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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 276

The Healers by Ayi Lwei Armah opens with the brutal murder of Appia, the prince of Esuano. His mother Araba Jesiwa, who went missing after the attack, is also believed to be dead. The protagonist of this story, Densu, thinks back to a memory he has of Appia. The two were competitors in the ceremonial games of the festival season, and Densu was defeated by Appia, because he refused to kill a pigeon during the shooting competition.

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Densu is cared for by his guardian Ababio, a greedy man who encourages Densu to pursue a career in politics so he might gain power and wealth. However, Densu dreams of joining the community of healers in the eastern forest.

Due to Ababio's ploys for power, Densu becomes a suspect in Appia's murder. He discovers that Ababio has planned to kill him by calling for a trial in which Densu must drink poison to determine his innocence or guilt. However, Densu escapes and joins the healer commune.

The leader of the healers in Damfo. He is treating two very important patients: Appia's mother Araba Jesiwa, who is injured and in shock after the attack that killed her son, and Asamoa Nkwanta, Appia's uncle and the general of the Asante army who is suffering from depression.

Damfo disagrees with many aspects of the Asante culture, such as slaveholding and ritualistic human sacrifice. Throughout the healing process, he convinces Asamoa Nkwanta of these failings.

Densu is brought to trial again under the English courts and is found innocent thanks to the testimony of Araba Jesiwa. She implicates Ababio, who is now king of the Esuano, and he is tried for murder.


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Last Updated on October 26, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 924

In his desire to do justice to his tale, the narrator, the “story-teller,” of the events of the novel, invokes the arts of eloquence from a long-revered tradition of African masters of narrative. Convinced of the urgency and importance of his tale, the narrator must remind himself, through the invocations, that discipline in storytelling is a paramount factor that he must not forget. The main task of the narrator is to show how the events of the twentieth year in the life of the protagonist, Densu, serve to illustrate aspects of the larger society. There is a focus on a specific historical time, during which critical changes occurred as a result of internal political and spiritual conflicts exacerbated by British colonial incursions into the Asante empire.

The novel opens with the notation that a brutal murder has occurred and that the protagonist, Densu, is involved in this event. Murdered is Appia, the crown prince of Esuano, and also believed murdered is his missing mother, Araba Jesiwa. The action flashes back to the period just prior to the murder, the festival season of the chosen-year ceremonial games of competition in the town of Esuano. Densu and his age-group, young men passing into manhood, compete in several athletic and mental skills. In the past, these games were regarded as cooperative rituals of wholeness. Now, however, the festivals have a strong emphasis on individual competition, which Densu believes promotes fragmentation and division. Densu, who dislikes aimless and disruptive conflict, reluctantly competes, and his overall skills are superior. Appia is declared winner of the games, however, when Densu compassionately refuses to kill a tethered pigeon in the final shooting competition.

Two forces pull at Densu. One is his manipulative guardian, Ababio, who, out of self-interest spurred by greed for power, wants Densu to aspire to royal service and even to the local kingship. Ababio would hope to be de facto ruler, with Densu as a figurehead. The other force pulling at Densu is his own inclination to become a healer, to get far away from court life and join Damfo’s...

(The entire section contains 1200 words.)

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