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Wole Soyinka's The Trials of Brother Jero: A Masterpiece of African Satire



The Trials of Brother Jero: A Satirical Play by Wole Soyinka




Introduction




Satire is a literary device that uses humour, irony, exaggeration, and invective to expose and criticize the vices and follies of individuals, institutions, or societies. Satire aims to provoke laughter, but also to inspire reform or change. Satire has been used by many writers throughout history, such as Horace, Juvenal, Swift, Voltaire, Twain, Orwell, and Vonnegut.




The Trials Of Brother Jero PDF


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One of the most prominent satirists in African literature is Wole Soyinka, a Nigerian playwright, poet, novelist, essayist, activist, and Nobel laureate. Soyinka has written many works that deal with the political, social, cultural, and religious issues of his country and continent. He has also been a vocal critic of dictatorship, oppression, corruption, violence, and injustice.


One of his early plays that showcases his satirical talent is The Trials of Brother Jero, which was first performed in 1960 and published in 1964. The play is a comedy that mocks the phenomenon of religious charlatanism and exploitation in Nigeria. It also exposes the flaws and weaknesses of human nature that make people susceptible to deception and manipulation.


The play is set in a beach near Lagos, where a self-proclaimed prophet named Brother Jero operates his business of duping his followers with false prophecies and promises. He encounters various characters who come to him for different reasons: some for spiritual guidance, some for material gain, some for personal revenge, and some for political ambition. The play follows his trials and tribulations as he tries to maintain his reputation and avoid his enemies.


The main characters and their roles in the satire




Brother Jero: The fake prophet and the protagonist




Brother Jero is the main character of the play. He is a young man who claims to be a prophet of God with special powers and visions. He wears a white robe and a velvet cape that he inherited from his mentor, who taught him how to deceive people with tricks and lies. He has a hut on the beach where he receives his customers and collects their money or gifts.


Brother Jero is a cunning and greedy man who exploits people's ignorance, superstition, fear, hope, and desire. He tells them what they want to hear or what he thinks will benefit him. He manipulates them with false prophecies that are vague or contradictory. He also uses his charm, wit, eloquence, and humour to persuade and entertain them. He is aware of his dishonesty and hypocrisy, but he justifies it by saying that he is doing God's work or that he is helping people in his own way.


Brother Jero is also a coward and a liar who tries to avoid trouble and responsibility. He fears his creditors, his rivals, and his enemies. He lies to them or runs away from them when they confront him. He also lies to himself and to God, pretending that he is a sincere and humble servant. He is always looking for an opportunity to escape from his problems or to achieve his dreams of fame and fortune.


Chume: The gullible follower and the victim




Chume is one of Brother Jero's loyal followers. He is a middle-aged man who works as a messenger for a government minister. He is unhappy with his job and his life. He hates his boss, who treats him badly and pays him poorly. He also hates his wife, Amope, who nags him constantly and spends his money recklessly.


Chume is a naive and simple man who trusts Brother Jero blindly. He believes that Brother Jero is a genuine prophet who can help him improve his situation. He follows his instructions obediently and gives him money or gifts regularly. He hopes that Brother Jero will fulfill his prophecy that he will become the head of his department and that he will be able to divorce his wife.


Chume is also a weak and passive man who lacks courage and initiative. He is afraid of his boss, who threatens to fire him if he complains or disobeys. He is also afraid of his wife, who dominates him and abuses him physically and verbally. He does not stand up for himself or take action to change his circumstances. He relies on Brother Jero's guidance and intervention, but he does not realize that Brother Jero is using him and lying to him.


Amope: The nagging wife and the antagonist




Amope is Chume's wife and Brother Jero's enemy. She is a middle-aged woman who runs a small shop in the market. She is unhappy with her husband and her marriage. She thinks that Chume is a lazy and useless man who does not provide enough for her and their children. She also thinks that Chume is cheating on her with another woman.


Amope is a loud and aggressive woman who complains and argues incessantly. She demands money and respect from Chume, but she does not give him any love or support. She insults him and beats him whenever she gets angry or frustrated. She also interferes with his affairs and tries to control his life.


Amope is also a proud and stubborn woman who does not listen to reason or advice. She refuses to pay her debts or to compromise with her creditors. She also refuses to accept Brother Jero as a prophet or to follow his teachings. She suspects that Brother Jero is a fraud and a crook who has deceived her husband and taken her money. She vows to expose him and to punish him for his crimes.


Other minor characters and their functions




The play also features some other minor characters who play different roles in the satire. They include:



  • The Old Prophet: He is Brother Jero's former mentor, who taught him how to be a fake prophet. He is an old man who wears a ragged robe and a torn cape. He is jealous of Brother Jero's success and popularity, and he tries to ruin his reputation by spreading rumours about him.



  • The Member: He is one of Brother Jero's followers, who comes to him for political advice. He is an ambitious man who wants to become a member of parliament. He believes that Brother Jero can help him achieve his goal by giving him prophecies and blessings.



  • The Fisherman: He is one of the beach dwellers, who witnesses Brother Jero's activities. He is a poor man who lives by fishing in the sea. He does not trust Brother Jero or any other prophet, and he mocks them for their pretensions and frauds.



  • The Girl: She is one of Brother Jero's customers, who comes to him for love advice. She is a young woman who has a crush on a handsome soldier. She hopes that Brother Jero can make the soldier fall in love with her by using his magic powers.



  • The Soldier: He is the object of the girl's affection, who appears briefly at the end of the play. He is a handsome man who wears a smart uniform. He does not know the girl or Brother Jero, but he agrees to go with them when they approach him.



The themes and the messages of the satire




Religious hypocrisy and exploitation




One of the main themes of the play is the criticism of religious hypocrisy and exploitation. Soyinka portrays Brother Jero as a false prophet who uses religion as a means to deceive and manipulate his followers for his own selfish interests. He does not care about their spiritual well-being or salvation, but only about their money and gifts. He also does not practice what he preaches, as he indulges in sins such as lust, greed, pride, envy, and lying.


Soyinka also shows how Brother Jero exploits the weaknesses and vulnerabilities of his followers, who are desperate for solutions to their problems or fulfillment of their desires. He takes advantage of their ignorance, superstition, fear, hope, and ambition. He tells them what they want to hear or what suits his agenda. He makes them dependent on him and his prophecies, which are often vague or contradictory. He also charges them high fees or demands expensive gifts for his services.


Soyinka's satire exposes the corruption and fraud that exist in some religious institutions and leaders, especially in Nigeria. He challenges the audience to question the authenticity and credibility of such people who claim to have divine authority or power. He also warns the audience to be wary of being deceived or exploited by such people who prey on their emotions or needs.


Political corruption and opportunism




Another theme of the play is the criticism of political corruption and opportunism. Soyinka depicts the Nigerian society as a place where politics is dominated by dishonesty, greed, selfishness, and violence. He shows how some politicians use their positions to enrich themselves or to oppress others. He also shows how some people use politics as a way to achieve their personal goals or agendas.


One example of this theme is the character of the Member of Parliament, who comes to Brother Jero for political advice. He is an ambitious man who wants to become a Minister for War. He believes that Brother Jero can help him achieve his goal by giving him prophecies and blessings. He does not care about the welfare of the people or the country, but only about his own power and glory.


Another example is the character of Chume's boss, who is a government minister. He is a cruel and arrogant man who treats Chume badly and pays him poorly. He threatens to fire Chume if he complains or disobeys him. He also abuses his authority by using Chume's bicycle without his permission or compensation.


Soyinka's satire exposes the flaws and vices that plague the Nigerian political system and culture. He criticizes the lack of integrity, accountability, justice, and democracy in the government and its officials. He also criticizes the lack of awareness, responsibility, and participation among the citizens and their representatives.


Social injustice and inequality




A third theme of the play is the criticism of social injustice and inequality. Soyinka portrays the Nigerian society as a place where there are huge gaps and conflicts between different classes, genders, ethnicities, and religions. He shows how some people suffer from poverty, oppression, discrimination, or violence because of their social status or identity. He also shows how some people exploit or abuse others because of their social privilege or power.


One example of this theme is the character of Chume, who represents the poor and oppressed class in Nigeria. He is a low-paid messenger who works hard but gets little reward or respect. He lives in a slum with his wife and children, who depend on him for survival. He faces constant harassment and humiliation from his boss, his wife, and Brother Jero.


Another example is the character of Amope, who represents the women in Nigeria. She is a market woman who runs a small shop with her husband's money. She faces many challenges and difficulties as a woman in a patriarchal society. She has to deal with her husband's infidelity and violence, her creditors' threats and insults, and Brother Jero's fraud and deception.


Soyinka's satire exposes the problems and issues that affect the Nigerian society and its people. He criticizes the lack of fairness, equality, respect, and harmony among different groups and individuals. He also criticizes the lack of compassion, solidarity, and cooperation among those who share similar struggles or interests.


Moral decadence and dishonesty




A fourth theme of the play is the criticism of moral decadence and dishonesty. Soyinka portrays the Nigerian society as a place where morality and honesty are rare and undervalued. He shows how some people have lost their sense of right and wrong, or their conscience and dignity. He also shows how some people lie, cheat, steal, or harm others without remorse or consequence.


One example of this theme is the character of Brother Jero, who represents the moral decay and dishonesty in Nigeria. He is a fake prophet who lies to his followers and to himself. He cheats them of their money and gifts. He steals from them and from others. He harms them physically and spiritually. He does not feel any guilt or regret for his actions, but rather takes pride and pleasure in them.


Another example is the character of the Fisherman, who represents the moral indifference and cynicism in Nigeria. He is a poor man who lives by fishing in the sea. He does not trust or respect any prophet or religion. He mocks them for their pretensions and frauds. He does not care about anything or anyone but himself and his survival.


Soyinka's satire exposes the decline and loss of moral values and principles in the Nigerian society and its people. He criticizes the lack of honesty, integrity, conscience, and dignity among them. He also criticizes the lack of justice, accountability, repentance, and redemption for their sins and crimes.


Conclusion




The Trials of Brother Jero is a satirical play by Wole Soyinka that ridicules religious hypocrisy and exploitation, political corruption and opportunism, social injustice and inequality, and moral decadence and dishonesty in Nigeria. The play uses humour, irony, exaggeration, and invective to expose and criticize the vices and follies of its characters, who represent different aspects of the Nigerian society and culture. The play also challenges the audience to question their own beliefs, values, actions, and responsibilities as citizens and human beings.


The play is a masterpiece of African literature that showcases Soyinka's artistic talent and social vision. It is one of his most popular and frequently performed works, as it appeals to both local and global audiences with its universal themes and messages. It is also one of his most influential works, as it inspires other writers and artists to use satire as a powerful tool for social commentary and change.


If you enjoyed reading this article, you might also like to read some of Soyinka's other works, such as A Dance of the Forests (1960), The Lion and the Jewel (1963), Death and the King's Horseman (1975), Ake: The Years of Childhood (1981), The Beatification of Area Boy (1995), You Must Set Forth at Dawn (2006), or Of Africa (2012).


FAQs





  • Q: Who is Wole Soyinka? A: Wole Soyinka is a Nigerian writer, poet, playwright, novelist, essayist, activist, and Nobel laureate. He is one of the most celebrated and influential African writers of the 20th and 21st centuries.



  • Q: What is The Trials of Brother Jero about? A: The Trials of Brother Jero is a satirical play that mocks religious charlatanism and exploitation in Nigeria. It follows the adventures of a fake prophet named Brother Jero who deceives his followers with false prophecies and promises.



  • Q: When was The Trials of Brother Jero written? A: The Trials of Brother Jero was written in 1960, shortly after Nigeria gained its independence from Britain. It was first performed at Ibadan's University College in April 1960.



  • Q: What are some of the themes of The Trials of Brother Jero? A: Some of the themes of The Trials of Brother Jero are religious hypocrisy and exploitation, political corruption and opportunism, social injustice and inequality, and moral decadence and dishonesty.



  • Q: What are some of the techniques of satire used in The Trials of Brother Jero? A: Some of the techniques of satire used in The Trials of Brother Jero are humour, irony, exaggeration, and invective.



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