Conflict analysis of the traditional and Western culture a case study of Wole soyinka "Death and the king's horseman

Faithful Williams 41 PAGES (11338 WORDS) Project
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This paper is set to address the conflict between traditional and western culture by analyzing Wole Soyinka’s Death and the King’s Horseman. Culture as a concept has various definitions by scholars and critics in which they gave their view about culture. 

The excellent definition of culture was provided by the 19th-century English anthropologist Edward Burnett Tylor in the first paragraph of his work, edified Primitive Culture (1871): “Culture is that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society.

Culture refers to the total deposit of knowledge, experience, beliefs, morals,

behavior, meanings, hierarchies, religion, notions of time, roles, spatial relations, concepts of  the universe, and material objects and possessions accumulated by a group of people in the course of generations through individual and group striving. It is a system of knowledge shared by a large group of people. Culture in its broadest view is a cultivated behavior; that is, the totality of a person's learned experience which is socially transmitted. It is a way of life of a group of people; the behaviors, beliefs, values, and symbols that they accept, generally without thinking about them, and that are passed along by communication and imitation from one generation to the next. Culture is an object of communication; some of its symbols include a group's skills, knowledge, behavior, morals, and motives. The meanings of the symbols are acquired and intentionally perpetuated in a society through its institutions. Culture is an emotional fact which an individual cherish and protects dearly. Therefore, literature becomes the way through which these cultural emotions are expressed. 

Africans have for long being a practitioner of this culture and the coming of the foreigners; the Europeans brought about new culture which is different from Africans culture. The refusal of Africans to accept the foreigner’s culture has brought in conflict between the western culture and the traditional culture in which the disapproval is manifesting in the literary works that are produced.

This refusal of the traditional culture practitioners in accepting the western culture leads to the term conflict. According to Encarta 2009 Dictionary, it states that ‘conflict is a disagreement or clash between ideas, principles or people’. It can also be a state of mind resulting from the often unconscious opposition between simultaneous but incompatible desires, needs, drives or impulse. Hence this work is set to address the conflict between traditional and western culture by explaining Wole Soyinka’s Death and the King’s Horseman.



Born Akinwande Oluwole Soyinka in the western part of  Nigeria called Ogun State, Wole Soyinka was born on the 13th of July, 1934, at Isara, Ijebu Remo near Abeokuta to Mr. Ayodele and Mrs. Eniola Soyinka. His father was a school supervisor and his mother was a trader. Wole Soyinka, as he is popularly called, grew up in a time of transition when the technologically more advanced colonist, Britain, was destroying the very foundation of the indigenous Nigeria civilisation.  Soyinka is seen as a writer who partly writes to explain the social dilemma of the group to which he belongs and partly to a way of life which has survived to some extent, and might have more fully survived, if certain historical events had not so drastically affected Africa and the attitudes of Africans not only to people of other race but also to their own selves. This is what playwright portrayed in his plays which we have for this study. The fact that Wole Soyinka has lived to write so much about the African experience is a miracle. His upbringing reflected both African and western influences, and the conflict and interaction between these two forces occupies most of his writings, particularly in the play; Death and the King’s Horseman by Wole Soyinka which will be the  text of study in this research work.

Some critics of the playwright agree that he is an African writer with stronger African than western theatrical bias, and his style is mid-way between African and European tradition. In short, his drama is a perfect synthesis of both traditions. Finally, most of his plays, including the text being understudied; the themes, plots and settings are mainly African.


This research will be base on culture as a principle but it will focus its attention on the conflict between traditional and western culture using Soyinka's Death and the King's Horseman. The European colonizers brought a new culture to Africa with the aim of putting an end Africa's culture, as such, African rejected the culture, thereby leading to conflict between the two cultures.


The aim of this research is to carry out an analysis on conflict between traditional culture and western culture by using Soyinka’s Death and the Kings Horseman as a case study. The objectives of this research are as follows:

To examine the effect of colonization on African traditional culture

To examine the conflicting point between traditional culture and western culture in Soyinka's Death and the King's Horseman

To assess the possible solutions to the conflict between traditional and western culture


The research is designed to give adequate answer to the research by answering the following questions:

What are the effects of colonization on African culture?

What are the conflicting point between traditional and western culture in Soyinka's Death and the King's Horseman?

What are the possible solutions to the conflict between traditional and western culture?


This research work is significant in its ability to achieve mutual co-existence between traditional and western culture in Death and the King’s Horseman. Leaning on Biblical references; Amos (3:3), ‘Can two walk together lest they agreed’, also in Psalm (133:1) ‘How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity’. These biblical references show that tranquility can be brought back in the world at large. Due to the technological introduction of the western world which has had effect on our tradition, I believe this research will serve as an eye opener on the danger of the European culture being lord over African tradition in the present and future generation to come.

The significance of studying this book is that it contains vital information useful to African and Europeans in their relationship. In addition to that the play by Wole Soyinka who won the first Nobel prize for literature was dramatized in different forms as it is recognized all over the world.


The research center on a postcolonial interpretation of Soyinka’s Death and the King’s Horseman. The choice to do a post colonial analysis of this book is born out of the need for reorientation and correct African souls on why it is important to withdraw all forms of assault and insult from the Europeans. It is wrongly believe by the western culture that traditional culture is barbaric, evil and illegal and as such Soyinka’s intention is to bring out the conflicting point between these cultures. Despite the unacceptability of the culture by Europeans, the traditional culture practitioners still fight to the end to support its culture.

After independence, Europeans still refuse to let go of their belief about African tradition, hence, the Africans post colonist  are against  the Europeans lordship and came up with the ideology that colonialism was a violent and terrible things which is set to rob off Africans of their identity.

Many writers and scholars have done a postcolonial work but none to my knowledge has done a postcolonial interpretation of Soyinka’s Death and the Kings Horseman. It is therefore, worthy of attention to research into one of the most burning issues on western culture interference on traditional culture which is leading to conflict. It is also trying to bring out possible way of achieving happy resolution without causing injuries to any party. As a matter of fact, the study is trying not to bring western or traditional dominance but to bring out lovely partnership.


This research is limited to a critical analysis of the text Death and the King’s Horseman by Wole Soyinka and few selected texts due to time and money factor.


This study is based on internet surfing, library research and information from relevant journals. Views and opinions of scholars who have either read the novel or made contribution to post-colonialism will be an added voice in this search.Post colonialism will be explored in an attempt to justify the need for peaceful coexistence between these cultures. This ideology will enrich and deepen the understanding of this research work. This research tends to proffer solution to the antagonistic angst between traditional and western culture through critical analysis of Death and the King’s Horseman by Wole Soyinka.


The following terms are operational used in the research:

1.10.1 CONFLICT:

According to Schelling (1960) “Conflicts are strategic and essentially bargaining situations in which the ability of one participant to gain his ends is dependent on the choices or decisions that the other participant will make”.

1.10.2. CULTURE

According to CARLA “culture is defined as the shared patterns of behaviors and interactions, cognitive constructs, and affective understanding that are learned through a process of socialization. These shared patterns identify the members of a culture group while also distinguishing those of another group. Banks, J.A., Banks, & McGee, C. A. (1989). Multicultural education. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon.”

1.10.3. TRADITION:

Tradition is generational; it is passed down from one generation to the next. Traditions are custom that connect a people and consists of the practices of everyday life. They serve the purpose of identifying a particular group, symbolizing the identity of that group of people. Tradition consists of behavior as well as the values, worldwide views that under rile people’s behavior. Tradition connect people with their ancestors, it connects us with the past, the presents and serve as a guide to the future.

1.10.4 RELIGION:

Religion has three (3) facets

Religion as belief 

Religion as identity

Religion as a way of life


This is the conviction that people hold regarding such matters as God, truth or doctrines of faith Gunn ( 2003:200).


This emphasizes affiliation with a group. In this sense, identity religion is experienced as something akin to family, ethnicity, race, nationality. Thus, it is something to which people believe they are born rather than something to which they convert after a process of study, prayer or reflection. It is likely to emphasize shared theological beliefs and more likely to emphasize shared histories, cultures, ethnicity and traditions Gunn (2003:201)


This is associated with actions, rituals, customs and traditions that may distinguish the believer from adherents of other religions.


Colonialism involves the direct territorial appropriation of another geo-political entity, combined with forthright exploitation of its resources and labor, and systematic interference in the capacity of the appropriated culture to organize its dispensations of power (McClintock, 1992: 88).


According to the Wikipedia Western culture “is a term used very broadly to refer to a heritage of social norms, ethical values, traditional customs, belief systems, political systems and specific artifacts and technologies that have some origin or association with Europe. The term also applies beyond Europe to countries and cultures whose histories are strongly connected to Europe by immigration, colonization, or influence. For example, Western culture includes countries in the Americas and Australasia, whose language and demographic ethnicity majorities are European”.

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Faithful, W (2020). Conflict analysis of the traditional and Western culture a case study of Wole soyinka "Death and the king's horseman. Retrieved July 06, 2020, from

MLA 8th

Williams, Faithful. "Conflict analysis of the traditional and Western culture a case study of Wole soyinka "Death and the king's horseman", 22 Jun. 2020, . Accessed 06 Jul. 2020.


Williams, Faithful. "Conflict analysis of the traditional and Western culture a case study of Wole soyinka "Death and the king's horseman".,, 22 Jun. 2020. Web. 06 Jul. 2020. < >.


Williams, Faithful. "Conflict analysis of the traditional and Western culture a case study of Wole soyinka "Death and the king's horseman" (2020). Accessed July 06, 2020.