Conflict Between Traditional and Western Culture (a Case Study of Soyinka’s Death and the King’s Horseman and the Lion and the Jewel)
Abstract of Conflict Between Traditional and Western Culture (a Case Study of Soyinka’s Death and the King’s Horseman and 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.
Chapter One of Conflict Between Traditional and Western Culture (a Case Study of Soyinka’s Death and the King’s Horseman and the Lion and the Jewel)
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.3
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…”4
WOLE SOYINKA’S AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Born Akinwande Oluwole Soyinka in the western part of Nigeria called Ogun State, Wole Soyinka was born on the 13th of July, 1934, at Isara, Ijebu Remo near Abeokuta to Mr. Ayodele and Mrs. Eniola Soyinka. His father was a school supervisor and his mother was a trader. Wole Soyinka, as he is popularly called, grew up in a time of transition when the technologically more advanced colonist, Britain, was destroying the very foundation of the indigenous Nigeria civilisation. Wole Soyinka is seen as a writer who partly writes to explain the social dilemma of the group to which he belongs and partly to a way of life which has survived to some extent, and might have more fully survived, if certain historical events had not so drastically affected Africa and the attitudes of Africans not only to people of other race but also to their own selves. This is what playwright portrayed in his plays which we have for this study. The fact that Wole Soyinka has lived to write so much about the African experience is a miracle. His upbringing reflected both African and western influences, and the conflict and interaction between these two forces occupies most of his writings, particularly in the plays; The Lion and the Jewel and Death and the King’s Horseman, which we will be understudying in this research work.
Some critics of the playwright agree that he is an African writer with stronger African than western theatrical bias, and his style is mid-way between African and European tradition. In short, his drama is a perfect synthesis of both traditions.5 Finally, most of his plays, including the texts being understudied; the themes, plots and settings are mainly African.
STATEMENT OF RESEARCH PROBLEM
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.
PURPOSE OF THE STUDY
What this research is setting out to do is to use the texts; The Lion and the Jewel and Death and the King’s Horseman, by Wole Soyinka to reveal the conflicting point between the traditional and western culture. In doing this, we shall focus on what these conflicts are how they have been expressed by the playwright. We shall also examine the reserved norms, nature, values and cultural practice of the Africans by looking at the plays which are set in the post-world war II Nigeria.
SCOPE AND LIMITATION OF THE STUDY
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.