PRESENTATION OF SUBJUGATION 1
Presentation of Subjugation in `The Tempest`, `Things Fall Apart` and`Translations`
Presentation of Subjugation in `The Tempest`, `Things Fall Apart` and`Translations`
The three texts present subjugation in an overtly and unforgivingmanner. Subjugation relates with the setting of the time either aspresented through male chauvinism or as highlighted by the mainprotagonists of the texts. In this regards, the discourse evaluatesthe techniques through which the Things Fall Apart,Translations, and the Tempest proffer the theme ofsubjugation. In fact, throughout the novel and the two plays, thenotion of subjugation becomes seemingly critical to the developmentof major characters. From the outset of the discourse, subjugationwill denote the defeat and acquisition of control of characters andtheir capacities by other characters through force, domination,annihilation, and adulation. In addition, the concept will denotescenarios of submissiveness as projected by characters to the frailerdynamisms of other characters. At the time of the publication of thethree materials under review, different forms of colonizationoccurred, which shaped societies in terms of social status andcastes. In this regards, subjugation as it develops in the materialsoffer a profound glimpse on the domination and placation thatoccurred during colonization thus, it helps explicate the process ofcolonization. For example, in the Tempest, Prospero andCaliban demonstrates a strong sense of subjugation but differently,Okonkwo does so in the Things Fall Apart, and Hugh in theTranslations. As such, the discourse will proffer thegeneration of subjugation in the two plays i.e. Translations andTempest and the novel i.e. Things Fall Apart.
Aristotle notes that Humanity is divided…those who have the rightto command and those who are born to obey and this becomes ofimportance, as it is the primary cause of subjugation. Prospero, in`The Tempest`, Okonkwo in `Things Fall Apart` and Hugh in‘Translations`, all possess a dire desire to become absoluteauthoritarian figures. Whilst employing similar tactics to achievetheir goals in one respect, such as didacticism, they also differsubstantially in another, as will be explained. Although there aresuccess and failures here and there, the ability of a clear cutfinality response by the audience is hampered by the actions of theimplored patriarchs. Prospero’s chauvinistic treatment of Mirandaand the complete subjugation of Caliban through physical andemotional means, mirrors Prospero’s, one could say overly obsessiveprey on the female principle via his overtly dominant character.Okonkwo’s dominant character i.e. he overbearingly rules hischildren and wives, has every say in the homestead, and admonisheswhoever questions his authority, allows him to ascertain andaccentuate control, just as in the Translations’ where Hugh inparticular, quite intentionally reverts people to their utilitarianfunction. The application of subjugation in texts thus, differ andtake on a different perception over time as the three textsdemonstrate. Shakespeare`s audience of the day for instance, would besatisfied with Prospero`s tactics as they adhered to the Great Chainof Being and the Divine Right of Kings. Although the three materialspresent subjugation in a critical manner, the development anddirection of subjugation differs greatly in the materials. However,one thing remains similar and overbearing i.e. it is the protagonistsin the materials who display the worst form of subjugation.
For example, in the Things Fall Apart, Okonkwo demonstratesthe subjugation of women in an African setting through the practiceof polygamy, whipping his wives at slight frustration, and payingbride prices. In fact, according to Okonkwo, women act as measlyproperty and tools of rationalization for keeping men sane.Therefore, Achebe portrays the matricentric and male-controlled unitsof the African setting through Okonkwo. For example, Achebe refers tothe African macho setting as
“Power is usually cited as the most important factor used by mento construct their own identities as the ‘engenderedrepresentatives of humanity.’  At the physical one, individuals who appear to be lazy are looked upon as agbala,meaning a woman in the Igbo language.” (Pg. 57).
The above demonstrates the development of subjugation by theprotagonist in the novel especially to those he deems weak. Okonkwo,refer or categorize women as measly property and subordinateindividuals for keeping men sane. Such a description shows the onsetof degenerating perception towards women power and dynamism.
In fact, Onyemelukwe asserts regarding subjugation in the Africansetting
“It should be noted that the Okonkwo being x-rayed in this passagehas grown. He is about thirty-eight years old and grows even themore in the novel. He is now a mature adult member of a malehegemonious society, which upholds cultural practices that predispose the woman to subjugation and oppression and stifle herdevelopment and progress in society.” (Onyemelukwe 2004, Pg. 37).
Onyemelukwe (2004) asserts that the African setting for which thenovel is set is a male hegemonious society that upholds practicesthat oppress and stifle the dynamism of women. This descriptiondemonstrates how subjugation develops in the novel i.e. not just theoppression directed to Africans by their colonial master (British),but also the defining practices that place women second to men on thepecking order. In fact, Okonkwo develops his subjugation tendenciesthrough the supporting structures defined by the culture thus, hemanages to subdue women.
On the other hand, Brown (2009) suggests that Prospero simplysubjugates Caliban to further his own intentions while Barker andHulme (1985) suggest that Prospero has a strong deviance that rendersthe interpretation of his authority cruel and unjust. In fact,throughout the text, Prospero carries an air of authority and speaksin an authoritarian language. In act 1 scene 2, Prospero tells Ariel
“Dull thing, I say so. He, that Caliban. Whom now I keep inservice. Thou best know’st
What torment I did find thee in. Thy groans. Of ever angry bears. Itwas a torment
Did make wolves howl and penetrate the breasts. To lay upon thedamned, which Sycorax. Could not again undo. It was mine art…, .Ifthou more murmur’st, I will rend an oak. And peg thee in hisknotty entrails till. Thou hast howled away twelve winters.” (Act 1, scene 2). Caliban, arguably seen by the reader of today asthe most subjugated character of all three texts, is overpowered bymany means. Prospero does not only resort to name-calling, heconstantly verbally abuses him, threatens him with heights ofphysical pain, and sends him on demeaning errands. For instance, heabuses Caliban, “Thou poisonous slave got by the devil himself/upon thy wicked dam, come forth” (1. Ii 322-323). Vaughan addsthat Prospero `manipulates the other characters throughout’ inorder to gain authoritarian domination and subjugation and one way inwhich this is utilised, is through language, in particular to directimperatives. For instance, Prospero counters Caliban’s accounts onthe past, “Thou most lying slave.” (1. Ii 347). This shows thatProspero takes advantage of moments of quarrel or antagonism tosubdue other characters and force or coerce them to submit to hisreasoning. By asserting that Caliban is a lying slave, Prospero wantsto show Caliban as a liar who is already in the suppression circlesof those with authority. In fact, the word slave denotes that Calibanis already under a suppressive york and he has to abide by the rulesof his masters, especially Prospero. Inclusively, Prospero hasno problem in reducing one to their utilitarian function like Hughand Okonkwo does, such as when he order Caliban to `fetch us the woodand fetch us in the fuel`. Moreover, Prospero coerced Caliban in sucha way that a reader of today would be forced to concur with Baughan’sdescription of Prospero… As a cruel egomaniac and an insufferablebore. “For this, be sure, tonight thou shalt have cramps, side-stitches that shall pen thy breath up.Urchins shall, forth at vast of night that they maywork, all exercise on thee. Thou shalt be pinchedas thick as honeycomb, each pinch  more stinging than beesthat made em.”  It is no mystery why Prospero callsCaliban a `Monster` and why this is his most recurrent sobriquet. Itserves, as one of his main ways of subjugation and this inparticular, is where Aristotle’s quote can be applied ‘Humanityis divided…those who have the right to command and those who areborn to obey`. Dependant on Prospero`s mood, Caliban`s form ofaddress would change to `Beast`, `Hag-Seed and/or `Litter`, Needsmore detail. When one takes an in depth look into the subjugation ofCaliban, they will take note of Shakespeare`s subtle hints andespecially the context surrounding Caliban. Firstly, Caliban isanagrammatic to ‘cannibal’, perhaps deriving from ‘Cariban’,in reference to the Carib Indian. Caliban becomes the epitome ofmonstrousness, a non-human symbol of human iniquity. Brown (2009) andBarker and Hulme (1985) assert, Caliban is born to obey as heoriginates from ‘Argier’, in North Africa, a placed viewed byShakespeare`s reception as a foil or negation of Western cultures andvalues. This is especially significant to Shakespeare`s audience asthere was little willingness to accept the legitimacy of structuresof belief, patterns of behaviour and social organisation other thanone’s own. Because of this attitude, they would have agreed withthe notion that Caliban is a cannibal since Caliban representedbestial vices that must be eradicated.  However, for thereader of today, in a world of multiculturalism and a willingness toaccept others, they would feel a certain extent of sympathy and infact empathy to Caliban. In addition, they would also view him as arighteous revolutionist, as he fought the structures of belief, thuspersonifying noble rebels, and who symbolises the exploitation ofEuropean imperialism. In fact, Brown (2009) and Barker and Hulme(1985) make noteworthy contributions by disproving Prospero’svalidity, but then fail to account for Caliban’s importance. Brown(2009) asserts that Prospero only subdues Caliban to supplement hisagenda. The whole drama reads contrarily with the insertion of theparticular allegation, which justify Prospero’s ultimate weaponsfor a peopling role.
“Though most lying slave, whom stripes may move, not kindness! Ihave used thee, filth as thou art, with human care, and lodged theein mine own cell, till though didst seek to violate the honour of mychild” (1.ii. 347-351). Meanwhile, in `Translations`, Hugh,the main patriarch, takes subjugation to such a level that hesubjugates his own progeny primarily by commanding Manus to completetasks not fit for his demeanour. This is seen when Hugh arrives onthe scene for the first time. As would have been commonplace when aperson of authority arrives, would be for a maidservant to offer toplace their possessions somewhere safe. However, instead of handinghis personal belongings to a maidservant, `he removes his hat andcoat and hands them and his stick to Manus, as if to a footman`. Hughdoes not stop here at subjugating his own son, but the reader furthersees this intensified when he orders Manus to `get him food and gethim a drink`. Even more so when we are given light to Hugh physicallycrippling Manus, when he fell across his cradle as a baby, and as aresult Manus now `walks with a limp`. Because of his prior attitudetowards Manus, a modern reader would group these instances togetheras subjugation develop. Furthermore, “Translations” opens withSarah, a mute and Manus, with his limp and the audience groups thetwo together via their disabilities and these physical disabilitiesserve to isolate them from the others and hence, they are seen aspartial outcasts. In this regards, the society in the Translationsseem to silence the physically frail as evidenced by the suppressionshown on Sarah. On a similar note, Hugh is socially prejudiced,through class and political opinion, which adds to the subjugation heemploys. For example, Hugh’s attitude towards Owen is one, which ismore positive and kind than that compared to Manus. Owen isconsidered ‘handsome’ and is always ‘dressed smartly – a cityman/His manner is easy and charming: everything he does is investedwith consideration and enthusiasm’. This is in sharp contrast toManus, who is introduced as ‘pale-faced, lightly built, intense,and works as an unpaid assistant… His clothes are shabby and whenhe moves we see that he is lame’. Hugh sees any request orinterjection by Owen positively, such as when Owen asks his father ifhe is ‘interrupting’ and if he can ‘bring them in’, Hughreplies ‘certainly’. This contrast in attitude and approachblatantly shows Hugh`s subjugation. Hugh’s drunkenness reveals thedecreased patriarchal setting that so preserved the societybefore. On the other hand, in “The Tempest” Miranda is theonly female in the play and she has not power or influence. Forexample, when she first appears on stage, Prospero orders her tosilence, “Here cease more questions. / Thou art incline to sleep.”(1. Ii 185-186). Ingalls suggests that despite any social rank thatMiranda has inherited from her father, she is identified with Calibanbecause she is a woman, going in line with the Great Chain of Being.However, unlike Caliban, Prospero subjugates Miranda in a differentand compassionate manner. In fact, he teaches her to speak up ratherthan to stay silent and asks her, “Dost thou attend me. / Thouattend’st not? / Dost thou hear?” (1. Ii 78, 87, 106). So much sothat `Caliban sees in Miranda only the distorted being of a women assexual receptacles and patronymic extensions, thus preventing himfrom grasping how similarly Prospero dominates both daughter andnative. Trapped in this irony, Caliban reinforces, rather thanweakens the claims of their mutual enslavement`. Thus it can bestated that Miranda holds no more power than a slave, regardless ofthe hierarchical status she inherited from her birth. In fact, asLoomba (1989) notes, Miranda is "the most unsociable ofRenaissance woman characters, and moves on an entirely male stage."(53). Miranda’s segregation from other females, has enforced anonconformity from the perfect females` schooling promoted inSalter`s Mirrhor of Modestie. Miranda hardly recollects havingbeen about "four or five women once that tended me," andhas almost no reminiscence of her mother (I.ii.47). Ingallsalso argues that `The Tempest` mystifies a political and economicsettlement between men as a marriage based on love at first sight.Thus, it seems that indeed Shakespeare romanticises the idea ofmarriage, in a society in which marriage was realistically a bindinglegal agreement not based on love. Moreover, in this period, it wouldbe a rarity for women to possess any sort of exhilarated purpose orpossess any power and thus it is of reasonable conclusion to say thatProspero uses his powers to manipulate her. Prospero `uses magic tocontrol her and her body to effect his transition back to worldlypower` and thus he uses his magic to put her in a trance and organiseher marriage, whom he feels is better suited for his daughter. Themost pertinent instance is when his magic is exercised to put Mirandainto a trance, "Thou art inclined to sleep/tis a gooddullness… I know thou canst not chose". This shows an absolutedomination over Miranda and despite her attempts to assert identityand independence, this result in futility. Marriage was arranged byProspero selfishly for restoring his family rule and `The marriage ofMiranda to Ferdinand will ostensibly secure public harmony andstability and demonstrate that political authority in the 17thcentury is hardly a monolithic structure, but instead is dispersedacross an intricate network of seduction and constraint, desire anddeference `. Moreover, another instance of Miranda`s`weakness` is seen in Act One Scene Two, when she begs Prospero to`allay the storm`, `if by your art, my dearest father, you have putthe wild waters in this roar, allay them`. The reader seesMiranda constantly dependant on her father. By `begging’, she isseen as complying and embodying the female principal, clusteringaround benightedness, being overly-sympathetic and oblivious.Prospero exercises his magical abilities to his benefit and reassuresMiranda `no harm has been done`. It can hence be inferred that `magicis his technology, a means to an end of getting what he wants. Therole of women is further explored in "Translations" throughSarah who is described as ‘sitting on a low stool, her head down,very tense, and clutching a slate on her knees’. Friel by employingbodily gestures and poses to characterise his group of actors,reveals to the reader the apparent social class in which they belong.The reader is introduced to Sarah as a woman whose ‘speech defectis so bad that all her life she has been considered locally dumb andshe has accepted this: when she wishes to communicate, she grunts andmakes unintelligible nasal sounds’. The play begins with Sarahattempting to say her name, what one would assume is a fairly easytask, however, due to her stutter, Sarah takes several attempts to doso and eventually manages to blurt out a sentence of four words, "myname is Sarah". This injects a sense of instant sense ofself-worth into Sarah and for the first time we see Sarah who isproud of herself and this promotes her second sentence as sheexclaims, "I said it Manus". Immediately afterwards, Jimmyand Manus discuss mythology and Sarah returns to silence. It seemsthat she is intimidated by the educated, fast paced conversationundertaken by the two academics when she can barely say her own name.Manus is older than Sarah and he has the ability to speak and teachIrish, English, Greek and Latin. He also has power over Sarah becauseof age, gender, education and social class. Manus is seen as asomewhat fatherly figure to Sarah, `coaxing her gently’ into herfirst words. In fact, Sarah does not object to the authority assertedon her by Manus, which helps to reveal the subjugation demonstratedin the text. In Things Fall Apart, Okonkwo emerges as anarchetypal hero and is one of the highest figure heads of the Igbotribe. Okonkwo`s method of subjugation focuses on social status,physicality and verbal abuse, much like Prospero. This is seen whenOkonkwo orders his wife quite vehemently to make him food every dayand when he orders Eznima, `Get me a pot`. and it is up to hisdiscretion to decide his wives and children’s future. “ThingsFall Apart” was initially written as a response to colonialistrepresentations of Africa and Africans in literature and it is aworld perceived as uncontrollable, chaotic, unattainable, andultimately evil. The role and treatment of women is a core theme.Okonkwo has no problem with resorting to physical and emotional abuseto women of his household and when one of his wives behaves out ofline, he responds by beating them harshly. He is so feared andrevered that no one dares to confront him to prevent the beatings.Okonkwo ‘gave her a sound beating and left her and her onlydaughter weeping. Neither of the other wives dared to interferebeyond an occasional and tentative, “it is enough Okonkwo”,pleaded from a reasonable distance’. Moreover, Okonkwo expects foodevery day by each of his wives, in his own personally built (‘obi’)hut, in which one must be granted permission to enter. Any request byOkonkwo that is responded without his satisfaction is met with harshconsequences, such as ‘I said a little. Are you deaf?’ proceedingwith his usual punishment of beatings. Hence, one of the main methodsof subjugation, which Okonkwo utilises, is that of a physical nature.From the perspective of a reader of today, Okonkwo would have beenseen as a male dominator who asserts his chauvinistic control overwomen to sustain his social standing and would have been horrifiedwith the violent, inhuman acts.
Many feminists’ critics claim, that woman’s experience will leadthem to value works differently from their male counterparts, who mayregard the problems women characteristically encounter of limitedinterest. In this regards, subjugation in the three texts, usuallyand interestingly is more directed to women and the weakercharacters.
Achebe, C, (1986) Things Fall Apart 1958 Portsmouth, NH, andOxford, England: Heine¬ mann.
Barker, F, and Hulme, P, (1985) Nymphs and reapers heavily vanish.Alternative Shakespeares, 191-205.
Brown, P, (1985), `This thing of darkness I acknowledge mine`: TheTempest and the Discourse of Colonialism. PoliticalShakespeare: New Essays in Cultural Materialism, 48-71.
Friel, B, (1981), Translations: A Play. Samuel French,Inc..
Loomba, A, (1989) Gender, race, Renaissance drama.Manchester University Press.
Onyemelukwe, I, (2004) Search for Lost Identity in Achebe`s ThingsFall Apart. Emerging Perspectives on Chinua Achebe, 1,35.
Shakespeare, W, (1998) The Tempest (1611) Aphra Behn:Oroonoko, 1688.