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READING AND TEXTUAL ANALYSIS OF AFRICAN DRAMA- THE BLINKARDS by Kobina Sekyi

CONTENT

THE AUTHOR’S BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH

THE BACKGROUND TO THE TEXT

THE PLOT

THE SETTING

THE THEMES

THE CHARACTERS / CHARACTERIZATION

THE LANGUAGE / STYLE

THE AUTHOR’S BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH

Kobina Sekyi, as William Essuman – Gwira Sekyi, was a Ghanaian nationalist.  He was born in

Cape Coast in 1892 and died in 1956, the year before Ghana’s independence.  His writing was

voluminous.  The Blinkards demonstrates one of his major concerns.  He always warned Danquah

and JYkrumah and the new political class of the dangers of copying foreign political institution

and ideas.  The Blinkards was written in 1915 and helped establish its author as the Bernard Shaw

of West Africa.  Its wit and amusement are as effective now as they were then.  The comedy

satires the nouveaux riches of the western-oriented Fantis of Cape Coast who accepted European

standards uncritically.

THE BACKGROUND TO THE TEXT

The background of the book is the colonial era when the blacks in Ghana were under the British

(white) rule.  And the system adopted was indirect rule which saw to the introduction of warrant

chief at the expense of the traditional royalty that existed in the ancient cosmic surroundings of

Cape coast (Ghana).  In these times, there were conscious efforts to transmogrify the blacks into

artificial whites as every policies, teachings and instructions given were to debase and relegate

everything black-oriented on the grounds of civilization.  This was the period the author existed,

and it provoked this work, The Blinkards.

THE PLOT

The story begins with Nyam sweeping the house of his master (Mr. Borofo) and he’s seen

complaining over how many times he would need to sweep to avoid any dirt.  On the process, he

discovers dried leaves in a book owned by his master.  Immediately, he is accosted by Mrs. Borofo

who just entered the room, and was insulted by her for taking the leaves away from the book. She

goes further to tell Nyam that cigar ashes are good for carpets as she has learnt in England.

       Mrs. Borofo is left alone with her husband that just came in, by Nyam, but are interrupted by Nyam when he came to deliver a message from their cook and met (them) Mrs. Borofo and Mr.Borofo kissing.  Later Mr. Tsiba with his daughter (Miss.Tsiba) was at the Borofo’s.  Mr. Tsiba brought his daughter to Mrs. Borofo to be taught the English way of life in order for her to be refined.  Mr. Tsiba has been captivated by the displays from Mrs. Borofo even in public places since she returned from England, and believes that her display is a product of civilization.

       On the other hand, we find Mr. Ony (a young barrister) who has also been to England, displaying the riches of his native home (Fanti) in the kind of attire he is putting on.  He is being attended to by his servant, Half Crown, before Mr. Ok. bashed into his house.  Mr. Ok came to pick up a job as a clerk in Mr. Ony’s chamber even with no pay, so that, he could also be taught English in order to enable him woo Miss. Tsiba to himself as his wife, who has been send to Mrs. Borofo to learn English.  This is because Mr. Tsiba could only be convinced to accept him as an in-law if he also has obtained the English education.

        It continued that his plan worked for him, and he made acquaintance with Miss. Tsiba who gullibly accepted him for a husband on a garden-party at Victoria Park where there is a display of European clothes.  Mr. Ok and Miss. Tsiba became engaged.  The news of their engagement and further marriage is announced to Mr. Tsiba by Mrs. Borofo proudly. And Mr.Tsiba, though shocked, went helpless when he was told by Mrs. Borofo that that is how it is done in England (i.e), the christian way.  When Mr. Tsiba went on to list what will be required according to custom and tradition for the marriage to take place after grudgingly accepting Mr. Ok as a son-in-law, he was told by Mrs. Borofo that in England it was the father-in-law that provides all he has listed for the son-in-law.  Mr. Tsiba sheepishly welcomes the idea.

       After Mrs. Borofo and Mr. Ok had taken their leave, Mr. Tsiba announces the news to his wife, Na Som, who bluntly kicked against it and went wild and whirl.  Na Som on several times goes to Mr. Ony’s house to look for Mr. Ok to no avail.  But on her last visit to Mr. Ony’s, she saw Mr. Ok who was about leaving the premises.  On seeing her, Mr. Ok ran back into the house to hide himself from the rage of Na Som.  Na Som forces her way into the house and asks Mr. Ony for Mr. Ok she just saw, but is told that Mr. Ok is not in his house.  In the process, as she was shouting, she slumped and died before Dr. Onw was invited.

        In his hospital, Dr. Onw gets a letter from Mr. Wompem through a man, accusing him of having an affair with his wife.  Few minutes after, Mr. Seehon sends a girl he had an affair with to Dr. Onw to seduce him.  And lastly, Tsiba (Mr) came with his daughter who he thinks is just having malaria, unknown to him that she is pregnant as the test later  discovered.  He pleads with Dr. Onw to abort the pregnancy because she is going to the altar, but Dr. Onw refuses him even in the face of the tempting amount he promises to offer.  All these are melted out to Dr. Onw because he is a black doctor and the people do not have respect and faith for his judgment and competence.  But he promised to be professional in the practice of his profession, not to let any other ears know that Miss. Tsiba took in before her marriage ceremony.

        The cosmopolitan club in a meeting planned on how to make the marriage ceremony of their

member, Mr. Ok, a high profile.  On the D-day at Hamilton house where the wedding reception

takes place, all hands were busy and it was going in a grand style, until Nana Kat, Mr. Tsiba’s

mother-in-law, arrived the scene and brought the excitement to an end as she took away Miss.

Tsiba, her grand–daughter.

        Nana Kat took Miss. Tsiba and she got married to another man following the steps as tradition

demands, but Mr. Ok was aggrieved and decided to invite the police and the law to regain his wife. 

But in the law court Mr. Ok lost out in the case as Mr. Ony helped Miss. Tsiba and her family to

win the case.  This provoked the Parson (Priest) who wedded them, and this incident became an

eye-opening for both Mr. and Mrs. Borofo that not everything Christendom or European that is

absolutely correct.  And immediately, their style of dressing and mannerism changed to the

amazement of other citizens of Fantis who knew the Borofos.

.

THE SETTING

The general or contextual setting of the book is Fanti, Cape Coast (Ghana).  But the immediate or

textual setting in the book are Mr. Borofo’s house, Mr. Ony’s office and house, Mr. Tsiba’s house,

Dr. Onw’s hospital, Victoria Park, Cosmopolitan club, Hamilton house and a street outside Nana

Kat’s house.  These places identified are the venues where the action of the story took place or

unfolded.  The setting portrays the looks of what Ghanaian society was at that point in time.

EVALUATION

1          Give a detailed plot analysis of the play, The Blinkards.

2          What is the significance of the background and setting to the plot of the play?

THE THEMES

SOCIAL SEGREGATION AND DEGRADATION

This as a theme in the book exposes the concept or practice that you are allowed to mingle

depending on how much of the English education you possess.  Even among blacks from the

same community, there is a discrimination by some eurocentric individuals over the afrocentric

individuals who have decided to uphold their tradition and custom by flaunting their home-made

traditional attire, and observing all cultural norms for each event.  And these individuals who

callously segregate and degrade their fellow blacks because of their affinity with England are

typically represented by Mrs. Borofo and her admirers.  Mrs. Borofo’s display of disgust whenever

one speaks Fanti or dresses in a native attire support this theme. This is seen in her visit to Mr.

Ony and the manner she corrects her husband, and also, the conscious effort by Mr. Tsiba in his

house to replace his native cloth with pyjamas on the arrival of Mrs. Borofo to his house, was done

in order not to offend or disgust Mrs. Borofo.  Also, the belief of Mr.Tsiba, irrespective of his

status as a wealthy businessman, to be incomplete without the English education was a great sign that

segregation and degradation based on this was prevalent.  The character displayed by Mr. Ok to

learn at all cost just to get Miss. Tsiba is another sad indication of social segregation and

degradation in the society.

THE IMPORTANCE OF CULTURE AND TRADITION

As a necessity, the playwright through his work deemed it fit to philosophically inculcate into the

minds of his readers the inevitability of one’s culture and tradition in ones existence.  And this

point is evidently brought to bare by the victory won by Mr. Ony in court over Miss. Tsiba’s case

against the standard of the western practice (Christian way of marriage) and to the surprise of the

eurocentrics, who relegated the importance or significance of culture and tradition in the modern

existence.

OTHER THEMES

*          Defects of ‘copy-cat’ syndrome.

*          The vices of imperialism.

*          The dangers of uncritical perception.

*          The need for absolute independence.

THE CHARACTER AND CHARACTERIZATION

MRS. BOROFOSEM (A LEADER OF FASHION)

      She is the wife of Mr. Borofosem who has been to England and has adopted the lifestyle there. 

She is extremely Eurocentric in all she does.  She is domineering and obsessing even to her

husband at home.  She disregards everything African especially if there are alternative ways they

are being done in England.  She is a major character and antagonistic to Nyamekye, Mr. Onyimdze

and others who don’t share in her perception and conception of western mannerism as the ultimate. 

Mrs. Borofosem stands as an agent of imperialism and neo-colonialism in the book when her

flaunting and intimidating display provoked Mr. Tsiba to bring his daughter, Miss. Tsiba, to Mrs.

Borofo, which finally result into the death of Na Sompa (Miss. Tsiba’s mother).  She is seen to be

proud as she takes pleasure in recording her experiences in England to the Ladies at the party,

irrespective of how many times she has said that.  She is a ‘copy-cat’ who tries to imitate, though

artificially, everything English.  She is seen to be a round character when she reneges from her

eurocentric ground to the afrocentric ground.

MR. ONYIMDZE (A YOUNG BARRISTER)

He is a young Barrister who has also been to England to study but has not allowed himself to be

consumed by western life.  He understands the importance of his custom and tradition in his

existence, and he’s able to understand the dichotomy between his person as an educated man and

as an African.  He sees it abysmal:  the orientation induced into his people for the craze for western

sensibility at the expense of their Fanti cosmic and traditional belief, by Mrs. Borofosem.  His

dress-code stands to speak his position about the influence of western mannerism on him.  His

grievance over how his customs and traditions have been degraded by some western stooges or

faithful made him to defend Miss. Tsiba in court against Mr. Okadu and other forces behind him. 

His victory in court becomes an eye-opening to both Mr. and Mrs. Borofosem that not all things

European or English should be seen as absolute correctness.  He stands to be the hero and

protagonist in the play.  He is seen as a flat character as he stood his grounds throughout the play.

MR. TSIBA (A COCOA MAGNATE)

He is the husband of Na Sompa and father of Miss. Tsiba.  He is a wealthy man who deals on

Cocoa, but is also an illiterate in the western education.  He lacks confidence in his judgment and

feels inferior because of his inability to act English.  So, he sends his daughter to Mrs. Borofosem

to be pruned in the English way.  And this singular act by Mr. Tsiba brought calamity to his house. 

His wife died and his daughter got pregnant before engaging herself in a lawless and illegitimate

marriage that was rescued by his mother-in-law, and finally defended in court by Mr. Onyimdze. 

He is not stable as he runs to replace his native cloth with western cloth in order not to displease

Mrs. Borofosem, who has just visited.  He is also not principled and disciplined.  This is evident in

the play in Dr. Onwieyie’s consultation room, where he tries to lobby the doctor with a tempting

amount of money for him to carry-out abortion on his (Mr. Tsiba) daughter who is discovered to

have been pregnant for three months.  He is not man enough as he does not know how to handle

situations which led to the death of his wife.

MR. OKADU

He is a young man who worked in Chutney’s store owned by a white man.  He later went to Mr.

Onyimdze to pick up a clerk job even without pay because he wanted to learn and understand

English.  His reason for English as he confessed to Mr. Onyimdze, is to enable him woo Miss.

Tsiba over to himself as his wife.  He further said that Mr. Tsiba would only listen to him if he

discovers that he (Mr. Okadu) has been trained with the English education.  He is an opportunist

who wants to take advantage of the stupidity of Mr. Tsiba to cheaply get his daughter.  But

unfortunately, he becomes the victim of the ‘copy-cat’ syndrome that is prevalent in their society. 

His action or decision to engage Miss. Tsiba without properly adhering to traditions brought about

the death of Na Sompa and calamitous disgrace that befell Miss. Tsiba.  He is a member of the

Cosmopolitan club.

DR. ONWIEYIE (A PHYSICIAN AND SURGEON)

Dr. Onwieyie is a black medical practitioner and owns a hospital.  He is first introduced in the play

when Na Sompa, wife to Mr. Tsiba and mother to Miss. Tsiba, slumped and died in Mr.

Onyimdze’s house before his arrived.  He is a professional who adheres strictly to the ethics of his

profession as a medical doctor.  That is why he refuses to oblige Mr. Tsiba with his request for an

abortion to be carried out on his daughter in the face of seductive sum of money.  He is accused by

Mr. Wompem, of having an affair with his wife, and later is faced with a girl from Mr. Seehon to

seduce him.  He is a doctor that knows his worth and stood his grounds in a society where

anything or product black is adjudged sub-standard.  He is very principled and disciplined.

MISS. TSIBA (DAUGHTER TO MR. TSIBA)

She is the daughter of Mr. Tsiba and Na Sompa.  She is a typical Fanti in her character display, so

she’s sent by her father to Mrs. Borofosem (a model of a civilized person) to be pruned of her

archaic traits and be transformed into a polished Fanti breed with English education.  She is a

gullible young lady who is easily deceived by Mr. Okadu, and gets engaged without going through

the proper traditional process of telling her father first.  She is also a victim of the ‘copy-cat’

syndrome as her mother died, she became pregnant before marriage, her marriage becomes

distorted by her grandmother, and finally re-married to another man.  She does not have a mind of

her own as she conforms uncritically to the lines of the English novel she reads and accepts Mr.

Okadu at first sight.

NA SOMPA (WIFE TO MR. TSIBA AND MOTHER TO MISS. TSIBA)

She is the mother of Miss. Tsiba and wife of Mr. Tsiba.  She is a minor character as her presence

in the play is brief.  She is seen to be sidelined by her husband, who takes decisions without

seeking her consent, which resulted in her death by slumping in Mr. Onyimdze’s house over Mr.

Okadu, who engaged her daughter in the British way.  She is seen to be rash in her character and

decisions as this led to her early death.  She upholds completely traditional values which invariably

becomes the reason for her death.  She accuses Mr. Onyimdze of encouraging Mr. Okadu for his

action towards her family before her death.

NANA KATAWERWA (MOTHER TO NA SOMPA)

She is the mother of Na Sompa, grandmother of Miss. Tsiba, but the mother-in-law of Mr. Tsiba. 

She is first seen in the play at the marriage reception ceremony of her grand-daughter at Hamilton

house which she abruptly stopped to the amazement of all present: including Mr. Tsiba, Mrs.

Borofosem and members of Cosmopolitan club.  She left with Miss. Tsiba to her house forcefully

from her ‘would have been’ husband (Mr. Okadu).  She got Miss. Tsiba married to another man,

and went with her to the court where Mr. Onyimdze helped her to defeat Mr. Okadu over who

takes possession of Miss. Tsiba.

MR. BOROFOSEM (A MERCHANT)

He is a merchant who sent his wife, Mrs. Borofosem, to England and became helpless to her western civilization.  He is forced by his wife to copy everything England as she teaches him what to wear, what to call her and how to kiss her.  The imperfection of western civilization as exposed by Mr. Onyimdze in court brought about great change in his conception and perception of African traditional belief and values, and it becomes evident in his dress-code, foods or appetite and behavioural patterns.

THE LANGUAGE AND STYLE

One outstanding style of Kobina Sekyi in The Blinkards is his language variation.  There is a lot of code-switching as Kobina Sekyi subtly switches from his vernacular to the English Language among his characters in the course of events.  His use of language variations, such as: pidgin, vernacular and English, among his characters help to define the various social strata or classes identifiable in the play.  These are evident in the pidgin spoken by Half crown and Mr. Tsiba, the vernacular spoken by Nana, Miss. Tsiba and the English spoken by Mrs. Borofo and members of the Cosmopolitan club, among others.

      This language management peculiarity by Sekyi gives the play a taste of originality, and the identity it deserves.

EVALUATION

1.         Discuss the dramatic techniques of the play, The Blinkards.

2.         Write short notes on the following: Mr. Onyimdze, Mr. Tsiba, Mr. Okadu, Mrs. Borofosem, Half Crown and Dr. Onwieyie.

WEEKEND ASSIGNMENT

1.         “My dear gentleman of the highway, have mercy on me” illustrates the use of _____

            (a)  euphemism    (b)  simile    (c)  hyperbole     (d)  oxymoron    (e)  paradox

2.         When an author narrates a story in form of a letter, it is known as a/an _______ work.

            (a)  epistolary    (b)  modern    (c)  tradition    (d)  paradoxical      (e)  Shakespearean

3.         The absence of punctuation mark at the end of each line of a poem exemplifies the use of __________

            (a)  caesura    (b)  end-stopped line      (c)  enjambment    (d)  rhyme    (e)  rhythm

4.         One of the main aims of a didactic piece of literary work is to __________

            (a)  arouse the interest of the audience   (b)  entertain the audience    (c)  force the spectators into believing      (d)  ridicule the society    (e)  teach a moral lesson

5.         The technique used to arouse anxiety in a work of art is called _______

            (a)  innuendo     (b)  setting      (c)  story      (d)  suspense     (e)   theme

THEORY

1          Discuss two major themes of the book, The Blinkards.

2.         Discuss the role of Mrs. Borofosem in the play, The Blinkards.

READING ASSIGNMENT

1           Exam Reflection Literature-in-English (Drama & Prose) by Sunday Olateju Faniyi, pgs 32-62.

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