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Satire as a Tool for Social Intercession in Wole Soyinka

Satire as a Tool for Social Intercession in Wole Soyinka: A Study of The Trials Of Brother Jero And A Play Of Giants

ABSTRACT

This research work focuses on the social and political problems confronting African societies with a view to making corrections. Thus, making the modern society a better place to live. Two plays from a popular and seasoned Nigerian writer, “Wole Soyinka” are used to satirize the economic, social and political problems and ills which morally demeaned our society and the community at last, and call for transformation. Here, sociological theory or approach is used. The quota sampling system is also used in this research work, bringing out the religious pretence, moral decline, martial imbalance and corruption palpable a savage, portant of group of dictatorial African leaders at the texts used in this study (research). This research brings out the evil inherent in African socio-political system and call for a change, especially in a society.

 CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

1.0 Background of the Study

It has been agreed generally by most scholars, that literature reflects the society. However, literature does more than just reflecting the society to show images of different orientation of human life.

The political, economical, social, religious and historical orientations of human lives are conveyed through literature. Majorly, there are three basic genres of literature, which are poetry, drama and prose.

For the sake of this study, we shall focus on the dramatic genre of literature and satire as a tool for social intercession.

Drama conveys life in a more suitable way. It educates, entertains, orients and satirizes. Drama starts from the Greek worship of gods in the classical period as a ritual.

This research focuses on the principle or idea of satire employed by African playwrights (using Wole Soyinka as a study) to effect societal transformation.

            The Dictionary of Literary Terms (1977) sees satire as: Literary work intended to arouse ridicule, contempt and follies of man and his institutions. It has the aim of changing issues by employing both humiliation or embarrassment and laughter with a combination of criticism and wit. The idea of satire is indispensable from the act of mockery or ridiculous, to make right the evils of the society.

Satire is any form of writing that employs devices such as irony. A book or performance that employs irony, scorn or wit to bring open or to confront human evils, foolishness or stupidity.

To emphasize this, George Ostler in Oxford Dictionary, is of the opinion that satire is a composition which vices or follies are tended up to ridicule.

Sarcasm or irony is employed to reveal or ridicule. The importance of satire therefore is to ridicule the ills, foolishness or stupidity of an individual or institution with the objective of changing and making the society right. Satire is useful in building individual’s character and it also reveals the point of short coming of a society. Political and social satire is noticeable in Wole Soyinka’s works: ‘The Trials of Brother Jero’ and ‘A play of Giants’ selected plays above. He looks at social satire available in the modern Nigeria society.

Shorter Oxford Dictionary sees satire as a thing, fact or circumstance that has the effect of making some person or thing ridiculous. Satire mocks and rebukes the actions of man or what he believes.

Collins Dictionary of English Language is of the view that satire is a novel, play, entertainment etc. in which typical issues, follies or evils are held up to scorn by means of ridicule and irony.

Jessie Coulson, defines satire as:

“A composition in which folly or vice is held up to ridicule, use of ridicule, sarcasm or irony to expose folly”.

Satire is a literary instrument that primarily rebukes its audience or adherent. Such as an individual, institution, organization or states usually as an intended means of provoking and effecting changes. Satire can be both a specific literary genre, and a literary manner. It is a literary genre, if it has a reference to a poetic form that started in the 2nd century B.C persuis, Juveral and Quintilian. In other words, satire was at the beginning Quintilian that it needed a general application to other forms of literary expression and verbal expression.

Alexander Pope believes on the function of satire, that satire functions to examine a man, the excesses of man, to educate a man and helps a man to denounce his follies or evils. He agrees strongly in the results of satire. He has this to say:

“Know nothing that moves strongly, satire and those who are shamed of nothing else are so of being ridiculous”.

It is literary manner, if it is focused on rebuking human and institutional stupidity with the objective of changing them. Satire is presented in the form of allegory and in the form imitation through pictures and caricatures, it is ridiculous handling of subjects in a dramatic way, also in the form of lampoon that is described as the act in which an individual is represented in a virulent way, it makes it a subject of mockery (laughter).

In the form of irony, this defines a situation thereby the meaning expressed is the opposite of the word used.

In the form of Allegory, that is the use of a subject to stand for another one where they share similar characteristics. In other words, in the form of Allegory a subject is used to represent meaning, while irony uses word (s). The most effective or useful mode of satire is sarcasm; it is defined as a sharp, biting or cutting expression or remark. It may be in the way of a bitter glibe or taunt. The satire here is direct and hard on the theme of discourse. Also, it can be through the form of humour which is defined to be presentation.

In sum, satire can be used through farce, a situation thereby metaphorical language or expression is used to laugh or mock.

The question of the role or usefulness of the artist to the society may be as old as the role of the artist to the posed, as the harmony between the artist and the public, or as the role or usefulness of the artist or the harmony between artist, and the society, the role becomes possible. It is so in the effort to open the great role of Artists in the society that we come across the idea of satire. Satire can be explained as a medium by which a novelist, artist or dramatist, even poet aims at throwing in open the wickedness (the ills and vices) in the society; such as corruption, injustice, unfairness, immorality, lust for materialism, moral, and spiritual bankrupt and exploitation of all kinds, political and socio-economic

Fallacij Rojet Fowler argues that satire is a genre defined primarily but not exclusively in terms of its inner form, the author attacks some subjects using it as his means, wit or humour; that is either fantastic or absurd.

So, satire is used to examine or criticize human behaviours or his belief system, also it is used to examine the state of man in his society, and to make a difference between the current situation and the ideal situation. Satire aims to make known the abnormality of a system and the people involved. Satire at its best concentrates on the nature of reality, and not like other arts that emphasize what appears to be real but is not. Most times, it appears to be something other than what is really is. Satire is pleasurable, that is why we read it. Although, some scholars have reasons to disagree on the kind of pleasure, satire gives to the audience. Some others are of the opinion that the pleasure is a moral one. As one could subscribe with the former opinion, it is necessary to admit that satire does not give the audience the type of pleasure; fable stories give the audience, although from satirical writing the audience derives ethical satisfaction because through satire, the audience is able to embrace a code of conduct that we apply to our day to day lives.

It is a fundamental and basic truth that satire is more than rebuking, mocking or exposing the ills, vices, wrongs of the society. Satire is literature reacting to life in the City, its primary belief and most importantly its political nature seems to require an urban culture to develop and thrives.

There are other less complicated or experience kinds of verbal and literary satire (abuse), fighting and invective. What might be best explained as creative name calling, appear almost generally but satire proper derives from a periodic association between literature and the hypocrisy of civil behaviour. While ‘satura’ is the etymological roots of the term itself, that is a Latin term which means a full or mixed dish in the sense of a Cophonous variety, the Greeks had rich satiric tradition, evident in the Athenian ancient comedy played scatologically with the pretentious behaviour of particular modern citizens noticeable with the audience.

Aristophanes Lampoons on Socrates and Euripides are popular instances. The great Roman poet Horace and Juveral set the literary standards for European satire, their most excellent work being much impersonating models, even well into the 20th century. Also their names were loan to the two importance types of satire that is the Horatian; who is the gentle or mild type, which reveals or uncovers human foolishness and stupidity with aim to correct it, and thus making strong the social fabric. While Juvenilian is Cruel and unpleasant, even insulting and sees little chance of social progress. Horace and Juvenal deploy systems of communication (language) that is familiar and modern to people and deals with present issues. These remain the distinctive parts of satire which is familiar and modern, immediate and recognizably real in style and subject.

In a different way, satire’s generic features and social motives are very close to those of the essay. The satirist, like the essayist is intensely or extremely aware of his subjectivity, and makes an effort to involve the readers on a personal and even conversational level. In both categories and genres, the dominant idea or impression is one of immediacy of a face to face exchange, in which opinion and explanation take procedure over fact and objectivity. The attitude is unconcerned or casual, however changed with massage.

Satire is a genre of literature. Shorter Oxford English Dictionary (1993) says “satire can be in form of a poem, prose or composition in which prevailing vices or follies, foolishness are held up to ridicule”.

A thing, fact or situation which has the effect of making some people or things ridiculous, satire is used to laugh or disapprove the action and attitude of man or institution in the society.

Also, The Encyclopedia American (1829) sees satire as both a specific literary genre and literary manner. As a genre it has relation to poetic form practiced in the 2nd century by Roman satirist Lacilllius. It was practiced with difference by those who succeeded him: Horace, Persius and Juvenal.

As a literary manner, the foolishness, evils and crimes of human being or an institution are held up to ridicule or scorn with the aim of changing and correcting them.

From the definitions above, we can say that satire is all expressions that make mockery and fun of an organization, and institution or an individual by bringing people’s attention   to their evils and ills with the intention of changing and correcting them. That is making amendments. Satire is a basic instrument in drawing societal change.

Satire comes from ‘satura’, a Latin word that means ‘medley’ or ‘mixtured’

  • Satirical application has being part of the folk culture during the early communities. It highlighted Greek culture as it was particularly located within a Grecian Fertility rite. The first and pioneer satirist was Acholochus. He was agreed to have been very brutal that his target, one Lycambas and his laughter committed suicide.

Furthermore, they remain rhetorician Quintilian established and set a permanent basis for satire as a “Roman Phenomenon”. He believes, ‘satire is ours in his words’ satura totanoshraest –Qum”. By these, he was attributing to Lucillus poetic practice, which was a modern of his works had a significant influence on Horace, one of the key figures in starting satire, Persius was influenced by Horace.

To Horace satire is courteous and refined in manner, the satirist smiles at the weakness of his fellow men, without annoyance or being provoked. Unlike Juvenal satire which is unpleasant and harsh in nature. The satirist is a very angry and furious moralist. Who publicly declares the vices, evils and corrupts of the society, including an individual and institution. Juvenal satire is not mild but resentment and authoritative.

Before independent African community had satire in its arts. A good example is the folk tale of the Ezzas called ‘ube ga anyi ha’. Satirists ridicule people and institutions. The Characteristics of satire can be perceived in their proverbs, riddles and jokes. After independence, however, satire assumed a distinct phrase in the modern African community. It become very famous as it is being employed to criticize and oppose themes, such as Neo-Colonialism, corruption, neo-imperialism, pretense, ignorance and Administration and other vices. Bringing it down to Nigeria, we have many artists, who are satirists in their works, such as Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe. In his, A man of the people, Ken Sarowiwa Prisoners of Jebs, Olu Obafemi in the, The New Dawn Olu Rotimi etc.

For IRF Gordan (1976) Horace’s approach to satire is the one that tells the truth better with laughter, while Juvenal states that their anger makes them to write satire.

In the 17th Century satire showed the greatest space in English literature through the works of Dryden, Alexander Pope, Jonathan swift etc. They criticize and oppose materialism, hypocrisy, pride, cruelty and political experience in their works.

From the Horatian or Juvenalism concept of satire; as a sting that is deep and sharp and thus, it produces result; complete change. In the 19th century we talk about satirists such as Jane Austen, Thomas Peacock, Samuel Butter, Bettoit Brecht etc.

1.2 Aims/Purpose Of Study

The purpose of this systematic investigation and study is to depict the socio-political difficult of the modern Nigeria, community as depicted in the works of Wole Soyinka. The attention of this playwright is the deploy of satire as an effective weapon to rebuke and ridicule the political problems, leadership, mediocrity; vice-versa, religious pretence, moral decline, exploitation, antagonistic tendencies of the people trusted with the mandate of the masses. The interest and attention of this study is to enumerate the importance of satire for the transformation of socio-political evils of the modern Nigeria community. This focus makes this research quote relevant and useful for academic purposes, and further related studies or research. This study or research is also interested on addressing the lack of proportion in the society and how this writer reacts to these differences. This study is being undertaken in order to bring out the most noticeable ideas behind this writer use of satire as a weapon of influence to the life of Nigerian citizens.

1.3 Justification

This research is necessary as it brings to limelight conditions that are fundamental and essential to our society that many persons do not know about. More so, this research aims to re-stress and uncover the use of satire by African playwright to whip political leaders and religious leaders, and highly placed personality in the society. Wole Soyinka’s works have been assessed as a corrective instrument for socio-political difficulties of Nigerian modern society. By the use or employ of satire, the author, Wole Soyinka has been able to uncover the ills and vices in the Nigeria socio-political system since independence. Attention will be drawn not only to the weakness in the society but to the attitude that must be transformed, if the society is to develop their significance and relevance to the modern period.

This research will also look at the knowledge or awareness of the people on the policies of the government, the oppressions and evils that pervaded his rule and the manipulation of justice, and mispresentation of the truth. A single character is viewed as being totally power drunk and this distinguishing quality is viewed as been absolutely power drunk and this peculiarities and idiosyncrasies. However, power is the bottom line. The way, the shade and the colour of the power are now the issue. This work, also gone further to establish the fact that political and economic violence is a phenomenon satirized or criticized by literary work.

1.4 Significance of the Study

The reason for this research work is to enhance the already operational scholarly view point, that satire as a literary form has gone along way not only to criticize the assumed uncriticizeable ills, foolishness and vices in terms of political, social and economic ways.

Another important significance is the appropriate position that in as much as man’s existence as a social being in intermittently unending the existence of satire would not only continue to complete with the age of man but would remain firmly abated. The writing/ easy is also meant to further   literary contribution to the existing body of knowledge in this field and to contribute and to serve as helpful material in this field for future and upcoming researchers.

1.5 Scope and Limitation of the Study

The scope of this research is primarily evaluating and estimating some of the possible materials on satire (review of related literature) to the sourcing of data as in studying satire and evaluating the texts by Wole Soyinka “The Trials of Brother Jero” and A Play of Giants”.

This research work will be limited to the justification and evaluation of satire. It will be clear from our goal/aim that even though the research deals with satire generally, we shall not go beyond the use of satire in the selected texts to uncover the social and political discomfort and issues in Nigerian religion and political leadership.

The limitation has been identified by the need to attempt a detail and thorough research within the possible time.

1.6 Theoretical Framework

Theories rely on what the scholars under each school of thought believe literature should be and how it should be employed. Different critics and scholars resolve to examine or criticize or approach literature from their different ways of seeing things. These different ways of seeing literature are often said to be approaches of literature. So, the words, theories and approaches are equivalent or interchangeably used. A prior knowledge of the theory chosen for the critical examination of the texts under study will be highly importance to our understanding as will be mentioned later in our methodology.

We have chosen the sociological criticism under that the literal humanist sociological critical form is employed as a difference. This brand best suite our study as it:

”owes its rise to the rather reluctant realization on the part of some critics that the work of art which constitutes the object of their enquiry is made peculiar by the problem in African society at various points in its development”

Irele’s opinion on criticism, particularly his defence of the liberal humanist sociology of literary production is notably adopted in African experience in literature and ideology, he gives special importance to the long cultivated collective social force, and its shape and movement in time are some of the determinants of the direction of the artist’s mind and sensibility. Eagleton’s examination and evaluation of liberal humanism especially shows of the fundamental weakness and shortcomings and centred it on:

“Liberal humanism has divindled to the impotent conscience of bourgeois ineffectual… The importance of liberal humanism is a symptom of its essential contradictory relationship to modern capitalism. For, although it forms part of the official ideology of such society, and the humanities exist to reproduce it, the social order within its existence has in one sense very little tune for it at all”.

Irele concentrates on the potential of a literary sociology which approaches art criticism from the study of the responsiveness of the artist to his social background.

With all these features of liberal humanist criticism, we can conclude that it best suites our research/study and it can be employed in the evaluation of the two of Wole Soyinka’s texts “

‘The Trials of Brother Jero’ and ‘A play of Giants’.

As, the African playwright puts his attention on African experiences in literature and ideology. It is considered from the facts that all problem, confronting African society at different level in its development. Their attention even though, they are diasporian writer is on African society and the social malaise that are in the African society.

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