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Identity and Destiny in Wole Soyinka's The Strong Breed:
Transcript of Identity and Destiny in Wole Soyinka's The Strong Breed:
The Strong Breed
Yoruba vs. Christian Fate
Eman, the Savior
As a stranger, Eman is a teacher and doctor, within his new village. His position as a stranger within the village is convenient to Eman substituting himself as the carrier.
The Strong Breed
As a carrier, Eman's sacrifice within the play represents destiny fulfillment in the Yoruba religion but serves as the crucifixion of a Jesus-like character within a Christian context.
developed in West African countries: Nigeria, Benin, and Togo
Supreme deity: Olódùmaré (the creator)
no gender= transcends human gender limitations
Predestination: stand before God and choose destiny
destiny is forgotten at birth
destiny becomes to fulfill the fate originally mapped out
Daily prayers are directed to Orishas (guardians/priests), who serve as link between worldly matters and Olódùmaré
Colonial Christian Context
foreknowledge: God has established plan for salvation, giving each individual the opportunity for eternal salvation. (Jesus as a savior)
sovereignty: God decides regardless of free will. (Augustine, Luther, Calvin)
*British were colonizing W. African countries after slave trade collapse from approx 1885-1960.
Catholic missionaries worked with the Yoruba people, specifically.
Eman, the Carrier
In Eman's home village, a carrier family is devoted for the purpose of carrying the sins of the village every New Year. The carrier family is respected as "the strong breed."
On the day of ritual he is not decorated or humiliated. Instead, oil is applied to his whole body and white rings will be marked around his eyes by the attendant.
Significantly,the carrier is not sacrificed; rather, a boat containing the sins of the village is taken to a river by the carrier and the boat is drowned.
In Eman's new village, the carrier is a human being, typically an "idiot," deformed man or woman, or stranger. This carrier faces disgrace and humility as they are beaten and decorated throughout the city, because they represent evil and disease that must be purged before the New Year, finally being killed or exiled.
Destiny Fulfillment in Yoruba Religion
Following in accordance with the Yoruba religion, Eman has simply found and fulfilled his destiny.
Eman has left his home, during the time he is supposed to be circumcised. Rather than following his home's ritual and returning home to fulfill his carrier duty he leaves, "going on a journey."
When Eman does return, he is confronted with Omae's death because of the birth of his son, another descendant of the "strong breed."
He leaves again telling his father he "will never come back," to be a carrier.
Eman is a stranger within the new village and not familiar to their traditions. When Eman sees that Jaguna wants Ifada to be the carrier he states that, "a man should be willing." In turn, Eman substitutes himself, instead of Ifada, accepting his predestined fate as a carrier.
In talking with Sunman, Eman's selfless qualities are revealed:
"...I find consummation only when I have spent myself for a total stranger."
Eman offering himself as the carrier, in place of Ifada, is the decisive step in becoming a savior.
These words state that his mind compels him to sacrifice himself for the people in any way. In another sense, these words are a premonition of his fate of belonging to a carrier family or his intention to be the carrier in the ritual. His destiny makes him to act and serve as a carrier, sacrificing himself to cleanse a community’s sins and ultimately, to cleanse his sin of deserting his own people by not completing his family duty.
Does Eman abandoning his familial duty affect his savior-like posture in becoming a carrier for Ifada? Or does it serve as self-actualization?