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UNDERSTANDING WOLE SOYINKAS DEATH AND THE KINGS HORSEMAN An issue worth noting in Wole Soyinkas Death and the Kings Horseman involves his prefatory remarks and the impact they have on the meaning of the story While Soyinka in his preface forcefully rails against readers who would make his play into a portrayal of culture clash actual reading of the story does draw significant attention to cultural tension More specifically the portions of the play dealing with culture raise interesting ideas about understanding and respect Fueling a dilemma Soyinka directs readers to instead see the plays threnodic essence dealing with Elesin and the natives perceptions of death and transition into death - which makes up the other significant portion of the play The questions that result are whether the reader should ignore the culture clash tendencies of the play instead focusing solely on the threnodic essence and consequently if ignoring the culture clash means its themes of understanding and respect have no worth or value in the play However the problem can be reconciled and the two apparently contrasting interpretations of the story can be integrated through a linking theme of understanding A theme investigating human understanding is found running through both the central threnodic and the culture-clash themes unifying them and allowing them to coexist Ultimately this underlying theme of the play shows how all humans struggle with understanding - both with each other and with death First the theme of understanding is explored throughout sections of the play involving the English colonists and their cultural tension to avoid using the word clash which Soyinka believes mistakenly assumes an equality of cultures with the native Yoruba people In Act 2 the District Officer Pilkings and his wife Jane first confront the theme of understanding when they dress up for a ball wearing native death costumes They see no problem with it but Mr Pilkings employee Amusa a native policeman is frightened by
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