The Plight of Amusa

Amusa serves as Soyinka’s opportunity to display the damage and confusion caused in Africa by European Imperialism and the merging of religions. Amusa is an African who has converted from paganism to Christianity; thereby cutting ties with the members of his former community. As is clearly demonstrated in Act III, he is ostracized, mercilessly teased, and unwelcome in the town in which he formerly resided. However, his treatment by the people who converted him and took him from his former home is hardly better. Pilkings, the white man to whom Amusa reports, treats him with a shocking and seemingly unnecessary amount of disrespect. Pilkings verbally abuses him, and treats him as naïve. Amusa finds himself stuck in the middle of two opposing cultures, not being able to call himself a complete member of either one.

The distance between Amusa and Elesin’s community is made clear by the events that occur in the first half of Act III. When he goes to arrest Elsein, he is impeded by the women who guard the bridal tent. They mock his manliness, attempting to look up his shorts. The repeatedly call him ignorant, and remind him of his status as a traitor by referring to the Road as “The one [Amusa’s] father built” (Soyinka, 29). When Iyajola arrives, she paints him as an enemy, saying “Why did you come here to disturb the happiness of others” (Soyinka, 20). His pleas for them to understand that he is only performing the duty that is required of him are repeatedly ignored, and he receives no understanding of his predicament. Shortly after, the daughters of the women mentioned earlier get involved. They take away the weapons of the Constables that accompany Amusa, and use them to intimidate the Christians. They playfully mock Amusa’s servitude to the Whites by imitating an interaction between two Europeans, and convince Amusa that his sergeant is present. They finish him off by threatening to take off his knickers. Throughout the entirety of the sign, Amusa is humiliated. The females are merciless in their attempts to degrade him, and Amusa is portrayed as weak and helpless. He is a victim of his circumstances.

As Act II demonstrates for us, he fares no better with his superiors, Pilkings and Jane. When he pleads with them to remove the garments they are wearing – which, according to Amusa, have immense religious significance and superstitious value – he is ignored and talked down to. Pilkings tells him to “have some sense” and stop with his “rubbish” (Soyinka, 19). Pilkings doesn’t even respect him enough to take off his garment so that Amusa can pass his message along, which Amusa makes clear is a very urgent one. Amusa is forced to leave his message on a note and write it in solitude. He gestures to call for Pilkings but, in a statement of realization that it would be futile to do so, decides against it.

Soyinka portrays Amusa as homeless. Amusa has given up his position within his tribe. He is an outcast; ridiculed and unwelcome. His sacrifice, however, goes unnoticed and totally unappreciated by the members of the group which he decided to align himself with. His place is confused, and he is no more sure of it than the readers are. It is safe to evaluate this as an attempt  by Soyinka to display the confusion brought on by Imperialism. Amusa is an example of a man stuck in limbo as a direct result of European intervention. European’s attempt to instill Christian values within him has left him homeless and alone.

Matt Pura

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