THE THEME AND SYMBOLISM IN OLA ROTIMI’S OUR HUSBAND HAS GONE MAD

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Background to the study

Through its exploration of the theme of power and its use, as well as the symbolism of the Yoruba culture, Ola Rotimi’s play “Our Husband Has Gone Mad” provides a critique of postcolonial Nigeria’s political and social realities, while also celebrating the resilience and creativity of ordinary people.

The play “Our Husband Has Gone Mad” centers around the conflict between a corrupt politician, Chief Bassey, and his three wives, who conspire to expose his misdeeds and restore justice to their community. The play uses various symbols, such as the masquerade, the talking drum, and the calabash, to evoke the cultural richness and diversity of the Yoruba people, and to highlight the importance of tradition and communal values in the face of modernization and Westernization. At the same time, the play also exposes the abuses of power and authority by the ruling class, and the complicity and apathy of the masses, who often turn a blind eye to corruption and injustice. Through the characterizations of Chief Bassey and his wives, as well as the interactions between them and other characters, the play shows how power can be both a source of liberation and a tool of oppression, depending on how it is used and who wields it. Ultimately, the play suggests that the way forward for Nigeria and other postcolonial societies lies in a renewed appreciation of their cultural heritage, a rejection of authoritarianism and greed, and a commitment to collective action and social justice. 

Statement of the problem

The theme and symbolism in Ola Rotimi’s “Our Husband Has Gone Mad” have been the subject of critical analysis, yet there is still a need to explore the extent to which the use of symbolism contributes to the overall meaning and interpretation of the play. Furthermore, the play’s portrayal of the African society’s patriarchal system and its effects on women’s lives requires a closer examination. Thus, the problem is to investigate the significance of the play’s theme and symbolism in highlighting the social issues in African society, particularly the gender roles and expectations, and how they contribute to the play’s overall message. 

Objectives of the study

The objectives of a study on the theme and symbolism in Ola Rotimi’s Our Husband Has Gone Mad might include the following:

  • To analyze the central themes present in the play, including the theme of power and control, gender roles, and the clash between traditional and modern values.
  • To examine the symbolism used in the play, such as the use of the “madness” of the husband as a metaphor for the breakdown of traditional patriarchal power structures.
  • To explore how Rotimi’s use of language and dialogue contributes to the development of these themes and the portrayal of the characters.
  • To investigate how the play reflects the social and cultural context of Nigeria in the 1970s, including issues of post-colonial identity, modernization, and political upheaval.
  • To evaluate the critical reception of the play and its place in the broader canon of African literature, including its influence on subsequent playwrights and writers.
  • Overall, the study aims to provide a comprehensive analysis of the themes and symbolism in Ola Rotimi’s Our Husband Has Gone Mad, and to deepen our understanding of the cultural and historical context in which it was produced. 

Scope of the study

 The scope of the research would involve analyzing the various themes and symbols used in the play. The themes in the play include colonialism, patriarchy, power, religion, and culture. The research would explore how these themes are developed and conveyed through the use of symbolism, such as the use of the madman character to represent the effects of colonialism on African societies, or the use of the traditional marriage system to critique patriarchy in Nigerian culture. The scope would also involve examining the historical, cultural, and political context in which the play was written and performed.

Significance of the study

The research on the theme and symbolism in Ola Rotimi’s play is significant for several reasons.

Firstly, the play is a classic example of postcolonial African literature and provides a critical reflection on the impact of colonialism on African societies. By analyzing the themes and symbols in the play, researchers can gain a deeper understanding of the ways in which colonialism continues to shape African societies and cultures.

Secondly, the play is significant for its use of traditional African performance techniques, such as drumming, dance, and oral storytelling, to convey its message. This makes it an important example of the way in which African theatre has developed its own unique style and form.

Finally, the play’s themes and symbols are still relevant today, making it a valuable resource for scholars and students interested in the study of African literature, culture, and politics. The research can help us to better understand the complexities of postcolonial African societies and the ways in which cultural practices and traditions intersect with modernity and globalization. 

Methodology

This research follows a textual and descriptive method based on a combination of traditional library research and textual analysis. The primary sources include Ola Rotimi’s Our Husband Has Gone Again, while secondary sources include several academic articles, e-books, journals and books related to feminism. The two plays form the basic material for this research. In addition, an interdisciplinary approach was used while drawing views on feminism from the fields of Literature, Philosophy, History and Sociology. The analytical framework for this study is the feminist literary criticism.