LET ME DIE ALONE BY JOHN KOLOSA KARGBO Category: Literature in English
LET ME DIE ALONE BY JOHN KOLOSA KARGBO
John Kolosa Kargbo is one of the vibrant and prolific Sierra Leone dramatists.
Most of his plays are written in vernacular. His plays totally address and condemn the fundamental ills that seem to be endemic in Sierra Leone’s society. He was once in exile in Nigeria because the government of his country could not broker his strong condemnation of their ineptitude. Among his numerous styles of writing, is the ability to infuse or integrate the ingredients from the mother tongue- Mende Language.
BACKGROUND OF THE PLAY:
The play is a powerful drama depicting a conflict between a proud traditional society and a damning and intimidating foreign civilization bent on afflicting the host community with contempt and disdain. The play Let Me Die Alone also, reveals the internal bickering and conflict within the traditional society itself as the various families and distinct personalities bargain for power and dominance by all means possible.
The play critically exposes the life and time of one of the most powerful and respected women chiefs in Africa, Madam Yoko. According to Uduak(2019), the play offers a strong critique of the oppression of women under a patriarchal system. Of importance and attention is the issue of a critique of the imposition of the colonial influence on the traditional Sierra Leonean society. This act of modernization imposed on this society brought about a lot of conflicts between the two forces between the 19th and 20th century. Not able to resist and repel the European forces, the indigenes have to bow to the European definition of prosperity and success. However, this new standard of living has forced a lot of African countries to live in abject poverty. The citizens also faced the psychological trauma of having a dual personality-both African and European.
The play, written in three short acts, opens at Senehum Gbanya’s bedroom, with Gbanya pulling the wife,Yoko, into the room while the Sande dancers are drumming below the stage. This expression of love is cut short by the visit of the Imperial leader, Doctor Rowe. His visit leads to the desecration of Gbanya’s royalty by flogging him before his people. Consequently, this act of disgrace orchestrated by the colonial master, opens an avenue for Lamboi and Musa to poison the king. Having a premonition of what is about to happen through their action and his dream in the past days, Gbanya uses his last breath to hand over the Mende chiefdom to his wife, Madam Yoko.
After the rites to the ascendancy of the throne, Yoko quickly initiates herself into the Poro, an all male society of tribal leadership, with a strong implication of losing her ability to conceive and bear children all the rest of her life. Her rulership is challenged by Lamboi and the chief priest, Musa. She resists their opposition and fights tirelessly to retain the throne. Lamboi nd Musa plans to betray the queen so that she can be banished thereby paving way for Lamboi to ascend the throne.
However, Madam Yoko’s reign ends suddenly through the devilish intervention of the western authority, represented by Doctor Rowe when they divided her kingdom without consulting or seeking her consent as the queen. As a result, she poisons herself in order to save herself the shame of the humiliation meted out to her by Doctor Rowe.
Sierra Leone is the geographical setting of the play. Which shows the ancient royal descent of African kingdoms. The time setting of the play is the late 19th century-1849. This is a period characterized by the elevation of servitude in the hands of the colonial masters.
- ASSIGNMENT ONE
Write notes on these characters in Let Me Die Alone
4. Doctor Samuel Rowe
DRAMATIC TECHNIQUES IN LET ME DIE ALONE
1. Language: The playwright uses simple and easy to understand English language in crafting the tragic play. He also uses local Mende dialects to show how people relate and add local colour to the play. There are also African proverbs, foreshadowing and flashbacks to develop the plot and adequately contextualize the drama.
2. Use of songs and dances: The playwright uses adequate songs and dances in the different acts with particular attention paid to the sound effects. The Sande dancers are good examples in the play as they possess the wherewithal to entertain as well as check balance the authorities.
3. Comic Relief: Some bouts of comic relief created by the playwright reduce the overall tragic nature of the play. The way Gbanya drags Yoko to the bed stimulates some pleasurable interest/humor. Also, the appearance, mode of speech and the general relationship between the Guards and the Messenger provide some comic relief.
4. Use of symbols: Some of the symbols employed in the play include:
I. Thunder: Thunder rumbles to arrest the readers attention to consciousness
II. Jeneba: Jeneba in the play symbolizes shattered hope and a new order denied from sprouting.
III. Poison: Poison is seen as a sole tool to end the reign of each of the kings. For instance, Gbanya dies of poison laced in his water by his ‘trusted’ aides- Lamboi and Musa. Poison destroys Gbanya and ends his reign in a disgraceful manner. Yoko on the other hand, commits suicide by taking poison provided by her maid. Poison helps Queen Yoko to leave the throne with her royal esteem and integrity intact. In the play, poison has a dual image of negative and positive ends. It is assumed that Kargbo, the playwright, allows the two chiefs die by taking poison for dramatic convenience
5. Foreshadowing: This is a type of literary device that gives the audience an advanced hint of what is to happen later in the play. For example, when Jeneba is sent to call Lamboi and Musa for a meeting, Lamboi foreshadows her abduction by saying: ‘Girls of her type stand to die in the hands of the enemy of Senehen.’ This statement foreshadows Jeneba’s abduction and gruesome death in the hands of the real enemies of Senehen- Lamboi and Musa. Again, foreshadowing is used when Yoko has a premonition that ‘a great ill will befall this household today’. Later, Dr. Rowe comes to humiliate and flog her husband which leads to his being poisoned to death. Finally, foreshadowing is seen when Gbanya predicts his tragic end. ‘So now, why should I who sent so many enemies on their quest for such peace be afraid to die? No, I am not. My fear rests in the manner of dying.’ Later, he is poisoned by his aides.
The thematic concerns in Let Me Die Alone By J.K. Kargbo include:
1. The quest/inordinate greed for power
2. Gender discrimination
3. Colonial arrogance
4. Traditional society versus civilization
5. Tradition and unfair demands on women
6. Modem feminist concerns
7. Battle of the sexes / conflict between genders in a rapidly changing world
8. The importance of traditional dancing, singing and beliefs
10. Intrigue and murder
11. Imposition and resistance
13. Bargain for power and dominance
The characters in the play include:
1. Madam Yoko
7. Governor/ Dr. Samuel Rowe
11. Sande dancers
12. Minor characters- Lavalie, Fanneh, Musu and Guards.
Write one any three themes in Let Me Die Alone. ( Refer to Vital Steps in Literature page265 to 267 for the assignment)