The conflict between the community and the individual

In many ways, Elesin’s character represents the clash between the desire to do what is best for the community and personal desires. While Elesin is set to die an honorable death that he seems to be very content with, he also struggles with his own personal desires, as can be best exemplified through the woman he wants to sleep with. The praise singer and all of the women in the market talk about how wonderful he is and all that he does for the community. He seems happy in this role and happy to sacrifice himself for the honor of the community, yet at the same time, slightly uneasy. He tells the story of the Not I bird to demonstrate the universal fear of death, but then says he doesn’t have this fear. While it may be true that he isn’t afraid of death itself, it seems that he is afraid of not being able to partake in bodily pleasures, such as the pleasure of being with a woman, which he clearly is used to. The praise singer warns him that women could get in the way of his making the right decision for the community, foreshadowing his decision to sleep with the women in the market. In light of the way this culture is set up, clearly with a high value of honor and sacrifice, it seems that he may be doomed to fail if he goes down this path of self-indulgence. Iyaloja also warns that if he does this there may in some way be a strange mixing up of time between the dead, living and the unborn. I’m not entirely sure what she is suggesting about this mixture of time that might occur if he sleeps with this woman, but clearly it is significant to also foreshadow the downfall of the community as well as Elesin if he goes through with this. He says that he is doing it to benefit the community because if he impregnates her then a child like him will be left behind to do good in the community, but really he seems to be using this as an excuse to get what he wants.

 

Sarah Dean

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