SUMMARY OF MOROUNTODUN BY FEMI OSOFISAN
Morountodun is a play written by Femi Osofisan, which reflects the 1965 Agbekoya uprising when poor peasants revolted against the oppressive government. The playwright through flashbacks brought past events into the present to bear on the subject matter, which is the evaluation of the contribution of women in nation building and peacekeeping. The playwright adopted the style of play within a play in advancing the plot.
For instance, the play started with the presentation of theatrical performance but in the course of the performance, there is an interruption by Titubi and her group representing rich class) which then unfolds the rest of the action.
The play having a historical background is structured in a way that event of the past shuffle into the present to create a fantastic whole. As Titubi and her group come to disrupt the performance which is a way they feel is the best way to stop the revolters (because they assume the revolters to be selling out their ideas to the masses who after watching the performances will support them) she discovered another way of achieving this after her interaction with the deputy superintended who is fishing out their leader.
To achieve this, Titubi volunteered to disguise herself as a prisoner so that when Marshal’s men will storm the prison house she will be rescued as one of the one of the prisoners. The overall aim of this is to find her way to the camp of the revolters to know their secret and consequently weaken them, just as if Moremi did to the Igbos.
Unfortunately, when Titubi made her way to the camp of the peasants in disguised of a prisoner, she discovered that the prisoners are fighting just course. Though she succeeded in arresting their leader (Marshal), she requested for negotiation between the two parties to the surprise of the deputy superintendent and her own mother Alhaja Rabirat.
Having stayed with the peasant, she witnessed their suffering and identified with their quest for fair play. For her, Moremi, her role model fought a just cause but in her own case, she found out that the state is not always right like the case of the exploitation of the poor farmers who pays tax more than they earn.
THEMES IN MOROUNTODUN BY FEMI OSOFISAN
Theme of Courage in Women
Women as Heroines and Anti-Heroines in Morountodun Considering the plot and subject matter, Femi Osofisan’s Morountodun is a mythic-historical play. The play is based on the heroism of the mythical character, Moremi, who is a wife of Oranmiyan, and the fictional character, Titubi, within the historical context of the Agbekoya uprising of the 1970s.
It focuses on the heroic role played by Titubi, the daughter of Alhaja Kabirat, who infiltrates the camp of an Agbekoya militant group with the intention of ending the burning militancy. The play also revolves around the mythical heroism of Moremi of Ile-Ife, who attempts to put a stop to an incessant attack on the Ife kingdom by marauding Igbo people. At the end of the play, Titubi is able to hand over the leaders of Agbekoya to the government, which brings the conflict in the play to an end.
When all hopes are lost and when the Ife people have resigned to fate, Moremi attempts the unexpected by volunteering to infiltrate the Igbo camp to learn the secret of Igbo power. She is morally, psychologically, socially, and physically qualified to liberate her people from the bondage of fear of the marauding Igbo people. Furthermore, she challenges her people not to resign to fate and expect miracles from the gods, as can be seen in the following dialogue between Moremi and Niniola:
NINIOLA: The gods are with us
MOREMI: With their backs turned to us
NINIOLA: The gods will never turn their back! May the afternoon never suddenly take on the shroud of night in our life!
MOREMI: Futile prayers! How many times already we have watched our festivals change into periods of mourning when the Igbos set on us. Yet we have made sacrifices upon sacrifices till the earth is glutted with blood. Our priests have scraped their throats hoarse on incantations, and their latest ploy is to try to make us accept defeat as fate. Tell me, my friend, what more shall we do to learn that the gods will not help us? I have decided. Moremi shall be the clay, which the race requires to, remolds itself.
NINIOLA: You frighten me, Moremi. You repudiate the gods. . . .
MOREMI: (Amused) Come, Nini. Embrace me. I am glad you came and talked to me. . . . Your doubt and your fear have strengthened me. I shall go, and I shall return. . . .(p.33-34)
Moremi is not discouraged by the sympathetic reactions of her friend, Niniola. She is resolute to liberate her race from the external attack of the Igbo people. Therefore, she dares to tread the path on which all the menfolk in Ile-Ife, including Oranmiyan, the king, have failed to walk on.
In the mythical story of Moremi of Ile-Ife, Moremi pledged her only son, Ela, also known as Oluorogbo, for Esinimirin River as a surety for her safe return from Igbo land. She eventually returned from her sojourn, with all the secrets of the power of the Igbos, and subsequently surrendered her only son. In this mythical story and its re-interpretation in the play, Moremi makes herself a scapegoat for the liberation of her people. This heroic deed of Moremi has been celebrated annually in Ile-Ife until today.
The Theme of Oppression
The dominant theme as can be seen in the play is that of oppression of the poor by the rich (under the shell of the government) that prompted the revolution by the poor farmers. Government made people to pay taxes through their noses and when it became unbearable, the peasants took to arms. We see this oppression extended to the theatrical situation where Titubi and leer group stopped the performance because they feel it endangers their well-being. Also in the story of Moremi we see the Igbos oppressing the Yorubas and so on.
TITUBI: I saw myself growing up, knowing no such sufferings as these. With always so much to eat, even servants feed their dogs. Yet here, farmers cannot eat their own products, for they need the money from the market. They tend the yams but dare not taste. They raise the chickens, but must be content with wind in their stomach (p.66).
From the above quotation it can be seen that Titubi who was a woman took upon herself to stand and fight for the freedom of her people and that of her land from the hands of their government who treated them with no regards for their right and feelings as poor farmers by laving on them high taxation but decided to leave them in total suffering without any public amenities. Titubi gender did not stop her from risking her live to get to the root of the problem, disguising herself to enter into the camp of rebel group to know the reason for the war. She further says;
Titubi: wait I have not finished. Listen to the rest, for without knowing it , shame of my past had come flooding into my eye as I see men falling but they did not mourn, when I asked they said that they are fighting for the freedom of the children(p.67)
Osofisan portray operation by using Titubi to x-ray the suffering of the famers and the wickedness of government over them, he also shows the power and potential of a woman being able to provide a lasting solution to war that has been going on for years between the poor farmers and the government, which men were running away from.
Theme of courage is also noticed in the play. Titubi is portrayed as a courageous character that is ready to do anything possible to get what she wants. Though she is of a rich background, she let herself be imprisoned to get into the camp of the peasant with the sole aim of capturing their leader, which she did.
The story of Moremi also portrayed Moremi as a fearless character who against all odds accepted to go into slavery just to accomplish her mission f exposing the secrets of the Igbos and consequently weakening them. On the side of Marshal, he is seen as a fearless and courageous fighter who is bent on fighting it to the last. Not even when the government agrees dialogue, Marshal sees it as an opportunity to take his turn on them.
Another significant theme in this play is revolution. The farmers feel the government is not giving them fair treatment took to arm since dialogue failed.
The peasants wrote many letters to the government to look into the condition but instead of relieving them of their burden, the government resorted to making things worse for them which now gave the peasants the idea that the best way to live is to die, and that is why they refused to look back notwithstanding the fact that their men fall day by day. It was a good thing to learn that the revolution though bloody brought the desired change.
The Style in the Play
The playwright uses simple and straightforward language. The playwright made use of English language but he infused Yoruba language into it to reflect the social background of the play. Through language, he was able to differentiate characters and review the inner minds of the characters.
For instance, Moremi has this to say in order to show her determination to save her people: “This is a day of joy, my friends! The land is going to be reborn, by the Daring of a woman” (p.78).This portrays her as a determinant character. Titubi also demonstrates a similar characteristic when she tells her mother;
Titubi: I volunteered (more excited) you see, mama, they are coming to this prison this week…the police will let them come, and free the prisoners, including me. (p.19)
Therefore, through suitable use of words, the playwright was able to pass his message across without confusing events and personalities.
Narrative Technique in the Play
Osofisan’s Morountodun is a play that is written using first person and second person narrative techniques.
Osofisan uses these techniques to mirror the societal problem and the importance of women in solving societal problems, this he does by allowing characters to flow in the play as the narrator of the play. He also employs some figure of speech to capture the mind of the reader and below are some of them:
Baba: As long as the long eye of the sky
Mama Kayode: As long as the length of a ripe life
Baba: As long as the eye of the sky
Mama Kayode: As long as the long length of a ripe life
Osofisan employ Irony in the play thus,
Superintendents: You’ll live woman. Very very good
Moremi: Come, Nini embrace me. I am glad you came and talk to me.
The player right employed some personification thus,
Morem: It was such a pregnant day for us
Marshall: The sky sings to us the songs of victory.
Characterization in the play
Characterization has to do with the numbers of actors and an actress in the play and in Osofisan’s Morountodun, below are some of the characters;
Titubi the daughter of Alhaja Kabirat belongs to the upper class who gets richer at the expense of the poor. These upper class felt threatened when the poor farmers revolted against the government because they know that the war will affect the economics activities rest of those things that goes with war.
For this, they sought for a way to stop the farmers and their first attempt was to stop any theatrical activity that reflects the oppression. In the process of stopping the theatrical performance, Titubi discovered a more effective way of achieving her goal.
In display of humanly feeling in Titubi she felt back when she finally made her way into the camp of the poor farmer because she experienced their suffering herself and understands what it means to b poor in a society, where the poor are reduced to a mere chicken by the ruling class.
An important unique characteristic of Titubi is courage. She was courageous you walk into the mouth of python (the revolters) just to accomplish a mission. She could not hesitate to make a turn after staying with the peasants especially when the deputy superintendent was congratulating her thinking that she is going to hand marshal over to him. Through her, the war between the peasants and the farmers was resolved.
Alhaja Kabirat is a wealthy woman and the leader of the market women, whom of which are the piloters of affairs in their society. Though she was afraid of the revolter, she felt her daughter should not be the object of the problem solving as regards the government intention to stop the peasants. She plays more regard to her prestige than any other thing and that is why she wanted her daughter back despite her daughter’s courage to help in stopping the resulting farmers.
As a rich person, she is so proud because she believed that money solves all problems. She was so disappointed when assumed that the war is won as Titubi led Marshal to the deputy superintendent but Titubi turned the gun against the superintendent instead. Finally, she is a loving mother who will do anything to protect the interest of her child.
He represents the government and seeks a way of stopping the farmers. He sees Titubi’s courage to stop the revolters as an opportunity to achieve his aim. Though he recognizes the power of the wealthy but he maintains the dictate of his job. She was happy to see Titubi’s accomplishment of their plan but it surprised him to see Titubi supporting the poor farmers.
Marshal is a very important figure when he talks about the Agbekoya uprising. He believes in action and not words. For him, he is saturated with result less dialogues with the government. He ceased the opportunity of one of such dialogue to strike. Though he ended up in the struggle be his name still rings like a bell because his last action contributed in the government’s sincere agreement for settlement. Marshal though captured by Titubi is a brave and sensible fighter whose worth is measured in the battlefield
Baba is another important figure to be noted. He is the leader of the camp and he is always in fond of seeking other people’s opinion. As a good leader, he tolerates other peoples’ opinion. Baba believes in dialogue and that is why he did not approve of Marshals idea of fighting even when the government called for dialogue.
Moremi is like a symbol in the whole story line. She is a courageous woman who volunteered to go into slavery In order to save her kingdom despite the fact that she is a queen. Moremi went into the camp of the igbos who torment the Yorubas from time to time and was able to discover their secret which she passed unto her people and this gave them victory. Moremi believed that human beings have a lot to do for themselves rather than relying on the gods.
He is the stooge used by the government for its ugly policy extension. He is moved by money and duty to the extent that he agreed to sneak into the peasants’ camp with the intention of exposing and crushing their revolution. When he was caught, he pleaded guilty to show the extent at which he cherished his little life.