A CRITICAL ANALYSIS OF THE PLAY “THE MARRIAGE OF ANANSEWA” BY EFUA T. SUTHERLAND

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INTRODUCTION

This article introduces you to another text in comedy. We have decided to use an African text written by a woman. You may have noticed that we have been using the male instances throughout the book wherever we refer to scholars, critics, or a playwright just for convenience and not because we do not have female scholars and playwrights.

In Marriage of Anansewa, Efua Sutherland develops the Akan art of story-telling called Anansesem (Ananse stories). The play is a folklore based on the exploits of Ananse (spider). In different countries, people have their own legendary animal around which so many tales (exploits) are woven. These animals like tortoise, ram, and fox and so on get involved in very difficult and intricate situations but escape unhurt or triumph in the end through a cunning way. Many of these stories/fables are didactic while some of them are just for mere entertainment

Plot

The play tells a story of how Ananse, a wretched poor man gets rich through cunning and fraudulent means. Ananse has an only daughter called Anansewa who is a student of E. P. Secretarial School. He is so poor that he could not pay her school fees. She was driven from school and has stayed at home for about two weeks.

He devices means of paying his daughter’s school fees and feeding himself .He gets completely out of poverty. In his plan, he visits four Chiefs and promises to give each of them his only daughter Anansewa in marriage. He returns from the trip and dictates letters to the Chiefs, assuring them that their discussion on the ‘object of their interest’ is still as planned. Anansewa types the letters, oblivious of the fact that she is the object being referred to in the letter.

However, when she realizes that the letters are for choosing a husband for her, she protests. She feels that her father wants to “sell her like some parcel to a customer”(11). However, her father convinces her of the necessity of such plan. He arouses her interest in one of the Chiefs, Chief Who-is-Chief, whom he describes as “ finely built, glowing black, large eyed, handsome as anything, courageous and famous”(12).

In addition, the Chief has already given Ananse some money with which to pay Anansewa’s school fees. Consequently, Anansewa becomes interested and actually falls in love with this Chief. Ananse receives gifts from all the Chiefs, he improves his lifestyle considerably, renovates his house and buys new clothes. They are all interested in marrying Anansewa. Ananse is in a fix. He decides that Anansewa should “die”. He invites his mother (Aya) his aunt (Ekuwa) and Christie to outdooring ceremony for Anansewa.

This ceremony is cut short to enable him carry out his next plan successfully. He bundles his mother and aunt home on the pretext that “… enemies have set fire to our hope, our cocoa farm at their home town Nanka. He then connives with Christie and Anansewa to announce that Anansewa is “dead”. The news gets to the Chiefs and they send their condolences with gifts and inadvertently reveal the intention/motive for deciding to marry Anansewa. The last messengers to come are from Chief-Who-is-Chief. It is revealed that he wanted to marry Anansewa for true love and devotion. Ananse then goes into a trance and invokes Anansewa to resurrect.

Ancestors, I am pleading with you If it is your desire As it is ours That Chief-Who-Is-Chief Should marry Anansewa See to it that she returns to life! Wake her. See to it that Anansewa awakes And returns to become a bride!

At that invocation, Anansewa awakes and claims that she could hear Chief-Who-Is-Chief calling her. The play ends on a happy note as the power of love ostensibly triumphs.

Style

I have taken time to treat the dramatic techniques in detail. I have tried to explore all the devices used by the playwright to create this beautiful comedy.

Language

The language is simple, direct and humorous. The playwright uses ludicrous exaggeration and flattery, especially while Ananse addresses or talks about the chiefs. He uses praise-songs and  appellations to address the chiefs. This also brings into focus the love of flattery by our chiefs and leaders.

Suspense

Suspense is a very good technique in playwriting and Efua Sutherland uses it very well in this play. The audience is kept in suspense from the beginning to the end. The question in everyone’s mind is, how would Ananse wriggle himself out of this mess? The answer is not got until the end of the play. Ananse’s plans are not disclosed even to Christie. The Storyteller who comments on the progress of the play does not disclose it.

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