different and, apparently, opposed world views. The Yoruba world view presents a view of life that is cyclical by nature and where life is an ongoing process, with death not being the end that Western culture considers it to be. This is exemplified by the idea that unborn children are actually former ancestors waiting to be born into the world again. However, this play does present Western culture as being particularly closed to the insights of other cultures as they view them through their gaze of imperialism as being "savage" and "barbaric." Note how Pilkings and the other white characters refer to the custom of the ritual suicide of the King's horseman. This is something Olunde talks about directly when he speaks to Jane in Scene Four about the Western mindset:

Yet another error into which your people fall. You believe that everything which appears to make sense was learnt from you.

The clear message from this play is that there are different ways of viewing the world that challenge Western supremacy and approaches to culture. This is what Pilkings, and others of his ilk, completely fail to understand, as is shown through their inability to understand the significance of the death of the King's horseman. The play therefore acts as a challenge to its white audience and a plea for greater cultural awareness.

madaisha123 | Student

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Death and the King's Horseman

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