“The Women” vs. “The Girls”

Before Act 3, Soyinka introduced “the women” as a group of people subservient to Elesin, a group that does anything to sustain the order of their strong patriarchal society. However, in Act 3, the reader observes a new group of women, “the girls,” who embody a new sort of power that we did not see in “the women” before, with the exception of Iyaloja.

As Julia noted in her last blog post, the women seem to fawn over Elesin. Anything he commands, they will do. They even tell Elesin, “The town, the very land was yours” (10). Elesin plays with these women’s minds, tricking them into thinking that he is mad at them for calling him “a man of honour” (11). Elesin clearly sees them as beneath him and people that he can play games with. Iyaloga, on the other hand, is the only woman that makes a name for herself in the society, warning Elesin about the consequences his actions may have on the future of their community. Even though Elesin ignores these warnings, she is still demonstrating that she holds some authority in society. In the first act (with the exception of Iyaloja), Soyinka has established women as subordinate to men, with virtually no power.

In Act 3, however, Soyinka introduces “the girls.” These girls are educated and have knowledge that allows them to protect their community from the local officers who come to stop the death of Elesin. They have a strong attachment to their mothers, and the utmost respect for them. Elesin may not respect these women, but the girls place these women on a pedestal. When Amusa comes into the market, the girls respond, “Your betters dare not enter the market when the women say no!” (29). They have the utmost respect for their mothers and cannot understand how a man like Amusa can be so disrespectful. It also becomes clear that they view Amusa as a traitor to their culture since he has become an employee of the whites, saying things like, “Haven’t you learnt that yet, you jester in khaki and starch?” (29). They make fun of the culture he has become a part of and use that as a reason that he has no right to be intruding in their community’s tradition. When they attempt to get dispel Amusa and the constables, the girls use their education to mock them in an English accent.

What is interesting is that the girls seems so against the European culture, yet, their mothers had sent them to a westernized school. The women are impressed by their daughters’ audacity and ability to make the men leave. Later, the women remark, “Did you hear them? Did you see how they mimicked the white man?” (32). The women are impressed by the education that the western school has provided their daughters with.

Soyinka allows the reader to see the girls in a role a power, which contrasts greatly from the initial view we saw of “the women.” Is their courage a result of their westernized schooling? Perhaps. They still have a very strong respect for the elder women and for their society in general, but their way of handling Amusa demonstrates the power that the girls have in their own community.

 

-Frances Sisson

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