Death and the King's Horseman

by Wole Soyinka

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How is honor presented in Death and the King's Horseman by Soyinka?

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Wole Soyinka presents honor primarily through the characters of Elesin and his son, Olunde. Elesin relinquishes his own honor by failing to take part in the prescribed ritual suicide within the required period of time. Rather than do his solemn duty to his people as he had sworn to do upon becoming a horseman, he places his selfish desires first. Although Elesin does take his own life while in prison, this does not restore his honor because it was an individual act, not part of the tribal custom.

Olunde, in contrast, seemed to have turned his back on the concept of tribally-affiliated honor when he left to study abroad. Upon his return, however, he is restored to the community’s values and incurs honor for himself and his people by assuming his father’s ritual role.

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