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To start with, the setting of Soyinka's most simple and first play The Swamp Dwellers symbolically establishes the themes of rural social decay and humankind's quest for salvation. According to John Nkemngong Nkengasong, Ph.D., of the University of Yaounde, Soyinka uses African myth, idiom, and ritual to examine humanity's absurdist struggle against a hostile environment, thus representing life's ever-present problems and contradictions and humanity's unending quest for salvation. Nkengasong points out that the setting contrasting swamps and the arid North represents the existential predicament of living in an environment that can not be explained and presents a continual hazard. The central dilemma lies in choosing whether to placate an impotent god (the Serpent) on the hope of bringing order to a hostile environment or to abandon the hope of salvation altogether, while knowing full well that salvation is a central quest of humankind.
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