What is the theme of "Africa Kills Her Sun" by Ken Saro Wiwa?

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accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This short story, which actually takes the form of a letter from a condemned man to his beloved just before he is about to be shot for robbery, is all about the corruption in Africa and the way that any future hope Africa may have is being taken away gradually through this endemic corruption. This is shown through the personal story of Bana, as he reveals it to his beloved, Zole. Although he had a prestigious job working for his government, what he realised was that everybody was corrupt and stealing from each other. Striving to be more "honest," he chose to steal openly as a robber, working outside of any official role. However, he was captured when one of his jobs was botched by a police officer, with whom they were always in communication with to organise their crime.

As a result, Bana faces death for, as he sees it doing honestly and openly what everybody else does in secret. As his letter draws to its close, he writes the following lines:

I recall, many years ago as a young child, reading in a newspaper of an African leader who stood on the grave of a dead lieutenant and through his tears said: ‘Africa kills her sons.’ I don’t know what he meant by that, and though I’ve thought about it long enough, I’ve not been able to unravel the full mystery of those words. Now, today, this moment, they come flooding back to me. And I want to borrow from him. I’d like you to put this on my gravestone as an epitaph: ‘Africa Kills Her Sun.’

Bana plays on the phrase "Africa kills her sons" to enlarge its meaning and its somewhat depressing focus by changing it to "Africa Kills Her Sun." The sun is of course a symbol of hope, life, of a better future and prosperity. The major theme of this excellent short story therefore is the way in which Africa itself is engaged in a process of killing its own future and any chance it might have of a brighter tomorrow through its own actions. The story points the finger at the endemic corruption that seeks to completely destroy any chance of improvement or recovery.

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Africa Kills Her Sun

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