Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1127
One: Tide-WashThe Raft opens at night on a creek in the Niger Delta. Two lumbermen. Kengide and Olotu, are trying to sleep in a cabin on a raft. Lumber is attached to the raft; the men and their two compatriots are to transport it down the Niger River for pay. Their slumber is interrupted by Ogro, who is pacing outside the cabin and muttering to himself. Kengide and Olotu become angry with him and each other. The fourth man appears, Ibobo. He accuses Ogro of walking in his sleep again. Ogro denies he is asleep. Ibobo reminds him that they lost a boat recently because he was asleep. Ogro changes the subject, because The Raft is adrift. The men check the moorings and all are loose. They wake Kengide and Ololu. All the lumbermen believe they tied the knots tightly and cannot understand how all seven of the moorings came loose at once. They try to figure out what happened, concluding sea cows must have eaten the roots of the reeds The Raft was tied to.
As The Raft drifts, the men attempt to discern where they are going They argue over the merits of turning up the lamp to see their location. Kengide and Olotu continue to bicker with each other, making personal insults. Because of the tide, they believe they are either going out to sea or in the direction of Odi, if The Raft got turned around. Olotu's watch reads just past 5 a.m., but Kengide does not believe it is necessarily accurate. He accuses him of owning an unreliable watch. The men argue more. Olotu insults everyone because he is worried about the fate of The Raft and no one else seems to be, in his opinion. Ogro says he has the most to lose, for when The Raft arrives, he will be married to the chiefs fairest daughter. Olotu panics when Kengide informs them that they are in the Osikoboro whirlpool. Olotu tries to punt them out of the mess with a bamboo pole, but none of the rest help him, believing he will only make it worse.
Two: Wind-Lash It is now late morning. The men clean up from their meal, still stuck in the whirlpool. Ogro thanks Kengide for making the soup, but Kengide reminds them it could be their last meal. They argue over what happened to the last of their food. Kengide accuses rats of eating what was left, while the others accuse each other, especially Ibobo, of waste. Ogro reminds them that they are still stuck in the whirlpool. Kengide has a plan to get them back on track. Ogro is more concerned with food. He decides to catch fish with a can. When Ogro goes inside the cabin to fetch the can, the others make fun of his belief that he will marry a chiefs daughter without any money of his own. When Ogro returns, he annoys Kengide. Ogro proposes to fish using excrement as bait, something the other men find provincial. Kengide tells an unusual fishing story from his childhood in which a friend caught a chicken.
Kengide encourages them to wait for the tide. When Olotu tells them that it is one o'clock, Ogro becomes angry because the tide should be there by now. Swallows swarm the area, indicating a storm is coming. The men argue over whether their mats should be rolled up and stored. Olotu decides to make a mast of the post where the lamp hangs. The others, save Kengide, help him put up a sail made of the mats. In the storm,
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Kengide encourages them to wait for the tide. When Olotu tells them that it is one o'clock, Ogro becomes angry because the tide should be there by now. Swallows swarm the area, indicating a storm is coming. The men argue over whether their mats should be rolled up and stored. Olotu decides to make a mast of the post where the lamp hangs. The others, save Kengide, help him put up a sail made of the mats. In the storm,The Raft breaks in two Olotu is alone on the half with the sail. Olotu tries to make it back to the main part of The Raft to be with the others, but he cannot swim. Kengide will not allow Ogro to swim to him with a towrope because there are too many sharks around. Olotu is swept out of sight.
Three: Iron and Fire It is now late in the afternoon. Ogro is singing and playing an instrument. There is dissension among the men related to their backgrounds Ogro's song is about death, a theme Kengide finds distasteful. Kengide's expressed displeasure angers Ogro so much that he moves to the other end of the raft. Ibobo chides Kengide for his attitude and what happened earlier. They speculate on what happened to Olotu. Ogro calls them over. He believes there is a ship coming up behind them Kengide does not believe it. Ogro insists that it is a Niger Company boat because he knows all the boats in the area. Kengide finally believes him and makes plans to move The Raft out of the way Ogro tries to get the captain of the ship to slow down but does not succeed. The ship passes, and Ogro jumps into the water to swim to the ship. Men on the ship stone Ogro with coal and iron when he reaches the ship's flank. He does not drown, but he gets caught in the propellers and dies.
Four: Call of the Land It is late in the day, and The Raft is heading for port. Ibobo again becomes angry at Kengide's lack of sensitivity, especially concerning the loss of the other two lumbermen. Ibobo accuses him of being sadistic, in particular where the loss of Ogro is concerned Kengide admits he is only concerned with making money. Ibobo continues to mourn the loss of both men and wishes Ogro was there to help as they near the point where they need to face the tide. Kengide believes Ogro was an idiot and expresses cynical opinions about the world.
Ibobo nearly goes crazy from anger, and Kengide takes the oar from him. Ibobo believes that he sees lights nearby, but Kengide cannot see anything as it is getting darker. Kengide starts to believe he sees lights as Ibobo grows crazier. They talk about what they will do when they get to port. Kengide consults Ibobo on whether they should pull The Raft ashore for the night. Ibobo wants them to go on so he can sleep in a real bed that night. They keep going. Kengide continues to tease him, then expresses his opinion on the different kinds of women in the world, He reveals a bit about his past. Ibobo expresses a desire to marry. All of a sudden, they are engulfed by fog and cannot even see each other. They lose their direction. Kengide takes Ibobo's hand so they know where the other is. Ibobo believes they are passing by then: port city of Burutu. Ibobo wants to jump and swim to shore, but Kengide will not let him and holds tighter They scream as they disappear over the waters.