A symbolic play in a greater extend, Wole Soyinka’s play “The Strong Breed”, is all bout the rituals and superstitious believes prevailing in the African society. Wole Soyinka is perhaps the most misunderstood, exceedingly controversial figure in the Nigerian public and literary life. The theme of the need of the societies to sacrifice one of their own to bring about purgation of the societies is dealt in this play.
Throughout the narrative, an atmosphere of foreboding prevails. At the onset, Sunma, urges Eman, who is a stranger to her village, to leave the place before evening. The reason for her restlessness is revealed to both Eman and the readers very gradually. The village has an annual New Year purification rite in which the wrong doings of the villagers are heaped on ‘carrier’- a stranger- so that the community may be redeemed of its sins and have rejuvenation in all sense. There is an inherent idea that the society will be spiritually strengthened as an aftermath of these sacrifices. The play moves on with Eman’s decision to be the “carrier”. Initially he is not aware of its implications. Eman’s family bearing the title the “Strong Breed”, undertakes the task of bearing the evil of the village in a vessel across the river annually.
The play also deals with the outcaste characters like ‘the girl’ and the abandoned Ifada. The words which Sunma uses to address Ifada, “horrible insect”. The rigid caste system carving the roots of the once colonized continent is evident in this work. Chinua Achebe’s short story “Marriage is a Private Affair”, deals with the caste-bound constraints of Africa. This even provokes us to think, was it for this that the British left the continent. It even invokes us to think us about the deplorable conditions of the North Indian states. It is the question of our right to live.
“Chance” also plays a major determining factor in the play. The exercise of the free- will is also a crucial factor. Eman’s destiny solely rests on his mental faculty. He decides to stay in the village and take on the role of the scapegoat. But as a matter of fact Eman eventually recognizes that it is better to choose his destiny rather than to live it.
The cynicism and the hypocritical attitude of the elders in the village is also evident. The fact that ideologies get manipulated everywhere also evolves through this work.
The village is drawn into an atmosphere of utter chaos when Eman tries to free himself from the strangleholds of the villagers. In spite of this, even after Eman is killed, his “sacrificial death” does not appear to contend the villagers. On the contrary, it evokes horror, dread and guilt.
But did the society get rejuvenation? The idea of moral disgust permeates the play. Even after the sacrifice of Eman, the confusion and the hypocritical attitude continues in the society. The readers are indeed bewildered with the words of Jaguna “There are those who will pay for this night’s work!”