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The Interplay of Theme and Style in J.P. Clark’s ‘The Wives Revolt’

The wives’ Revolt written by J.P. Clark, first Acted in 1984 at the J.k Randle Hall by PEC Repertory Theatre in its 3rd Season on March – December, is a play that largely addresses the treatment of gender issue in Africa. The play is a typical modern African drama and J.P. Clark uses the Niger Delta area particularly the Urhobo In Nigeria to scratch out the societal issue of gender discrimination in Africa at large.

In this essay, we are particular about the interplay of Theme and Style in the play, the relationship that possesses both features in the play. In the  course of this we would discuss the theme in the play briefly as well as the style of writing and the correlation between the both.

Introduction

The Wives’ revolts centres on the small community of Erhuwaren in the Urhobo area of Delta state Nigeria. The ‘obnoxious law’ as described by Koko, the wife of the town crier and cloth seller by trade, induced the women of the village into action, they all matched out of the community passed several villages and settled in Eyara, leaving the men to decide between keeping them or letting them keep their goats.

The major themes of the play are the issues of gender discrimination and feminism, the men had the better part of every share of the oil money given to the community. Although they say they divide it equally in three parts, one to the elders, the other to the men and the third to the women.

Koko stands as a feminist in the play she says “The law you have passed is bad, unfair and discriminatory, being directed against women because of our stand. We will not accept it” 

She though acts as the wife she should be by giving him his food as soon as he returns yet she she stands her ground on what should be and is not intimidated while making her point.

“Life is going to be so much worse if you don’t listen to us women while making your laws….oh,just repeal that law and give us our fair share(14)”

Okoro her husband, a typical male and anti feminist rather thinks differently

“A witch in the kitchen is what you are. Why don’t all women stay that way and leave affairs of state to us men? Life would be so much better for everybody(14)….it is your business to cheer us alright, since you aren’t made for action, but you must first inspire us (15)

Other Themes

Other themes in the play are Pride, Greed, Pertinacity, Hypocrisy and Roleplay. Okoro in every scene refused to accept that he cannot leave without the women, he played the females role pathetically, and resulted to hitting his wife when she came back with an infection thinking she had slept with another man. He was the instrument used to depict pride, roleplay and pertinacity, he was stubborn towards calling the women back until he heard they are settled in Eyara, he regretted not for their own benefits but for his( and the entire men in the community) reputation

” Anything would have been preferable to this. To exile themselves in enemy territory! They have delivered us naked to our enemies to sing our shame!(31)…. The thought of it alone gives me the rash all over, how can they do this to us, oh, the shame these foolish women have brought on us!(32)”

Hypocrisy surfaces where Okoro accuses women of cooking and mincing, using ice fish to cook when they can afford better but when he is placed in the position of starting a fire he refuses to use kerosine which is easier because it is expensive and goes for tinder (dry materials like grass or dry soft wood).

The style of writing used by the author is a very simple one, diction is understandable to a lay man and the messages are  quicklty passed. All scenes except the first and the last is acted in Okoro’s house, he uses the same setting to send multitudinous messages. Okoro and his wife Koko discuss the issue in the community. Idama, his friend also comes to give him news about the women. The author uses a simple setting and style to drive home various themes in the play.

The Interplay of style and theme

The relationship between the style and the theme is a sagacious and needful one. It gives you the opportunity to know the character but directs you to the message the author is trying to pass, one major advantage is that it leaves a direct and expository message. We learn the ordeal of an entire community and nation at large with the exposition of just three characters.

In conclusion, the uniqueness of style in writing and clarity in themes of the book wives’ Revolt by J.P. Clark have till today increased its want among scholars and usefulness to literature students in the field, in not just Nigerian literature but Africa entirely.

 

About the Author

John Pepper Clark-Bekederemo (born 6 April 1935) is a Nigerian poet and playwright, who has also published as J. P. Clark and John Pepper Clark. He was Born in Kiagbodyuo, Nigeria, to an father and Urhobo mother, Clark received his early education at the Native Authority School, Okrika (Ofinibenya-Ama), in Burutu LGA (then Western Ijaw) and the prestigious Government College in Ughelli, and his BA degree in English at the University of Ibadan where he edited various magazines, including the Beaconand The Horn. Upon graduation from Ibadan in 1960, he worked as an information officer in the Ministry of Information in the old Western Region of Nigeria, as features editor of the Daily Express, and as a research fellow at the Institute of African Studies, University of Ibadan. He served for several years as a professor of English at the University of Lagos, a position from which he retired in 1980. While at the University of Lagos he was co-editor of the literary magazine Black Orpheus.

In 1982, along with his wife Ebun Odutola (a professor and former director of the Centre for Cultural Studies at the University of Lagos), he founded the PEC Repertory Theatre in Lagos.

A widely travelled man, Clark has, since his retirement, held visiting professorial appointments at several institutions of higher learning, including Yale and Wesleyan University in the United States.

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2 Replies to “The Interplay of Theme and Style in J.P. Clark’s ‘The Wives Revolt’

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