In the Shadow of War

by Ben Okri

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What does the veiled woman symbolize in Ben Okri's "In the Shadow of War"?

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In Ben Okri’s story “In the Shadow of War,” the veiled woman represents the contradictions of resistance to power. These contradictions include the responsibility to nourish the less fortunate along with the danger incurred in trying to feed or nurture them. She may also represent Omovo’s mother.

The author presents Omovo as refusing the soldiers’ offer of money for spying on the veiled woman, even though he finds her interesting. Nevertheless, he follows this mysterious figure. In this way, Okri shows Omovo as resisting the soldiers’ authority. When she reaches the cave, he sees the horrible effects war has had on the people hidden there. The woman cares for them, perhaps in the same way that Omovo’s mother had done for him.

Although the woman nurtures these hidden people, she exposes herself to danger by passing near the soldiers. When they catch her, they expose her as having been mutilated, presumably in a war-related incident, before they kill her. Omovo’s mother may also have been a victim of war.

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