“The Swamp Dwellers” by Wole Soyinka Essay

August 17, 2021 by Essay Writer

The swamp dweller is a play that captures the intrinsic interplay of relationships between members of the family. The swamp dweller “talks about the urban and remote society, the confrontations between the older and younger people, the battles between the old and the new in the society, love for modernism, the existence of supernatural being, the love of the swamp, and existence of harsh forces of nature among other problems” (Soyinka 9).

Among the researches and different articles on the play, it is scarcely discovered any attention on family ties, love for family and indications of love in small quarrels between the wedded in the play. At whatever point they discuss their twin children, Awuchike and Igwezu, Makuri and Alu are always at one another’s throats. Soyinka states that “their tiff bears the affirmation of profound love for one another and for their future eras, and shows extraordinary sympathy toward family ties in a helpless condition amid the transitional period” (13).

The swamp dweller captures the family relationships, the personal and cultural tensions existing in human relationships in his renowned play, the swamp dwellers. The play captures the life and times of an African society and goes beyond to reflect on the tensions, struggles, calamities, problems and conflicts that exist in human community globally. Metaphorical imaginations have been brought into the play and they assist in reflecting the ways of human life.

The play may have captured the Yoruba community of Nigeria but what comes out of it is that it crosses borders to capture the attention of international human rights. The play concentrates on social changes within the society. The play depicts the frustration, disappointment and tension that ruin a society built on money making disregarding human relationships. There exists a problematic relationship between the older and younger generation who pull in different directions with an aim of making a superior life.

There is also a bitter relationship between custom and innovation. The play shows the bitter relationship between the religious leaders and their followers. The religious leaders like Kadiye is very greedy and corrupt and he became fatter from accepting gifts from followers. The religious leader took advantage of the fear of his people to exploit them. This is a form of corruption that cuts the human relations with one another

At the beginning of the play, we see the indications of verbal quarrel between Alu and Makuri. Alu appears more anxious than Makuri, and she is always bothering in the family. Alu has been holding up for long for her dear child. When performing her family chores she endeavors to peep at the door with a desire of their son’s return. The play begins with her question blended with enthusiasm for their child.

Her remark on Makuri’s approach towards their son depicts the existence of a nasty relationship with her spouse and Makuri’s answer intensifies tension. According to Soyinka, “Makuri alludes her wife as a fraudster and she has genuine reservations against him of making her a liar. Alu likens her husband to a dead person when he refuses to look for their lost son. Alu angrily slaps herself on the arm to keep the fly from gnawing it and Makuri alludes this behavior to Alus’ maturity and sickness” (21).

From this we see that the limitation and obstacle to meaningful human interactions is the presence of children in our midst. Alu is more concerned with her son, Awuchike, than Makuri and Awuchike’s disappearance brings about arguments. A true mother is looking for her son, as she fears for the worst that the son is no more. She is nagging Makuri to find their lost son. Makuri is not deterred as he believes that Awuchike went to the city because the city promises good lifestyle. Awuchike disappearance causes frustration in the entire village of swamp dwellers and in his homestead. His disappearance leads to heated arguments between Alu and Makuri as tension intensifies regarding his whereabouts. Poor health and age is also another factor affecting meaningful human relations. Makuri attributes Alu’s character to old age and deteriorating health.

From the conversation between Alu and Makuri, it is seen that a love relationship between Awuchike and Desala exists. From the play, one might blame Desala for breaking the relationship between Awuchike and his family for her desire of living an urban life. Desala was an urban girl willing to make love to his boyfriend. She was not willing to make love in the village and she compelled her boyfriend to move to town so that they would do it.

This brings out the love of her to Awuchike though it cuts the relationship between Awuchike and his family. Awuchike is an ambitious man who has reservations about life in the swamp with its hardships. He takes a journey to the city to look for a better life and this ends his relationships with his parents. His love for Desala and the thought of living large away from home is more compelling than his desire for fortune seeking. The little money he makes is for his comfort and to win Desalas’ love.

One may accuse Awuchike for his desire to cut the association with his own family in the swamp; to break the customary family relationship; to overlook society and custom; and to keep away from rural life. Even if Awuchike breaks his family bond, he goes ahead to make another family bond with his wife Desala in the city. This will be a young family bond as they will be starting a family. Soyinka observes that, “Awuchikes’ family tie with Desala is strong to the point that he even leaves his family, and disregards the social-practices to win over Desala; he indicates genuineness to Desala by moving himself from the village to the city” (17).

From the relationship between Awuchike and Desala, the need to build one’s family is a recipe to poor family relationships. Awuchike’s desire to live with Desala led to breaking the relationship between Awuchike and his parents. The desire of the younger people to work and live in the city is another limitation to meaningful human interactions just as Desala and Awuchike did. Makuri speaks profoundly of his son Awuchike although it is evident that he has some worry over his sons’ life in the city.

The two married couples always engage each other in trivial matters. Alu and Makuri alienates themselves in the swamp where no one wants to live including their sons. This is because they live in a society coupled with violence and corruption. The ruling people have created a big gap between them and the poor people who live by the swamp. This has created a society that has very poor human relations.


Soyinka, Wole. The Swamp Dwellers. St. Louis, MO: Phoenix Learning Group, 2013. Print

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