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Aug 25, 2018

Dele Charley's The Blood of a Stranger: Background, Plot Summary, Setting, Language,Themes, Style and Characters

About the playwright
Dele Charley (whose real name is Raymond Caleb Ayodele) was born on March 27, 1948. He was a Sierra Leonean writer and playwright, writing in English and Krio Language. He studied in Freetown and London and worked for the Ministry of Education, Sierra Leone, before he died. He was also appointed lecturer in Dramatic Arts at Milton Margal Teacher Training College, Sierra Leone. The play, The Blood of a Stranger was performed in Nigeria during the African Festival of Arts (FESTAC) held in Lagos in 1977. The Blood of a Stranger is the late dramatist's best play and is probably the most dramatized play in the last half century in Freetown.
Dele Charley's The Blood of a Stranger: Background, Plot Summary, Setting, Language,Themes, Style and Characters

Background of the play
Arguably, there are two types of citizens in any country: those who are patriotic and those who can easily trade their countries for petty gifts. Dele Charley's The Blood of a Stranger projects these two kinds of people as it successfully demonstrates the evils of the African colonial encounter with the West, without presenting the colonized as mere victims.

Plot Summary
The play opens with Maligu, the King's advisor, receiving a letter from town that a white man is coming to the village to do tobacco farming. Knowing fully well that the village of Mando forbids the entrance of strangers and with the greedy intent of making huge amount of money from the white man's stay in the village, Maligu seeks and finds the cooperation of Soko, the priest of the village shrine, to prophesy that the land should welcome the stranger. As earlier stated, Maligu is aware that this manipulated prophecy is against the existing spiritual ordinance of the community not to accept visitors, which has been observed since the war in the land. To them, strangers represent illness, disease and aggression. However, Maligu is also aware that the narrative can easily be changed if he passes through Soko since Soko is the ordained priest of the village that has always interceded between them and their forefathers. He believes that the people will have no reason to question or doubt Soko's divination, so he conspired with Soko to act against the will of the gods. Soko agrees and calls the people together at the cave and passes the manipulated message across to the people. The King and the villagers accept everything Soko says, but the Chief of the warriors, Kindo, who is also the King's son, rejects Soko's prophecy with valid arguments. But the King insists on accepting the white man as Soko says.

The white man, symbolically called Whitehead, arrives with his attendant and shows little or no respect for the culture and traditions of the land. Kindo gets infuriated and forces him to order. The white man's aide, Parker, is brought to the palace and flogged by the village warriors for disobeying the King's order. The white man is forced to kiss the ground before the king as a show of respect before they are allowed to stay. This sows a seed of discord between Kindo and Whitehead. Whitehead soon takes Maligu into confidence that his true motive of coming to the village of Mando is get the diamonds on their land though he has given the king the false impression that he is in their land to cultivate a tobacco farm, build a school and help the village from the proceeds of the tobacco farm.

Mr Whitehead orders for gin and hard drugs and gives them to the people. The people start misbehaving after taking the hard drugs. This angers Kindo again and makes him to confront Whitehead and accuse him of evil doing. But Whitehead explains that he has no evil intention; he only wants to make the people happy. Then, Whitehead and Parker go to the King to express their gratitude and review their promises to the people, stating how difficult it will be to accomplish these promises without the people's compliance. The King, while smoking the tobacco Whitehead gives to him, tells the people to work hard for Whitehead so as to reap the blessings that follow.

As directed by Whitehead, Parker kills Soko on the day for the false virgin sacrifice. Kindo finds out and kills Parker in return. Maligu then puts on the priest's mask to continue with the false virgin sacrifice. While continuing with the sacrifice, Kindo comes in and exposes all the evil plans of Whitehead and Maligu. In what can be best described as retaliation, Whitehead and Maligu request that Kindo should be banished from the village of Mando for killing a man (Parker) in a peace period. The King, known as King Santigi, agrees and passes a sentence on Kindo. Before Kindo leaves the village, he tells the people about the evil plans of Whitehead and Maligu and the impending problems on the village. Kindo goes over to Whitehead and kills him, then, leaves the village with his warriors.

Setting
As regards place, the play, The Blood of a Stranger, is set in a fictional village (Mando) in Sierra Leone. It is set at a time when the white man, under religious disguise, came to Africa with the main intent of exploiting the black man's resources.


Language/Diction
The language of the play is simple. It is a mixture of Modern English and street language. The language used also reflects the characters' societal statuses. As a King, King Santigi's language is elevated and laced with wisdom and sometimes proverbs.

Themes in The Blood of a Stranger
i. Patriotism and resistance to oppression
Kindo's patriotic zeal saves the village of Mando from the vicious hands of Whitehead. When Whitehead refuses to accord King Santigi the respect he deserves, it is Kindo who restores it by putting Whitehead and his aide, Parker, where they truly belong --- beneath the King's feet.

ii. Greed
The marketers of this theme are Whitehead, Maligu and Soko. The sole aim of these characters is to get rich at all costs. While Whitehead comes to the village of Mando with dubious intent to cart the people's diamond away and become very rich, Maligu and Soko connive with Whitehead to carry out his intention and also get rich in the process. The theme of greed becomes evident when they begin to distrust one another and deplore strategies to eliminate each other to have a bigger part (if not all the parts) of the diamond wealth.

iii. The arrogance of the colonial masters
This is projected through the character of Whitehead. The claim that Whitehead is arrogant is an obvious fact. And this is why he refuses to pay homage to King Santigi until Kindo forces him to do so. This is reflective of colonial arrogance in history. The colonial masters did not only exploit the African soil but also engage Africans in service labour. This is portrayed in the play with Whitehead engaging the people to pick the diamond pebbles for him for pittance. It is also a show of arrogance that makes Whitehead introduce gin spirit drink in place of the people's local drink, mampama. Symbolically, Whitehead tries to impose his culture on the people instead of embracing the people's culture.

Other themes in the play are:
iv. Deceit and trickery

v. The role of African leaders in aiding colonialism. This is projected through the characters of Maligu and Soko.

vi. Justice always prevails over oppression. Of course this is seen in the end of the play.

Style
The Blood of a Stranger has linear plot structure and is very straightforward. It is simple and easy to follow and understand. The play is full of literary expressions such as personification (e.g., "the night grows old), metaphor (e.g., " Maligu is drunk in his books"), simile (e.g., Kindo is as willy as a monkey) etc.

Characters in The Blood of a Stranger
1. Maligu
He is the King's advisor and refers to as 'the wise one" by the King because he is well read and educated. He has lust for riches, and that is why he connives with Soko to work against the spiritual ordinance of Mandoland.

2. Soko
He is the priest of the village shrine and in league with Maligu to deceive the King and villagers with the false prophecy. He is full of deceit and a sincere liar.

3. Wara
Wara is Kindo's girlfriend. She believes so much in the customs of the people. No wonder she warns Kindo not to offend the gods by calling Soko and the spirits fake. She escapes rape in the hands of Mr. Whitehead when Soko and Maligu kidnap her to Mr. Whitehead's compound. Wara later runs out of the village in order not to be used for the peace sacrifice because when Soko prophesies that the gods demand the blood of a virgin as peace sacrifice, his intention is to use Wara for the sacrifice.

4. Kindo
He is the son of King Santigi and head of warriors of Mandoland. He is very young and only a boy when he fought in his first war. This shows that Kindo is brave. He has very sensitive instincts, and this helps him to detect the crooked plans of Maligu, Soko and Whitehead from the beginning. He is ambitious, stubborn and impatient. He loves and protects the custom of his people.

5. Santigi Mando V
He is the King of Mandoland. Santigi is an upright man and a rigid observer of traditional laws and cultural norms. His attitude towards Soko's false prophecy validates this claim though he is manipulated into admitting a stranger into his domain. He is gullible.

6. Parker
Andrew Samuel Stevenson Thomson-Parker (esq.) is an African who is the Secretary, Assistant, Interpreter, Adviser and the right hand man of Whitehead. He hates Maligu and does not trust him. Kindo flogs him thoroughly for encouraging the white man to undermine African traditional values and cultural practices.

7. Whitehead
Whitehead is the white man. He is a selfish manipulator. He manipulates Maligu's quest for riches and makes him to do his biddings. He uses hard drugs, tobacco and gin on the people to make them succumb to him. To achieve his evil plans, he plans to destroy Kindo, whom he sees as an obstacle.

Minor Characters
1. Sima
Another warrior of Mandoland.

2. Boko
Boko is a warrior of Mandoland. He is very loyal to Kindo. He and Sima lead the arrest of Whitehead and bring him before Kindo.

3. 1st Man
1st Man eulogises the white man when his people are under the influence of hard drug and gin.

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