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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 433

Written in 1978, "The Healers" is a 309-page novel by Ayi Kwei Armah set against the backdrop of the early British colonization of the Ashanti kingdom (now Ghana) during the late 1800s. The title refers to a group of traditional medical practitioners concerned that allowing European colonization to fragment the African continent will be the indigenous population's ultimate undoing.

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Armah's prose is dramatic and suspenseful, detailing the escapades of a strong twenty-year-old man named Densu who is just coming into his own as he navigates a society on the cusp of change. Densu has formidable fighting skills and is being courted by a local power broker, Ababio, to take over the throne, although he steadfastly refuses.

Ababio fears the current king is too antagonistic toward the white colonialists (which will ultimately hurt their society) thanks to the undue influence of society's so-called "healers" and wants a king he can groom as an appeaser. However, Densu also empathizes with the anti-colonial healers, and Ababio eventually frames Densu for the murder of the king.

Densu winds up on the run as a fugitive struggling to prove Ababio's deeds and his innocence, all while exploring his own desire to join the ranks of the healers. He is simultaneously immersed in the rising tensions between the dark-skinned natives and white-skinned colonialists, using his skills to resolve conflicts between weaker allies and a much stronger adversary and to restore balance to his people through the act of healing.

The themes behind the "healer" concept are subtle and underplayed by the author, but they ultimately present an idea that healers are the people in society who lay the...

(The entire section contains 433 words.)

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