The Concubine

by Elechi Amadi

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What is the theme of "The Concubine"?

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Superstition is one of the main themes of the story. In traditional African life, superstition has a significant influence on what people believe and how they live their lives. Amadi highlights the damaging effect that superstition can have on people's lives, especially their health. When an outbreak of smallpox descends upon the village of Amokachi, people are so frightened of the disease that they dare not even call it by its name. Instead, they refer to it as "the good thing."

Because the villagers are not prepared to face the reality of smallpox, they retreat into a fantasy world in which time-honored superstitions and rituals will protect them from the disease. Unfortunately, refraining from mourning those struck down by the disease, refraining from consulting oracles, and refraining from making sacrifices does not make any difference; it simply brings more physical and spiritual harm to the villagers of Amokachi.

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The central theme of the story is man's potential to manipulate his or her own destiny versus the decree of the mystical cosmos employed through folklore, tradition, and superstition.

This is a story wrapped around a simple scenario: A young widow, trying to make it, a man interested in marrying her, and the tragic circumstances she still experiences emotionally due to the tragic death of her husband. This is quite ok. Yet, when you include all those thematic elements expressed in the first paragraph is when the story takes a completely different tone and shade, and will become more complex.

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