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CONFLICT BETWEEN TRADITIONAL AND WESTERN CULTURE: A CASE STUDY OF WOLE SOYINKA’S DEATH AND THE KING’S HORSEMAN” THE LION AND THE JEWEL
Conflict is a disagreement or clash between people, ideas; or in the case of our study, cultures. Therefore, culture becomes a unique and sentimental phenomenon that is not only cherished but also protected dearly by an individual as well. Thus, a literature has become the means through which cultural sentiments are projected and expressed. For a long time, Africans in particular, have been subjected to cultural imposition and displacement of western culture. This report aimed at examining the Eurocentric psyche that considers westernization superior. This study has adopted the sociological theory by focusing on Soyinka’s texts; The Lion and the Jewel and Death and the King’s Horseman because they best suit our study. We discussed these conflicts through societal norms and belief system, psychological conflict and generation gap.
Wole Soyinka is Africa’s most distinguished playwright, winning the Nobel Prize for literature in 1986. Nigerian literature was born in earnest with the award of Nobel Prize in literature to Wole Soyinka. Soyinka, often referred to as the Bringer of Light to African Literatures, has put Nigerian literature on the world map, and since 1986, hundreds of Nigerians have proudly taken to studying Nigerian literature, as departments of Nigerian literature are being created in all the universities across the country. Writers of different genres have been published. Some have won prizes, while some are finalists in national and international contests, adding their voices to the identity, authenticity, aesthetics and glory of Nigerian literature. Written by Wole Soyinka the play The Lion And The Jewel has its setting in the village of Ilunjunle in Yoruba West Africa. It was published in 1963 by Oxford University Press. This article is a modest attempt to bring out how his play The Lion And The Jewel is characterized by culture conflict, ribald comedy and love, where the old culture represented by the uneducated people in Ilunjunle, led by Baroka, Sidi and the rest, clashes with the new culture led by Lakunle, who is educated, school teacher by profession is influenced by the western ways.
1.1 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
Culture is a leaned behaviour which each person acquires as a member of a group or society. Therefore, each character is a product of its unique history. Culture is an extensive feature of a group or society, also, it is a mark of identification and something that the individual or groups could easily get sentimental about. Though the Encarta English Dictionary (2009ed) has different definition of culture varying from “arts collectively”, “knowledge and sophistication”, “shared beliefs and practices” and so on, but the definition that best suite our course of study is that which says that culture:
Are the beliefs, customs, practices and social behaviour of a particular nation or people. (Also) it can be a group of people whose shared beliefs and practices identify the particular place, class, or time to which they belong. 1
Culture is a human characteristic in which man expresses the totality of his ways of life in a collective setting. It can also be referred to as the sum total of human activities shared by members of a group. According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, culture is defined as: “… broad-based as it is all civilizations, social and material inventions, institutions, and literary achievements of a people”.2
Culture is a sentimental phenomenon which an individual not only cherishes, but also protects dearly. Thus, literature becomes the medium through which cultural sentiments are expressed and projected. Africans in particular; have, for a long time, been subjected to cultural imposition and displacement of foreign culture. This was due to the invasion by the Arabs in the African regions. This is not to say that Africans received these foreign cultures whole-heartedly. There was resistance and there has continued to be resistance through African arts, ethnics and culture. As result of this resistance, the conflict between the western world and Africans began to manifest. Today, plays that protestant in nature are being written to this effect.
On this note, we shall define conflict by adapting the definition of the Encarta 2009 dictionary which states it is a disagreement or clash between ideas, principles, or people. It can also be a psychological state resulting from the often unconscious opposition between simultaneous but incompatible desires, needs, drives or impulse. The key words in the definition are “clash” and “disagreement”. This definition best suit our course of study because it is on this note that Wole Soyinka opposes in the two texts being understudied. African literary writers are victims of cultural imperialism as a result of European colonial rule, therefore, at one time or the other they try to force themselves from colonial cultural imposition while projecting and glorifying traditional cultures. In the words of Adeyemi (1993) citing Olorunmoye (15)”culture supplies us our habits of life…
Wole Soyinka is Africa’s most distinguished playwright, winning the Nobel Prize for literature in 1986. Nigerian literature was born in earnest with the award of Nobel Prize in literature to Wole Soyinka. Soyinka, often referred to as the Bringer of Light to African Literatures, has put Nigerian literature on the world map, and since 1986, hundreds of Nigerians have proudly taken to studying Nigerian literature, as departments of Nigerian literature are being created in all the universities across the country.
Some have won prizes, while some are finalists in national and international contests, adding their voices to the identity, authenticity, aesthetics and glory of Nigerian literature. Written by Wole Soyinka, the play The Lion and the Jewel has its setting in the village of Ilunjunle in Yoruba West Africa. It was published in 1963 by Oxford University Press. The play The Lion and the Jewel is characterized by culture conflict, ribald comedy and love, where the old culture represented by the uneducated people in Ilunjunle, led by Baroka, Sidi and the rest, clashes with the new culture led by Lakunle, who is educated, a school teacher by profession, is
influenced by the western ways.
So many discussions have been made regarding the conflict between tradition and modernity in this play wherein tradition wins over modernity through the final action of Sidi. Now, if the play reflects a conflict between old ways and new ways, then who is the winner? One cannot answer this very easily. If he says that Sidi is the prize, then we see that she has been won by Baroka. And thus victory may seem to go to the older ways of life and then older beliefs he represents.
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
But still we are confronted with some complications; the first is that Lakunle is not a particular convincing representative of modern ideas. There is evidence that he misunderstands some of the books he reads and he believes to be true. For example, he is wrong in saying that women’s brain is smaller than men’s. Then he is much fascinated by the most superficial aspects of modern ways of life, such as, night clubs, ballroom, dance, etc. He is full of halfbaked modern ideas which he exploits in denying to pay the bride price to Sidi.
` Baroka, the sixty-two year village chief of Ilujinle, on the other hand, opposes progress because he believes that it destroys the variety of ways in which people live and that he as well as Lakunle should learn things from one another. Baroka is anxious enough to make Sidi his wife and here comes the love-triangle of Sidi, Lakunle and Baroka wherein finally Sidi surrenders herself to Baroka. It is miraculous to know that a young man fails before an old man in the game of love and at the end Sidi willingly accepts Baroka, not Lakunle, as her husband.
This research acknowledges that the concept of culture has been overflowed but we are focusing our attention on the conflicts between the traditional and western culture by drawing examples from Wole Soyinka’s The Lion and the Jewel and Death and the King’s Horseman.
This work aims at finding the conflict between the traditional and western culture and how Wole Soyinka has been able to use both text; The Lion and the Jewel and Death and the King’s Horseman, to explore this. The research shall be limited to a critical analysis of the conflict between these two cultures mentioned by comparing the two texts and showing how they have been portrayed because both texts best capture the existence of the conflicts of the two cultures.
Today, Africans have neglected some of the rich cultural heritage and adopted the “white-man’s” culture. Some of which has prompted the clash between the African and western culture. Writers, poets and even dramatists have been using their works to sensitize these issues. Likewise, it is the belief of that the conclusion of this research work will make a significant impact on the development of African literature and add to the existing work of prominent researchers in exposing the conflict between African tradition and westernization.
For a clear and competent analysis of the texts set aside for this research we have adopted the sociological theory because it best suits the study. Under the sociological theory, we shall be looking at societal norms and belief system, psychological conflict and generation gap conflict. In the analysis of these elements, some of the dialogue of the characters in the texts shall be looked at, the characters and some events/ incidents as well.
Consequently, we have been able to give a brief introduction of conflict and culture. Also, we have been able to state our problem and purpose to which the research is being embarked upon. We pointed out our limitation and went ahead to give the theory in which the researcher aims to adopt. Therefore, at this point, we shall move on to our chapter two, which is the literature review.
1.7 DEFININITION OF TERMS
Conflict: Conflict is a disagreement or clash between people, ideas; or in the case of our study, cultures.
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