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Life And Debt

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A holdall is a large suitcase. What do we learn about the relationship between Bero and the beggars? Note how the Blindman tries to soften Bero toward his sister. The beggars claim to be have been discharged from the army, but Bero insists they are still under his orders. "Gaol" is the Nigerian/British spelling of "jail." Bero hints at unspeakable crimes for which the beggars were discharged. What does Bero mean by calling all his old patients corpses? What fluid is referring to when he brags of having wetted the earth with something more potent than palm wine? What is Si Bero's reaction to her brother? She believes that the herbal magic she was taught by the old women has preserved his life. "Big Braids"=highest officers.

The windy old priest trusts Dr. Bero. What kind of a character is he? A miter is the hat worn by a bishop. He is the first to introduce the subject of cannibalism. Cannibalism is not part of normal modern Nigerian life, but there were instances of it during the civil war as people sought to terrify and insult their enemies in the fiercest way possible. What is Bero's reaction to the priest's statement that his father advocated legalizing cannibalism? In the following conversation with Si Bero the doctor explains the derivation of the divine name "As" from the traditional Christian blessing, "as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, Amen." In its original Christian context, it was intended as a statement of firm faith in God's eternal goodness and justice, but in the new cult it has been emptied of theological content. The phrase has been reduced to its least significant word, and now alludes to a cursed cycle of destruction from which there is no escape. What Dr. Bero is saying is that his father tricked him and others into eating human flesh hoping to shame them into realizing how savage they had become. Instead, it had the effect of liberating them from all moral inhibitions. What was his father's job in the war?

The Old Man is a fierce truth-teller. The beggars, who had pled insanity to escape punishment for their crimes, claim to have been driven mad by his truth-telling. What is the symbolism of the killing and eating of the flea? The cycle referred to suggests to Si Bero that the Old Man has been eaten by his son, and she is horrified. "Surgery" means "doctor's office."

Part Two

Aafaa's alphabetical sermon leads to the Blindman's assertion that the epileptic fits of worshippers bring not true freedom, but subjection to a vicious deity. "Circus turn" means "circus act." "Collaborate" is a much more loaded word than "assist," suggesting aiding in crimes. The Old Man has sat silent up to this point, seemingly in shock. The line "Arise, throw off thy crutches and follow me" is a combination of phrases from the Bible: Jesus saying to his would-be followers "Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me" (Matthew 16:24) and Mark 2:9 where Jesus defends his right to heal a crippled man by stating "Who is my neighbor" is uttered in Luke 10:29 by a man responding to Jesus' teaching to love your neighbor as you love yourself. "Arise, and take up thy bed, and walk." "Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word," is the grateful speech of Simeon who has been preserved long enough to meet the infant Jesus, implying that he can now die content (Luke 2:29). Here it has more sinister implications. Soyinka was raised as a Christian and attended a missionary school as a boy, so he knows his Bible thoroughly.

"Chop" is slang for food. What is the nature of the relationship between Bero and his father? A stationer's is a stationery store. Why does Bero emphasize that the Old Man will get everything he needs? The Old Man revels in his feat of having tricked the leaders into practicing cannibalism. Why does he say he is still needed? A recidivist is one who commits again a crime that he has committed before. Why has Bero brought the Old Man here?

How does Aafaa say he was filled with the spirit that drove him mad? Note how the two old women present themselves



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