(i)Gender; It does not seem that Soyinka consciously tries to make a statement about gender, but he does so nonetheless. On the one hand, he creates two female characters that are sassy, opinionated, manipulative, and independent. On the other hand, both of them are ultimately pawns in the games of men. Sidi does not want to marry either Lakunle or Baroka, but Baroka tricks her, rapes her, and then gets to marry her. She is an object and nothing more. Sadiku is also tricked, and sees her elation over the Bale’s impotence and the power of women vanish as his plot is made clear. Women may seem like they have power in mid-20th century Nigeria, but they ultimately do not.
(ii)Tradition and Modernity; This is perhaps the most conspicuous theme in the play. It initially seems like Soyinka is setting a clear dichotomy between these two things, tradition embodied by Baroka and modernity embodied by Lakunle. However, as the play progresses Soyinka defies the audience’s assumptions. Lakunle espouses a variety of backwards views and seems to abandon his progressive principles when it is convenient to do so. Similarly, Baroka says he does not hate progress but merely finds its sameness and stagnation boring. He is preparing to use a stamp machine to make the village make money as they do in Lagos. Soyinka thus suggests that progress is not bad, but that it must be done on African terms.
(iii)Trickery and Manipulation; Most of the characters in this play decide to trick and manipulate others in order to achieve their ends. This is perceived to be a much more effective method than being forthright, as the things characters want come at the expense of others’ feelings and wishes. Sidi and Sadiku try to fool the Bale so they can feel a sense of triumph at his humbling, and the Bale fools Sadiku and Sidi so he can subdue Sidi and acquire her as one of his wives. Even though Soyinka carries this out with a light touch and a great deal of witty repartee, the fact remains that there is a lot of lying and manipulation in the play.
(i)SEXISM; Readers can find ample evidence that suggests the relationship between Alison and Jimmy, and the short-lived one between Jimmy and Helena, is rife with sexist undertones. In the first act alone, Jimmy begins an angry tirade about Alison and women in general. Jimmy’s anger and hatred is directed at women in general. The examples in the play that are taken to represent a greater sexism on Jimmy’s part are his relationships with Alison and then Helera, the most striking point of which is that after a time, Helena stands silently and emotionally passively at the ironing board on Sunday night just like Alison used to do. The similarity between Helena and Alison is that they are both from the upper class and are both religious with “establishment” church affiliations. Jimmy’s great criticism is against the satisfied, unthinking privilege given to and assumed by the upper classes who have no need to think or be intelligent, as Nigel represents, or feel, as Alison and Helena represent. When Jimmy’s treatment of Alison and Helena are seen from a 1950s perspective as representative of Jimmy’s hatred of a class division that defrauds individuals on both sides of the class divide – of their humanity, the undertones of sexism take a secondary position.
(ii)THE ANGRY YOUNG MAN; Osborne’s play was the first to explore the theme of the “Angry Young Man.” This term describes a generation of post-World War II artists and working class men who generally subscribed to leftist, sometimes anarchist, politics and social views. According to cultural critics, these young men were not a part of any organized movement but were, instead, individuals angry at a post-Victorian Britain that refused to acknowledge their social and class alienation. Anyone in the “angry young man” leaning, due to their low social class, would be “required” to dislike anyone of upper-class heritage. Jimmy Porter is often considered to be literature’s seminal example of the angry young man. Jimmy is angry at the social and political structures that he believes have kept him from achieving his dreams and aspirations. He directs this anger towards his friends and, most notably, his wife Alison.
(iii)ANGER AND HATRED; Jimmy Porter’s anger dominates the play. He operates out of a deep well of anger. His anger is directed at those he loves because they refuse to have strong feelings, at a society that did not fulfil promises of opportunity, and at those who smugly assume their places in the social and power structure and who do not care for others. This theme is pervasive, affecting the plot, the characters, and the tone of the entire play. In the first act for instance, Jimmy’s anger causes him to lash out at his wife and his business partner, Cliff, calling them boring, stupid, and unambitious, in large part because they don’t share his rage and frustration. Like many working-class men, Jimmy feels overlooked by the Establishment, shut out by polite society, and relegated to menial jobs where he is underutilized and underpaid. He also lashes out in anger because of his deeply felt helplessness. When he was ten years old he watched his idealist father dying for a year from wounds received fighting for democracy in the Spanish Civil War, his father talking for hours, “pouring out all that was left of his life to one bewildered little boy.” He says, “You see, I learnt at an early age what it was to be angry – angry and helpless. And I can never forget it.”
(i)Leadership; This theme is predominant in the poem, as it runs throughout the poem. Osunadre’s main focus in his poem ‘ the leader and the led is the corrupt African society. Using different animals and their qualities, Osundare illustrates the bad qualities of a leader, which is associated with selfishness, deceit, selfishness etc. The poet concludes that a good leader should possess a hybrid of qualities, being meek and brave, transparent, tough and gentle, above all, be considerate of their followers.
(ii)power struggle; Another prominent theme in the leader and the leader is the theme of power struggle. Power is a problem in Africa, leaders who have obtained power desire more power and are so clingy that they want to die ruling the country. Osundare in exposing the power struggle in African politics employs a figurative setting portraying different animals laying claim to the throne. Each ruler wants power for fame and authority, rather than for the good of the masses. In Africa, leaders have shown that power corrupts and over the years the issue of leaders clinging on to power, not wanting to let go is a common problem. Osundare successfully portrays the theme of power struggle in his poem ‘The leader and the led’.
(iii)Arrogance; This theme will discuss the theme of leadership arrogance in the leader and the led. Arrogance is another vital theme in the poem. The various leaders depicted in this poem show arrogance as they ly claim the throne. They proclaim their right to rule, claiming they are fit because of their physical strength, size or appearance. They are proud and display no form of humility and are only concerned about their selfish needs. The poem admonishes that a leader should be mindful of the follower’s right to lead, therefore displaying humility and consideration for the masses.
(i)Alliteration; One of the significant figurative devices used in this poem is alliteration. By alliteration, one refers to the repetition of consonant sounds at the beginning of different words on the same line. A golden example of this in the poem can be found in line 4, where the poetic persona says, ‘of a fresh, following and folded rank’. In these lines, there is the repetition of the sound /f7. Another example can be found in line 8, where the poetic persona says, ‘wind-wandering weed-winding bank’. Other examples within the poem include: ‘…swam or sank’ (line 7),’quelled…quenched’ (line 2), ‘all felled, felled, are all felled’ (line 3), ‘fresh…following folded’ (line 4),’quelled or quenched in leaves* (line 2), ‘growing green’ (line 11), ‘sleek.. .seeing’ (line 14) and’beauty been’ (line 19).
(ii)Imagery; This poem is also awash with imagery. The visual images incurred by the reading of this poem are rich in vibrancy and power. In line 1, the poetic persona describes the tree branches as ‘airy cages’. This expression cages can mean that the cages contain much space. However, within the context of this poem, what is brought to the readers’ imagination is the idea of a cage that can retain air. This is impossible because most of the time, a cage is made up of iron bars with spaces and thus, cannot hold in air. Here, one is made to imagine a tree’s branches and how although it has spaces like a cage, it can cage air is to cool anyone that comes under its shade. In line 3, the poetic persona says, ‘all felled, felled, are all felled’. This creates in the mind of the reader the visual image of the trees falling and landing on the ground. Even the sound of ‘felled’ in continuous repetition sounds like the thud of falling trees.
(iii)Diction; The words used in this poem seem to have been deliberately chosen to project the poet’s message about the destruction of the environment. In line 6, the poetic persona makes use of the word ‘dandled’. While ‘dandled’ might have been understandable to a Victorian audience, it is archaic in twenty-first century contexts. ‘Dandled’ is the past tense of ‘dandle’ which is an archaic English word that refers to a playful way of lifting a baby up and down on one’s knee. The original meaning of this word does not apply to what is being said in the poem. It is the imagery that the word creates in the mind that the poetic persona seeks to apply to his ideas. Other words that project the poet’s ideas about the negative effect of the activities of humans on the environment to the reader include ‘quelled’ (line 1), ‘felled’ (line 3), ‘hew’ (line 10), ‘hack’ (line 11), ‘rack’ (line 11) and ‘unselve’ (line 21), to mention but a few.
Also, the poem contains words that are ‘formal ‘or ‘high’ in a conversational and lyrical way and which are used as non-conventional sentences and phrasal structures.