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Character Study of The Swamp Dweller
Roll No :- 08 M.A. Sem :- 04 Year :- 2015-16
Paper :- 14 The African Literature
Submitted to :-
Department of English
Wole Soyinka is a Nigerian playwright,
poet, author, teacher and political activist
who received the Nobel Prize for
Literature in 1986.
Wole Soyinka was born on July 13, 1934,
in Nigeria and educated in England. In
1986, the playwright and political activist
became the first African to receive the
Nobel Prize for Literature. He dedicated
his Nobel acceptance speech to Nelson
Mandela. Soyinka has published hundreds
of works, including drama, novels, essays
and poetry, and colleges all over the world
seek him out as a visiting professor.
The play is set in the swamp in the southern Nigeria.
The characters include:
1 . Alu
2 . Awuchike
3 . Desala
4 . Igwezu
5 . Kadiye
6 . Makuri
7 . The Beggar
The Swamp Dweller
Alu is the wife of Makuri. She is the mother of Igwezu and
Awuchike. She is aged about sixty. She believes in the custom of the
swamps. She thinks that the river bed is the ideal bridal bed. She
has more concern for Awuchike who is in the city. She has anxiety
for his safety.
Her anxiety makes her shoot questions. Her questions make Makuri
think of her as a fussy neurotic wife. She is hospitable like Makuri.
Her reaction to the words of Kadiye shows her to be a traditionalist.
Though she is outspoken, she is not for change. Alu’s understanding
of the world is very limited. Igwezu’s words about his brother
Awuchike set her anxiety at rest. All said, Alu is a loving and a
Awuchike is the twin brother of Igwezu. He does not appear as a
character in the play. It is through telling Soyinka portrays the
character of Awuchike.
Ten years ago he left the swamp. The glamour of city life has
changed his character. He has become a total city dweller. He is in
timber business. Money making carries him off his feet. He has
snapped ties with the kinsmen in the swamp. He is not a man of fair
Doing business in city has made him ruthless and heartless. He goes
to the extent of taking Desala from his brother Igwezu. He is a
betrayer. He exemplifies the statement “city turns brother against
Desala does not appear in the play as a character. But, she is spoken
off. Desala is the embodiment of the corrupt nature of the city life.
Thecharacter also echoes the materialistic attitude of city dwellers.
Desala marries Igwezu. Igwezu later becomes poor owing to bad
returns from his business.
Desala found Awuchike prospering in his business. So, Desala leaves
Igwezu and marries Awuchike. It shows how city life has become
Igwezu is the son of Alu and Makuri. He is twin with Awuchike. He is the
centre of the play. The Swamp Dwellers is a drama of revelation and
Igwezu gets education through experience both in the city and in the
Igwezu’s discovery of the deficiencies of the village life and the city life
constitutes the primary thematic content of the play. Igwezu plays a
pivotal role in the play as a truth teller. He is a character in the play who
has tasted the ups and downs of life both in the village and in the city.
As a swamp dweller he knows how life goes in the southern part of
Nigeria. It is through him Soyinka criticizes the corrupt religious practices
of Kadiye. Familial ties have meaning for him. In that aspect, Igwezu is
unlike his brother Awuchike, a city dweller.
As a city dweller for eight months, Igwezu knows the break and bounce of city life.
He knows how people like Awuchike are ruthless in making money. He is a broke
in business. He comes back home. His land is flooded. His hope of getting a good
harvest is blasted. He is betrayed by his own brother. Desala, his wife betrays him.
She changes hand.
Igwezu has a frank talk with Kadiye. The talk exposes the serpent cult as a sham.
Igwezu welcomes modernization to the swamp. He is ready for a change of mind.
For all his thinking in terms of modernization, Igwezu does not have the grit to
reclaim the land from the swamp.
Igwezu’s experience of life, both in the city and in the village disillusions him. He
reflects critically on his situation. He doubts the value system cherished by the
community. Returning to the city again is like returning to one slough from
another. He decides to entrust the land to the beggar. He rejects the Beggar’s
help because he does not like one blind man leading another.
In physical appearance Kadiye is a contrast to the beggar. He is bulky. His
fingers are heavily ringed. He is prosperous in the midst of poverty.
He is a man of self‐importance. As the priest of the serpent he fleeces the
swamp dwellers. He betrays the trust of the villagers. He encourages the
He has set his eye on Igwezu’s money. As a priest he is not bothered about
Igwezu’s lot. He exploits the villagers knowing full well they are in straits.
Soyinka satirizes the corrupt practices ail the society living in superstition
living in superstition through Kadiye.
Makuri is the father of Igwezu and Awuchike. He is the husband of Alu. As
a husband he is conceited. He is fond of teasing his wife. His continuous
bickering with his wife is only a show. He has perfect mutual
understanding with his wife. He is a good host. He offers canebrew to the
He gives himself totally to the serpent cult. Though he is seemingly angry
he has consideration for his fussy wife Alu. He represents the note of
tradition in the play. His affection for his wife is unsentimental. He is
more intelligent than his wife. Igwezu exposes Kadiye’s corrupt practice.
Makuri feels offended over it.
He is afraid of facing the wrath of the villagers. Soyinka through Makuri
emphasizes the importance and the value of marital ties between
husband and wife. He does not have delusions about the character of
Awuchike. Nor does he have it in him to console Igwezu who has come
back betrayed by his wife Desala.
The Beggar comes from Bukanji in North Nigeria. He is tall and straight. His
bearing is dignified. He is a devout Muslim. He is a man of independence.
He is resolute in supporting himself. Though he is blind he is a very good
judge of other characters in the play.
Soyinka has drawn him as a contrast to Kadiye. Though he has seen
adversity it has not shaken his spirits. He is full of hope. He shores up the
sagging spirit of Igwezu by offering him hope. He is for redeeming a piece of
land for cultivation from the swamp.
He is a man of quick intelligence. He analyzes the ills of the swamp dwellers.
He is ready to cast his lot with them. He braces himself to fight against those
who exploit them. It is an irony that the man from the north is termed as
beggar. He may be a beggar because he does not have means to support
him. But his intention is to work and earn his livelihood. He is against getting
alms. His self‐esteem does not allow him to beg. The Beggar is a man of