A Deconstructive Reading Of Wole Soyinka’s Death And The King’s Horseman And The Road

Project and Seminar Material for English Language

A Deconstructive Reading Of Wole Soyinka’s Death And The King’s Horseman And The Road


African literary elites have responded to the call by Africans to free the continent from all forms of colonial and slave mentality. While others have responded overtly, Soyinka does so covertly. As a result, over time, critical commentaries on his works have been on the mythical presentation of the Yoruba world as a microcosm of the entire African continent and the post-colonial experience. While these commentaries cannot be totally erased, this research exposes the pitfalls, the blindspots and the aporias that characterize most African writings. Consequently, this research discusses Soyinka’s two plays; Death and the King’s Horseman and The Road asSoyinka’s unconscious hatred for the West. Clearly, Africanwriters in an attempt to counter Western perception of Africa as being uncultured unwittingly enter the same conceptual web. To foreground such instances this research deploys deconstructive method of reading to bring to the fore some of the biased presentation of the Western world in all its fauna and flora.

Although, deconstructive approach is “esoteric”, it is distinct in pointing out binary oppositions and how such binaries work to undo any artistic creation. Consequently, this research is premised on the following assumptions; that there is a biased portraiture of the Western world; that Africa’s position as the Other in Western metaphysics has been reversed to take the privileged position while the West becomes a negation. What Derrida callssupplementation. This research stresses the creative freedom of the reader as well as the attempt to participate in and observe the play of possible meanings to which the texts give access.

Chapter One


1.0 Background Of The Study

This thesis espouses and identifies gaps in critical comments made about the subject matter of Death and the King‟s Horseman and The Road. Consequently, the study analyses the various positions taken by critics concerning Soyinka‟s Death and the King‟s Horseman and The Road. Most importantly, the study sought out the binaries that operate throughout the plays so as to unequivocally bring to the fore some of the prejudices that informed these plays. While the world view that Soyinka presents in these plays gives us a better understanding of the trilogic „essence‟ of Yoruba culture (the world of the living, the death and the unborn) – what most critics believe to be his underlying thesis, this tripartite relationship works as a form of higher truth (transcendental signified); the philosophy that unsettles the Western view of Africa as the other.

Therefore, in order to achieve the set objective this research evaluates Wole Soyinka‟s two plays; Death and the King‟s Horseman (1975) and The Road (1965) from a deconstructive standpoint. Precisely, the research pits these plays against Soyinka‟s submissions in his polemics i.e Myth, Literature and the African World. The polemics presents Africa as a fount-head of all its culture. Besides, the study looks out for instances where Soyinka‟s language occasionally spills or slips from his control. To this end therefore, this study evaluates the typologies enunciated in these works. It therefore follows that the main trajectory of the discourse in this study is not simply what Soyinka says but how he uses the same tool of the “adversary” as Professor Yakubu Nasidi (2002:7) would say, to create a supposedly African world where African plays reflect an ontologically African reality different from the West.

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