Death and the King's Horseman

by Wole Soyinka

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Questions and Answers: Act II

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Study Questions
1. Why is Sergeant Amusa horrified that the Pilkingses have donned Yoruban ritual dress?

2. What is the “European club,” and how is it significant?

3. Why is Simon Pilkings in Africa?

4. How are Simon and Jane Pilkings similar? How are the different?

5. What do Joseph and Sergeant Amusa have in common with each other?

1. Although Sergeant Amusa is a Muslim and a native policeman, he was born and raised in Yoruban culture, which he respects as a meaningful and viable way of life. He is horrified that the Pilkingses have so little fear of and respect for the Yoruban religion and cultural tradition.

2. The European club is a club exclusively for Europeans in colonial Nigeria. It is significant because its existence demonstrates that the European colonizers did not want to interact with the Africans they ruled daily. For recreation they turned exclusively to each other, and the type of recreation they chose, such as the fancy-dress ball, shows that they tried to recreate familiar aspects of European life in the colonies. The club is also significant because it demonstrates the type of racial discrimination regularly practiced by the European colonizers.

3. Simon Pilkings is in Africa because he works for the British colonial administration as the District Officer of Oyo. He lives there with his wife and works with native policemen to rule the natives and administer British colonial law.

4. While Simon makes no effort to understand Yoruban culture or respect Yoruban people, Jane acts more benevolently toward Sergeant Amusa and Joseph. She advises her husband to treat the matter of the egungun costumes delicately—something Simon is not inclined to do. Rather than yelling orders at the native servants and underlings, Jane asks them questions with what appears to be genuine interest and concern. Jane also reprimands her husband for his harsh language while Simon mocks Jane for taking anthropological interest in the customs and lifestyle of the people of Oyo.

5. Joseph and Amusa are both Yoruban, and as black Africans, they share the burden of colonial racism. Though both speak English and have been Westernized, or “civilized,” in different ways, neither will ever be fully accepted as equals to the Europeans who come through Africa to convert them to Christianity or to rule them under colonialism.

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