THREE SUITORS ONE HUSBAND
By Oyono Mbia
About the Author
Guillaume Oyono-Mbia, (born 1939, Mvoutessi, Cameroon), African dramatist and short-story writer, one of bilingual Cameroon’s few writers to achieve success both in French and in English. Oyono-Mbia attended the Collège Évangélique at Limbamba and then went to England, graduating from the University of Keele in 1968. With skills often compared to those of Molière, Oyono-Mbia exercised an unusual ability to create comedies that play well both on stage and on radio. Among them are Trois prétendants . . . un mari (1962; Three Suitors . . . One Husband), Until Further Notice (1967), Notre fille ne se mariera pas! (1969; “Our Daughter Will Not Marry!”), and His Excellency’s Train (1969), all written on his favourite theme of youth versus adult, modernity versus tradition.
THREE SUITORS ONE HUSBAND
PLAYWRIGHT: OYONO MBIA
SETTING : MVOUTESSI VILLLAGE-CAMEROON
Atangana – Juliette’s father
Makrita – Atangana’s wife.
Oyono – Atangana’s son
Julliette – Atangana’s daughter
Abessolo – Juliette’s grandfather
Bella - Juliette’s grandmother
Ondua – Atangana’s brother.
Matalina – Ondua’s daughter.
Mbarga – the village headman.
Mezoe – a relative.
Kouma – Juliette’s cousin.
Oko - Juliette’s fiancé.
Ndi - the first suitor.
Mbia – the second suitor.
Engulu – Mbia’s driver.
Tchetgen – the third suitor.
Sangatiti – the witch doctor
Mbia is expected and Juliette arrives on the same day
The scene breaks by Atangana who is complaining about his wife who has delayed to come back from the farm and cook for him. They have a serious discussion in which Abessolo suggests that Atangana and Ondua should beat their wives and daughters. On the same day they are expecting Mbia the civil servant to come in order to marry Juliette who is still studying at Libamba. Unknowingly, Juliette arrives the same day and when she is told the idea of marrying Mbia she rejects it because she claims not to love him.
The whole family is surprised to hear such a response and becomes disappointed by her reaction. The whole family expects to get rich through her, just as Meca’s daughter who was married the 12th wife of the Deputy of the Secretary of State and since then she has been helping her family, so they expect Juliette to do the same.
We are also told that there is a young farmer called Ndi who has already paid 100,000/= francs for Juliette. Eventually, the Civil Servant arrives and everybody is impressed.
The discussion of the Bride price with Mbia.
Atangana beats the drum to welcome the whole village to come and meet Mbia. Mbia is pompous and boastful. He introduces himself as a great man who is known personally by the Secretary of State. Additionally, he brings a lot of drinks for villagers to drink. In the middle of the discussion Abessolo asks Mbia’s genealogy, and finds out that he is related to Juliette and declares marriage impossible. There is a general tension among the villagers, such that they decide to brush aside the idea of genealogy and continue with the process.
Mbia pays 200,000/= francs as a bride price and Atangana declares marriage settled. On top of the bride price they also mention a lot of things to be brought along before the marriage is registered. They also find out that Mbia has got 8 wives and Juliette is going to be the 9th wife. Women are not involved in this discussion. When it is over, Juliette again refuses to marry Mbia no matter how much he has paid. She tells them that she is engaged to someone else whom she loves. Atangana threatens to beat her and says she will marry Mbia whether she likes or not. Oko appears and they discuss the matter with Juliette. Juliette steals the money paid for her and hands it to Oko and Kouma to be used later as a bride price.
Ndi comes for his wife and the theft is discovered
The family is happy because Oyono (Juliette’s brother) will now have enough money for which to pay for the wife he wants to marry. Still Juliette refuses and says that money does not prove love. Bella says girls are not allowed to fall in love without the permission of their families. Atangana comes back with Ndi, who has come to take Juliette on hearing that she has come. They tell him the story about the civil servant and Ndi suggests that he would rather have his money back. On hearing this Atangana is impressed and rushes into the house to take the money and finds out that the money is missing.
Meanwhile Abessolo, Mbarga and Mezoe are discussing about young boys - Owono and Belinga – who have eaten a taboo animal – the viper – without the permission of the elders. After noticing the theft they ask Ndi to pay some more 200,000/= francs to marry Juliette but he refuses and threatens to bring the police. They turn to Mbia and ask him to add some more 100,000/= francs and take Juliette right away. He also refuses and demands his money back plus threatening to bring 10 police commissioners while Engulu his servant takes notes of all other claims against the villagers. Atangana is worried about the two police threats and they decide to call the witchdoctor.
Sangatiti – the witch doctor comes to recover the lost money
Sangatiti the witchdoctor performs his rituals and in the process he asks them to give him a lot of things like goats, chicken, money, rams etc. He cheats the villagers about evil spirits like chimpanzees and owls that are troubling them and promises to sell them powerful fetishes to protect them from evil spirits. We are also told of Mbarga the village headman who has 12 wives and wants to marry the 13th. Sangatiti continues with his performance but gives false information about the stolen money. He says for instance that Atangana sold 10 sacks of cocoa two days ago and the trader gave him a magic banknote that took the cocoa money plus the bride price back to the cocoa trader two days ago. The fact is, Atangana sold only 3 sacks of cocoa and it was almost a week and he had received the bride price just the same day of the event. They discover that he is a liar, robber, scoundrel and they beat him up and chase him away.
At last OKO marries Juliette.
They all blame sending girls to schools because they believe schooling has polluted Juliette. They advise Atangana to take Juliette and move with her around the city to find her a husband there, who can pay 300,000/= francs. Juliette proposes to them that if a man comes who will be able to pay the 300,000/= francs at once she will marry him on a condition that they should not demand anything else on top of the bride price. Unfortunately for her a rich trader called Tchetgen appears and they propose the idea to him. They mention a lot of qualities that Juliette has such as education and the foreign languages she can speak. Hearing this Tchetgen says he can only pay the maximum of 200,000/= francs.
Eventually, Oko arrives with Kouma and a band of musicians, dressed like the really great man they are looking for greater than even the civil servant. They all prefer him to marry Juliette because of the way Kouma introduces him. Oko tells them that he will marry Juliette only if she herself agrees. They are all surprised because women have no choice to decide who they should marry. Lastly Oko pays the 300,000/= francs and marries Juliette
Ø She is Atangana’s daughter, Oyono’s sister and Oko’s fiancée.
Ø She is educated and struggles to change the traditional values that oppress women.
Ø She is intelligent. She uses her intelligence to fool the villagers by stealing the money paid by other suitors and gives it to Oko who pays it back and the two get married legally.
Ø She is forced to marry men who are not of her choice but she refuses. These are Ndi, the first suitor, Mbia the second suitor and Tchetgen the third suitor.
Ø She is a revolutionist who advocates for change. She is fighting for freedom of women in aspects like freedom of expression, choice and decision making.
Ø She is aware of her rights. She wants to show that women are equally important as men and should be consulted on matters affecting them directly.
Ø She has true love and a stand. Juliette shows an example of true love as she loves Oko for who he is, knowing that he has no money and is still studying. She knows that he can’t even afford to pay the bride price that’s why she helps him to get the bride price.
Ø She is courageous and liberal. She is not easily swayed by circumstances. Even when the whole family turns against her, she is still determined not to follow their decisions even after being threatened to be beaten by her relatives.
Ø She does not run away from problems but takes an active role in finding the solution to the problems affecting her.
Ø She comes from an extended family in which even the issue of marriage is not a personal phenomenon. Many people come together each of them hoping to benefit in one way or another.
Ø She leaves her family in a desperate situation. After stealing the money, Oko pays back the money which will be used later to refund the previous suitors but the family itself remain with nothing.
Ø She represents young generation who go against the outdated traditional customs. She is worthy being emulated in the society.
Ø He is Juliette and Oyono’s father and Makrita’s husband.
Ø He is a traditionalist. He believes in witchdoctors’ power. He invites Sangatiti to come and recover his lost money. Also he believes that bride price is still important to settle marriage of the youngsters.
Ø He is oppressive to women and hot tempered. He believes in men’s superiority and women inferiority. He doesn’t want a woman to speak when he is speaking. Also his wife Makrita does the farm work alone but he complains when she delays to come back and cook for him.
Ø He is an opportunist. He sends Juliette to school not because it is her right to education but because he knows that someday he will benefit from it. Pg 12” when I sent her to secondary school, I was justly saying to everybody: ‘some day, I’ll benefit from that” Also he wants to marry Juliette off to Mbia hoping that through him he would be able to easily get a gun permit and medals of honour.
Ø He is greedy and money monger. He is so greedy for money. He has already received the bride price for Juliette from Ndi, yet he accepts the 200000/= francs paid by Mbia for the same girl. Lastly he receives th 300000/= paid by Oko just for the same girl.
Ø He desperate and fears the police terribly. He suffers an intrapersonal conflict when he notices that the money is stolen and fears the police who might be brought by Ndi or Mbia.
Ø He is ignorant, illiterate and does not want changes. He is not worthy being emulated in the society.
Ø Juliette’s cousin and educated young man who owns the moped.
Ø He is intelligent. He uses his intelligence to bring about changes in his society. For example he dares to contradict the witch doctor when he keeps on telling lies about the stolen money while he knows where the money is.
Ø He is a revolutionist. He also fights for the rights of women like freedom of choice, expression and decision making. For example he says‘she’s left free to choose, you see?” pg 68.
Ø He is literate and so creative. He presents Oko as a great man dressed immaculately and magnificently that everybody suggests him for Juliette. He takes advantage of the ignorance of the villagers and introduces Oko as a great man, greater than the civil servant. Finally all the villagers bless the marriage between Oko and Juliette.
Ø In collaboration with Oko and Juliette they teach the villagers that women are also valuable human beings with their own feelings, decisions etc. which must be respected.
Ø He is an educated young man from Ambam who studies at Lycee Leclere and Juliette’s fiancé.
Ø He is also a revolutionist. He fights for women’s rights like; freedom of choice, expression and decision making. He says for instance in pg: 67 “I will marry your daughter if she herself agrees”, “if she is to marry me she must do as she wants”
Ø He is creative. He comes at Atangana’s home magnificently dressed and is easily accepted by the whole family not realizing that he is the same schoolboy they have been rejecting.
Ø He is the one who succeeds to marry Juliette. He pays the 300000/= francs given to him by Juliette and the two get the blessings of the family.
Ø He advocates for change in the society and is worthy being emulated.
Ø He is Juliette’s grandfather, Atangana and Ondua’s father and Bella’s Husband.
Ø He is a traditionalist and conservative. He upholds the traditional values of the society whether good or bad. For example,
o He believes that bride price is still important.
o Also women should not be allowed to eat certain taboo animals, and should not be consulted about anything.
o He traces Mbia’s genealogy and declares marriage impossible after discovering that Mbia is related to Juliette.
Ø He is oppressive to women. He believes that women should be beaten as a way of disciplining them. He suggests that Ondua and Atangana should beat their wives and daughters. Pg. 12
Ø He is a hypocrite. He is against sending girls to secondary schools but he wants to benefit from it.
Ø He is against changes in the society thus not worthy being emulated.
Ø He is a witch-doctor from Mfouladja who comes to recover Atangana’s lost money.
Ø He is a liar. He lies to the villagers to know about the lost money while in fact he learns from their own words. He says for instance that Atangana sold 10 sacks of cocoa two days ago and the trader gave him a magic banknote that took the cocoa money plus the bride price back to the cocoa trader two days ago. The fact is, Atangana sold only 3 sacks of cocoa and it was almost a week and he had received the bride price just the same day of the event
Ø He is superstitious. He believes in witchcraft and evil spirits. For instance he threatens to bewitch the whole village. He also promises to sell the villagers powerful fetishes that would protect them from the evil spirits.
Ø He is a robber. He keeps on robbing the ignorant villagers a lot of things like rams, goats, cockerels, etc by using tricks.
Ø He is ignorant and illiterate. He doesn’t know the ordinary geography that he says north and South is just the same thing.
Ø He is corrupt. He wants to get rich by using tricks. E.g. He says that if they want to recover their money they must give him; 15 cockerels, 12 goats, 2 rams and 6 pigs.
Ø He is pompous/ boastful. He boasts of being a competent witch-doctor while he is not. He says “as you couldn’t have known about the magic bank note without the help of a powerful witch-doctor like me…” pg 57. He is not worthy to be emulated in the society.
Ø He is the headman of Mvoutessi village.
Ø He is a traditionalist. Like Atangana Ondua Mezoe and Abessolo he too upholds the traditional values. He complains about Belinga and Owono who have eaten the viper without the permission of elders. Pg42
Ø He is a hypocrite. He pretends to praise Ndi in order to soften his mind to add some more 200000/= francs he even pretends to cry mourning the death of Ndi’s father who after all isn’t dead yet.
Ø He is a polygamist. He has 12 wives and is proposing to marry the 13th wife from Ngoantet.
Ø He is superstitious. He believes in superstition because he is the one who suggests the idea of calling the witch-doctor to recover the stolen money.
Ø He is an irresponsible leader. He is not a responsible leader because he is supposed to take actions to people who distil illegal drinks ‘Arki” but he himself does the same illegal business.
Ø He is pompous. He brags about himself for instance for bringing a competent witch doctor. He also brags about being the headman of the village.
Ø He is an opportunist. He is opportunist because he also wants to take advantage of Juliette’s marriage to Mbia to get a gun permit. He even invites Mbia in his house so as to create a close tie with him.
Ø He is a young hardworking farmer from Awae. He helps Makrita his expected mother-in-law to clear her farm. We are also told that he is an expert in laying monkey traps pg 17
Ø He is Juliette’s first suitor who pays 100,000/= francs.
Ø He is betrayed by Atangana’s family that takes Mbia’s money while knowing that Ndi has already paid for Juliette.
Ø He threatens to bring the police to arrest Atangana if he fails to pay back his money.
Ø He is a rich civil servant from Sangmelima and Juliette’s second suitor.
Ø He is pompous. He brags about himself being a very important civil servant and that the Secretary of state knows him personally. He also likes to be praised. When Mbarga praises him he becomes pleased and orders drinks for him.
Ø He is a polygamist. We are told he is married to 8 wives and is now proposing to marry Juliette the 9th wife.
Ø He has no true love. The fact that he has 8 wives signifies that he has no true love but to him women are objects to satisfy his sexual desires.
Ø He misuses the government position for private gain. He uses his position and money to attract more wives to himself. He threatens to use his position to send police officers to arrest the villagers for not paying respect to him.
Ø He is a hypocrite and has no stand. Initially he praises Atangana’s family and even drinks an illegal drink “Arki” because he wants them to give him Juliette as his wife. When the deal fails he changes his opinion and threatens to arrest the villagers for distilling arki.
Ø He is an opportunist. He promises to give the villagers a lot of things on top of the bride price so as to have Juliette.
Ø He is a drunkard. He is a heavy drunkard as he comes with a lot of strong drinks from Sangmelima and even goes to drink at the headman’s house.
Ø He is not worthy being emulated in the society.
Ø He is a trader from Bamileke and Juliette’s third suitor.
Ø He owns two shops in Sangmelima and a bar in Zoetele.
Ø He agrees to marry Juliette but proposes to pay the maximum of 200000/= francs only.
Ø He is not interested in marrying Juliette after noticing that she costs too much.
TITLE OF THE PLAY.
The title of the play is “Three Suitors One Husband”. Tracing through the play we find that it has a close connection with the content of the play. The following are the three suitors and one husband from “Three suitors One Husband”;
ü The first suitor is Ndi, a young hardworking farmer from Awae who proposes to marry Juliette and pays the sum of 100,000/= francs. Unfortunately for him he does not succeed to marry Juliette. As the second suitor overpowers him.
ü The second suitor is Mbia, a rich civil servant from Sangmelima who proposes to marry Juliette and pays the sum of 200,000/= francs plus a lot of things that he has to bring along on top of the bride price to have the marriage settled. He too does not succeed to marry Juliette.
ü The third suitor is Tchetgen, a rich trader/businessman from Bamileke who pays the maximum of 200,000/= francs for Juliette. He does not succeed to marry Juliette since the family wants him to pay 300,000/=francs. He is not interested and moves away.
ü The husband is Oko a young educated man from Ambam who succeeds to marry Juliette after paying the required amount 300,000/= francs at once. He manages to pay the money after being assisted by Juliette who steals the money her father received from the previous suitors and the two get married legally.
The setting is typically rural. The play is set in Mvoutessi village in the southern part of East Cameroon. A typical Bulu village built along the road. There are sub-settings like kitchen where there are some events taking place and the description of the contents in Makrita’s kitchen at the beginning of Act three sums up the rural setting
The playwright has employed the dialogue style throughout the play. There are few cases of narrative technique especially in stage direction at the beginning of each Act. To enrich his style he has also made use of songs as when Ondua sings in page 23
Aya yam one minga a a ah,
O lig Ondua a nyea’avee?
Aya yam one minga a a etc.
Language used is simple and straightforward. Additionally the playwright has made use of;
FIGURES OF SPEECH
ü “When a chameleon dies a grey lizard should inherit his sacks of cola nuts” pg 50
ü …These tiny radio sets which always tell lies” pg 28
ü “Juliette runs to the safety of the kitchen like a frightened antelope” pg 41
ü “…to marry young men as poor as flies..” pg 16
ü you want me to let them sell me like a goat?
ü ‘’The man we are talking about is the one who rules everybody in Sangmelima.” Pg 42
ü “The most obedient girl in the world” pg 63
(d) Under exaggeration
ü “Three hundred thousand francs- pocket money”. Pg 66
ü “…Who once was the poorest man in Messam” pg 18
ü “Girls are nothing” pg 66
ü “A doctor of Mathematics. That is to say, he can count all the leaves of on a palm tree”. Pg 65
ü “He is fluent in French, English, German, Spanish, German English and French”. Pg 65
ü “He is also as I’m told the Doctor of the Bachelor.” pg 69.
ü “Where in the city? In the market place?”
ü “A real white man” – pg 13
(g) Rhetorical Questions
ü “What? He is a bachelor? Such a great man?” pg 65
ü “Where in the city? In the market place?” pg 61
ü “Aa keeaah, Oyono Eto Mekong ya Ngozip aah.” Pg 12
ü “Nane Ngok!” Pg 13
Ooo-oo-ooo-ooo pg 70
ü “Important rivers can only be recognized by the size of their tributaries” pg 24
ü “When a chameleon dies a grey lizard should inherit his sacks of cola nuts” pg 50
ü “The first day of the marriage is just the beginning of it” pg 26
AFRICAN TRADITIONS AND CUSTOMS.
There are different traditions and customs portrayed in the play. Some of these traditions are worth preserving for the future generation and some are not.
(a) Bride price. Just like many other African societies, bride price is important and has to be paid before the girl is married. However in this society it is so ridiculous that they are ready to receive whoever pays the highest bride price for the same girl. For example, they receive 100000/=francs from Ndi, then 200000/= from Mbia and lastly 300000/= francs from Oko just for the same girl-Juliette. For them, the girl for whom the largest bride price is paid is respected. However the issue of bride price is seen to be one of the major sources of conflict in African families as manifested in Juliette’s family. It is not a good custom thus it should be discarded.
(b) Polygamy. As it is in most African societies, polygamy is rampart in this society. Men marry many wives to satisfy their sexual desires. Take for example the Deputy of the Secretary of State, has 12 wives, pg 18, Mbarga has 12 wives and is proposing to marry the 13th, pg 52 and Mbia has 8 wives and is proposing to marry Juliette the 9th wife pg 26. However it is revealed by Sanga-titi that polygamy is not safe for men since wives struggle to win the heart of their husbands and beat their rivals and thus bring along powerful fetishes. This is also dangerous in this era of HIV/AIDS thus it should be discouraged.
(c) Superstition. People of Mvoutessi believe in superstition and witchcraft just like many other societies in Africa. Consider the following cases;
Ø When Abessolo collapses they attack Ndi for bringing his witchcraft to kill people there. Pg 46
Ø When the money is stolen they send for a witch doctor to recover the lost money. Pg 50
Ø Mbarga says he once saw their dead ancestors in a dream and they blessed him. Pg 25.
Ø Sanga-titi makes them believe that owls and Chimpanzees are not ordinary birds or animals but evil spirits of the past that killed their ancestors.pg 55
Ø This is not a good custom so it should be discouraged.
(d) Taboos. These are customs that restrict certain group of people from doing some things. In this society we see the following taboos;
Ø A girl should not speak when her father is speaking. Pg 17
Ø Women are not allowed to eat taboo animals like vipers, wild boars, pg 12
Ø Young men are not to eat vipers and if they do they must be permitted by elders. Pg42 This is an outdated custom so it should be uprooted.
(e) Eating etiquette. Eating manner is also strictly observed as the playwright shows that the elders are heard scolding those children who don’t eat properly. Pg 32. This is a good habit that has to be promoted.
(f) Spouse battering/wife beating. In this society women are beaten as a way of silencing and disciplining them. Abessolo brags about himself how he could not have tolerated nonsense in his days and advises Ondua and Atangana to beat their wives and daughters. Pg 12 this is not a good habit and it should be discarded.
(g) Traditional Religion. Still many villagers keep the traditional local beliefs. They believe in the spirit of their dead ancestors and that owls and chimpanzees are evil spirits of the past. They also believe in the power of witchdoctors like Sanga-titi and that his fetishes can protect them from the evil spirits. This is an outdated custom so it should be discarded.
(h) Traditional dances. In this society cerebrations are accompanied by a dance. They celebrate a happy event by beating drums and dancing their traditional dance called “Nyeng’”. This is a good custom to be preserved as it promotes African culture.
(i) Economy the economy of these people depends mainly on agriculture based on cash crops like; cocoa, cola nuts, peanuts etc. also there are some people like Monica and Mbarga who earn their living by distilling and selling illegal liquor “Arki”. Yet others like Tchetgen engage themselves in trade by selling different merchandise to willing buyers.
(j) Extended family. In this society there is a spirit of cooperation when it comes to important matters like marriage. Atangana beats the drum to welcome the villagers to witness the marriage of his daughter. Also the decisions are made by collective bargaining among the members of the extended family. For example they decide who should marry Juliette expecting that each member of the extended family will benefit.
(k) Forced marriage. Love is important in marriage. However in this society marriage is not defined by love but by money. The whole family forces Juliette to marry Mbia not because she loves him but because he has paid much money. Forced marriage is also one of the major sources of conflict between youngsters and elders. It should be discouraged.
POSITION OF WOMEN IN THE SOCIETY.
Women are portrayed in different positions and roles both positive and negative. Here are some of the positions women occupy in this society.
i. Women are portrayed as hard workers. In this society women do all the work while men do almost nothing. Most men are portrayed as lazy and keep blaming their wives. Atangana blames his wife for delaying to come back and cook for him. Monica also distills illegal arki and sells it to support the family. Ondua blames her for denying him one bottle. Pg 11
ii. Women are portrayed as revolutionists. Juliette represents women who are after changes. Despite the inferior position of women in this society, she takes an active role in fighting for women rights like freedom of expression, choice and decision making. Although Abessolo says “Since when do women speak in Mvoutessi” pg 15 she still speaks out her views.
iii. Women are portrayed as caretakers (custodians). In this society women are the caretakers of the family, and when the children misbehave the women are blamed for it. Take for instance how Makrita is blamed that she is the one who teaches Juliette such a disgraceful behavior. But Makrita says “Juliette haven’t I always told you to be obedient to your family?” pg 18
iv. Women are portrayed as courageous. Juliette presents a positive role women can play in bringing about social change. She is courageous enough to fight for her rights despite men’s dominance and superiority. For example she asks “you want me to let them sell me like a goat? After all I’m a valuable human being.” Pg18
v. Women are portrayed as inferior to men. Women are shown to be weak individuals with no say. They are also beaten as a way of disciplining them. Abessolo suggests that Ondua and Atangana should beat their wives and treat their daughters just the same way. Also girls should not fall in love without the permission of their families. This portrays inferior position of women.
vi. Women are portrayed as tools for pleasure. In this society women are treated as objects to satisfy men’s sexual desires. Most men are polygamous which shows that they have no true love for their wives. E.g. Mbia already has 8 wives yet wants to marry Juliette, Mbarga has 12 wives and he is proposing to marry the 13th. Etc.
vii. Women are portrayed as a source of income. In this society women are taken as a source of income. Atangana for instance sends Juliette to school not because of respecting her right to education but because he expects to benefit later. Also people want her to marry a rich man-Mbia so that they can get rich through her. Juliette asks “Am I a shop or some other source of income” pg 16
viii. Women are portrayed as people with true love and a firm stand. Juliette loves Oko for who he is. She does not expect to get anything from Oko apart from love. She asks them “Does money prove love?” pg 39 and she adds “I’ve told you my fiancé hasn’t got any money, and yet I’m sure he loves me.” Pg 39
ix. Women are portrayed as superstitious. In this society women are portrayed as superstitious. Sanga-titi reveals that due to polygamy, some women are given by their mothers some fetishes to “win their husbands heart, bear him many children, and beat all your rivals in beauty, charm and housekeeping” pg 55
x. Women are despised and segregated. In this society women are looked down upon. Men do not want to consult women on any matter. For example Abessolo says “consult a woman about her marriage!” pg 12. That’s why Juliette and all women are not involved in the meeting discussing about her marriage. Ondua says “women will have their way! No sensible man should waste his time trying to reason with them.” Pg11
xi. Traditionally a girl for whom the highest bride price is paid is respected. In this society the girls for whom the largest bride price is paid is the one to be respected Pg 18. That’s why they all propose Mbia for Juliette since he has paid what is considered as high bride price so that she can earn their respect.
This refers to the misunderstanding or collision of ideas, viewpoints or opinions within a person, between or among groups of people in the society. Like other plays, in this play there are several conflicts as analyzed below.
Ø INTRAPERSONAL CONFLICT.
o This occurs within a person. It is manifested within the following individuals.
o Juliette; She suffers an intrapersonal conflict because of outdated customs in her society that forces girls to marry men who are not of their choice and without consultation. As a result she steals the money paid by the previous suitors and gives it to Oko (whom she loves) and the two get married.
o Atangana; He suffers an intrapersonal conflict after discovering the theft of his money. The conflict grows worse when both Mbia and Ndi threaten to bring the police to arrest him. As a result he calls the witchdoctor to recover the lost money but he fails. Finally, he receives the money from Oko as a solution to his problem.
Ø FAMILY CONFLICT.
o Juliette with her family.
This occurs when she refuses to marry the rich man they have chosen for her. It intensifies as she argues with the family contrary to their expectation since women do not speak in Mvoutessi. It ends when she marries Oko who pays 300,000/=francs
o Mbia and Juliette’s family.
This occurs when they tell Mbia to add some more 100,000/= francs for Juliette. He demands his money back and threatens to bring the police.
o Ndi and Juliette’s family.
This occurs when they tell Ndi to add some more 200,000/= francs for Juliette. He demands his money back and threatens to bring the police.
Ø CULTURAL CONFLICTS.
There is a conflict between traditional culture and modern culture. Young Generation represented by Juliette, Oko, Kouma, Belinga and Owono embrace modernism by going against the traditional culture that forbids them to do certain things like eating vipers, freedom of choice, decision making and speech. On the contrary there are elders like Mbarga, Atangana, Abessolo, Bella and Ondua who uphold traditionalism. They condemn new ways of life and think that things are falling apart since youngsters no longer listen to elders as they are expected to do.
Ø SOCIAL CONFLICT –
This occurs between the villagers and the witchdoctor Sanga-titi. It occurs when the villagers discover that Sanga-titi is not only a liar, but also a robber and is not able to recover the lost money. He just keeps on robbing them and threatens to bewitch them. They beat him up and chase him away.
Ø POLITICAL CONFLICT.
There is a conflict between the Rulers and peasants (villagers). This occurs when the police keep on beating the villagers for not paying the taxes and arresting them for being drunk. They want Mbia to marry Juliette to help them.
Ø It is a state of being conscious about what is going on around you. This is a vital tool in so far as the liberation of the oppressed is concerned. Awareness is manifested in the following aspects.
Ø Kouma is aware of Sanga-titi’s lies. He knows where the money is but Sanga-titi keeps on telling lies. Kouma contradicts him on spot and helps all the other villagers to discover that Sanga-titi is a liar and a robber.
Ø Juliette is aware of her rights like freedom of speech, decision making and choice. She doesn’t want to be considered inferior that’s why she says “but I’m a free person. Pg 31
Ø Kouma and Oko are aware of the fact that women are important people in the society and should be respected. They teach the villagers a lesson by giving Juliette a chance to choose her own suitable suitor who becomes her husband.
THE INFLUENCE OF MONEY AND POWER.
In this society everybody thinks that money is a solution to every problem and is the source of happiness. As a result most people engage in different legal and illegal activities to get money. The following scenarios are just few cases in point.
Ø They cultivate cash crops like cocoa in order to get money.
Ø Some distill illegal liquor (Arki) to get money. Examples are Mbarga and Monica Ondua’s wife.
Ø Marriage has also become a business. Parents want their daughters to marry rich men so that they can get money. E.g. everybody wants Juliette to marry Mbia since he brings a lot of money.
Ø Love is based on money. In this society the girl for whom the highest bride price is paid is considered to be loved and is respected. Matalina says to Juliette “How could a girl refuse a man who loves her enough to pay 200,000/= francs for her?
Ø Sanga-titi is corrupt and wants to get rich easily through people’s ignorance. He uses tricks and lies to get more money.
Ø Money leads girls into polygamy. Some people use money to marry as many women as they please. Mbia has 8 wives and wants to use his power and money to win Juliette’s love. The deputy of the secretary of state also has 12 wives.
Ø Mbia is opportunistic. He treats people dearly (giving them drinks and money) to influence them to give him Juliette. When it fails he uses his power to threaten them that he will bring the police to arrest them.
Ø Money and power make people arrogant and boastful. Mbia is arrogant because of his money and power. He accuses the villagers that the roads are poorly kept and the houses have not been whitewashed in expectation of the honour of his visit. Mbarga is also arrogant because of his power as a village headman. He dictates respect from people by using his authority.
This is a common phenomenon in Africa now. People are treated on the basis of whom-you-know and not what-you-know. For example in this society everybody is in favour of the Civil Servant because on top of the bride price they expect to be favoured in other spheres as well, such as;
ü To get medals and gun permits. They say it is so difficult to get it when you do not know the right people in the government.
ü To avoid frequent beatings from police. For example Mbia discovers that the people of the village are distilling illegal Arki but takes no action since he wants to become their in-law.
INFLUENCE OF EDUCATION.
Education is a necessary tool for social change. If used positively it acts as a medium for transforming a traditional society into a modern one. In this society education has been used positively to bring about social changes in the following ways:
ü It has brought awareness to young people who acquired it. Unlike Matalina who has not gone to school Juliette knows her rights as a girl. She demands her freedom of expression, choice and decision making.
ü Oko and Kouma are also aware of women rights. Although they come from the same male dominated society, they don’t like the way women are mistreated. They use their education to bring changes.
ü Education increases the value of an individual. Most people who are educated are considered valuable compared to uneducated ones. Villagers believe that since Juliette is educated they should demand high bride price for her.
ü Education has brought about cultural change. Young people who have acquired education have begun to question certain traditional values. Even elders believe that it is due to schools that these changes occur though they put it in a negative way by complaining that” schools have corrupted everything”
CLASSES IN THE SOCIETY.
The play depicts different classes of people in his society. There are several classes that can be classified in the following categories.
Ø Educated vs. uneducated
There is a class of educated people represented by people like Juliette, Oko and Kouma and that of uneducated represented by people like Mbarga, Matalina Abessolo, Atangana etc. Their differences are manifested even in the way they look at things.
Ø Traditionalists vs. modernists.
There is also a class of those who wish to see the traditional values of the society whether good or bad upheld at any cost and those who see no need to continue with outdated customs. People like Mbarga, Abessolo Atangana Ondua etc uphold traditionalism while people like Belinga, Owono, Juliette, Oko and Kouma embrace modernism.
Ø Rich vs. poor
There is also a class of rich people (the ruling class) like Mbia who enjoy the national cake and traders like Tchetgen while the majority like the villagers (peasants) are suffering from poverty expecting to get rich when rich men come to marry their daughters.
Ø Town dwellers (townies) vs. Village dwellers (villagers.)
The life of the people in town is different from those in the villages. Mbia despises the villagers. We are told that even Engulu a mere driver despises the villagers since he comes from town. Also people in the village even distil and drink illegal drinks like “Arki” while those from the city enjoy strong bottled drinks.
Many people in this society seem to be affected by hypocrisy. They do or say whatever might earn them a favour from somebody. They even contradict their own statements for the same reason.
Mbia is a hypocrite. When he wants to marry Juliette he praises the villagers and even doesn’t take action when he discovers that they conduct illegal business by distilling Arki. When his plans finally fail he changes his opinion and accuses them of the same. This is high level of hypocrisy.
Mbarga is a hypocrite. At first he praises Mbia and favours him for Juliette and they kick out Ndi. When the money is stolen he praises Ndi to soften him to add 200000/= francs so as to cover up the loss. He even pretends to weep, mourning the death of Ndi’s father who after all isn’t dead yet. This is hypocrisy.
Elders like Abessolo are hypocrites. They condemn secondary schools for polluting girls yet when it comes to the issue of marriage they want to benefit from the same education by demanding high bride price because Juliette is educated.
STRUGGLE FOR CHANGE.
Ø The play tries to show the areas that need reformation and urges the society to make the necessary social changes. There are outdated customs which need to be reformed like: forced marriage, bride price, women beating, taboos, superstitious beliefs and polygamy. There are also good ones that we may cherish such as traditional dances and eating etiquette.
Ø Also education seems to be a great agent of change that needs to be embraced. Men should change their mentality by sending girls to school since they are capable of contributing to societal development.
OTHER MINOR THEMES INCLUDE
Juliette’s family betrays Ndi by taking more money from Mbia while they know that Ndi has already paid for her.
Many people portray a picture of illiteracy. That’s why Oko, Kouma and Juliette take advantage of their illiteracy to facilitate the marriage between Oko and Juliette.
Mbia and Mbarga are irresponsible leaders. Despite knowing that distilling “arki” is illegal they take no action.
There are two extremes of love portrayed in this society. There is True love as exemplified by Juliette and Oko and hypocritical/untrue love as shown by the polygamists.
Ø Bride price, polygamy, superstition, forced marriage and spouse battering are outdated traditions they needs to be discouraged.
Ø People should use their education positively to bring about social change.
Ø Hypocrisy is not good in any ideal society.
Ø Witch doctors are liars and robbers.
Ø Love and not money should be the determinant of true marriage.
Ø Illiteracy is an obstacle to development.
Ø Both boys and girls should be given equal right to education.
Ø Food taboos should be discouraged as they deprive women and children of required nutrients.
The play is relevant in a number of ways.
Ø Polygamy is still a problem in most African societies and among the Moslems.
Ø Bride price is still a common custom in many African societies and is a source of conflicts in marriage among the youngsters and elders.
Ø People still believe in witchcraft and superstition as a solution to their problems.
Ø There are people who earn a living by conducting illegal business like distilling “gongo”.
Ø Many people misuse their money and power for private gain.