Text to context: an interpretation of suicide in selected plays of Soyinka, Rotimi and Ogunyemi.
Ikyoive, Tertsea Joseph.
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The study engages in a critical interpretation of the phenomenon of suicide and how it is represented in selected plays of three Nigerian authors. The purpose is to understand the discursive nature of suicide in Nigerian dramatic literature with particular focus on; Wole Soyinka’s Death and the King’s horseman (1975), Ola Rotimi’s Kurunmi (1971) and Wale Ogunyemi’s The Vow (1985). The study also looks at how the act of suicide is interpreted in the selected plays and foregrounds Yoruba cultural understanding against western hegemonic thought. Its central thesis is that ritual and culture significantly influence suicide in traditional African society and Yoruba society in particular. This study uses textual analysis as its methodology to probe the historical, cultural and social context of the selected plays. The approach is descriptive and interrogative as it illuminates the circumstances that surround the suicides of the protagonist characters in the selected plays as well as how the plays mediate the reality of suicide as perceived in Yoruba tradition in opposition to western epistemology. The study uses Marxist literary theory to probe the effects of social structure and how economic relations impact the acts of suicide in the plays. In addition, the study suggests that the suicides as manifest in the plays are not mainly an escape from shame but serve as a necessary and pragmatic step consonant with the Yoruba belief system and mythical tradition. Finally, the study explores yet another caveat, the abuse of the Yoruba mythical tradition for personal gain. It concludes by determining that the failure of traditional elites to manipulate culture and tradition for their political interests leads them to frustration, and subsequently motivates suicide as a form of escapism.