Comparison and Contrast of Characters in Wole Soyinka’s 'The Swamp Dwellers': Art of Characterization in 'The Swamp Dwellers'

The characters in The Swamp Dwellers fall into three groups: the parents Makuri and Alo-conservative, the corrupt priest Kadiye, who beguiles his superstitious followers; and the two positive individuals Igwezu and the Beggar, moving, wondering, seeking and then uncertain what they have found. It is a play of mood and atmosphere, constructed so as to provide the audience with ample opportunity to make comparisons and reach judgment. Soyinka makes his points through implied contrasts and comparisons. In the play, there is contrast between twin brothers, father and son, between mother- in –law and daughter- in- law, between the Beggar and host, comparison between Igwezu and the Beggar and the final contrast between the Beggar and the Priest Kadiye.

Two Brothers

The most obvious contrast is that between the twins brothers, who look alike but behave differently Awuchike has left home for ten years and lives in town. There he deals in timbers and thrives fast. But he never thinks of his poor old parents. Besides, he does not even communicate with his parents, as a result his mother thinks that, he died in swamp drowning, though his father knows that he is still alive in town and earning money there. He is dead to his parents and family responsibility/ whereas, Igwezu is quite opposite to him. He also goes to town with his wife to seek his fortune. He promised that, with first earned money, he will send a swivel chair for his father and he fulfils his promise. He communicates with his parents and looks after them. After all, Awuchike is callous, self centered, egoster, nonchalant, unmindful, undutiful ad disobedient towards parents but Igwezu is obedient, dutiful towards his parents.

Contrast between mother- in –law and daughter- in- law

There is a contrast between the women in the family. Igwezu’s mother Alu is faithful and loyal to his father Makuri. Alu and Makuri lead their conjugal life in subsistence level. Makuri makes basket with rushes and Alu works at her “adire’ cloth. Makuri is also an occasional barer. After all, they live from hand to mouth. In youth, Alu was very beautiful. A group of crocodile traders visited the Swamp and offered Alu to leave for city with them but Alu checked the temptation and rejected their offers. Throughout her life, she shares the well and woe of her husband and remains faithful. Makuri never feels tension for her sake. Besides, she loves the swamp region and never expresses any wish to leave for city. But Igwezu’s wife is reversed to Alu. Her condition before wedding was that, she must have to be taken to town after marriage. She does not like rustic life, careless about Igwezu’s parens. Besides, whenever he begins their urban life, Igwezu’s wife leaves him for wealthy Awuchike. The contrasting point between these two women is that, one is faithful and consistent to husband and another is inconsistent and unfaithful, one is materialistic, another is simple and honest.

Beggar in comparison to Igwezu

The blind beggar offers a comparison to Igwezu. The beggar loses his crops to locust and leaves his home in Bukanji, walks to the south passing through the city, searching for land to cultivate. Igwezu also loses his crops to flood leaves his home in Swamp and takes shelter in town. That is both experience misfortune but both are resolved to earn their livelihood by labor. They are unlike Awchike and Kadiye.

Contrast between Makuri and the beggar

There is a contrast between Makuri and the beggar. Though Makuri has eyesight, he cannot detect the mystery that his family is being beguiled, deceived by the corrupt Priest. But though the beggar is deprived of eyesight, his spiritual light is so powerful and penetrative that, he can detect the bulk of the Priest out of his voice. This means that, he can guess that the Priest is consuming their fresh crops by means of false rituals.

Beggar contrasts to the Priest Kadiye

The blind beggar also offers a contrast to the Priest Kadiye. Though he is regarded as beggar, actually, he does not believe in begging. Rather he believes in the virtue of diligence- this is how he leaves his home and gets out in search of a cultivable land. When the servant of the priest gives a coin, the beggar keeps his bowl upside down. The beggar is not superstitious. He can not believe that, there is any supernatural being in the name a serpent God, who possesses land. But, the priest whose head is bold, skin-tender, looks like greasy porpoises begs his in sophisticated form. He takes goats, ores and other sacrifices offered by the simple minded villagers. They offer the sacrifice to appease the God and want protection at their lives and crops. But the priest consumes when Igwezu asks,” Why are you so fat?” He leaves Makuri’s house. After all, the beggar wants to earn his livelihood by labor while the priest earns his livelihood by false bait and deception. The Beggar deceives none rather raises optimistic views in Igwezu but he priest deceives all.

Contrast between town and country

Finally there is a contrast between town and country. Life in town is source of pain, disappointment and frustration. It is a greed dominated place and only hard- hearted people prosper. But life in country is blend & sorrow and happiness. In village, the family is integrated, people are simple minded, hospitable, capable of being deceived very easily. Besides, the country people are the puppet at the hand of nature. Nature shatter their hope again offers the victim an optimism.

To conclude, through the typical characterization Wole Soyika brings to our notice the attitude, culture and life style of Nigerian people. Besides he shows how the overall economic growth affects the subsistence economy of Nigeria.