Death and the Kings Horseman

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Dalai Lama, the spiritual and political leader of the Tibetan people, said, “Open your arms to change, but don't let go of your values.” In Wole Soyinka’s 1975 play, Death and the Kings Horseman, the Yoruba and Western cultures perceive suicide in very different ways. The Yoruba’s view is that it is a supernatural form of redemption and Western societies saw it as a personal failure. Universally however, suicide is a very powerful act that affects people in one way or another. Throughout the entire play the author demonstrates distinctive and contradictory views of the Yoruba and Westerns, and at the end of the story we are presented not with assurance, but with complete uncertainty. For this reason, it forces readers to draw their own conclusions about the characters traditions, values, and beliefs, and how we feel about them. Our principles are a part of who we are; they have been instilled in us since childhood, rendering us unmindful of others’ values and their perspectives. I believe the play was written to show us how important it is to acknowledge others values and keep an open-mind about them without trying to force values on someone.

This play is unique in the fact that it forces the reader to re-think what they’ve read and decide how they feel about it. We can see the views of each of the characters and are forced to reorganize our own values. Each of the characters in this story has their own set of values that set them apart from other characters in the play. Amusa stands for strength, tolerance, and respect. He is a very strong-hearted character that has converted to Christianity yet still holds a great deal of respect for the native beliefs. He has an inside view of the Western Society that most of the Yoruba people will never see. He is a unique character that acts as an intermediary between the two groups; consequently, neither fully accepts him. Elesin is a weak and distracted character that has good intentions of following through...
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