24 February 2009

Response to The Dilemma of a Ghost

The play titled The Dilemma of a Ghost is compelling. I believe the play specifically addresses an important issue that is still relevant today -- cultural miscommunication and misrepresentation. Throughout the cover image, stage directions, prelude, and the individual acts, Ama Ata Aidoo is meticulous and thought-provoking.

The cover of the Longman African Writers edition is intriguing. It caught my attention, and I spent some time exploring the details of the scene. It entails a yellow beach, an azure sea, fresh fish, and African clothing intertwined with regular (American) clothing. One African garment seems to possess an all-seeing eye. Eulalie Rush-Yawson even mentions a few of these very details as she views a travel brochure. In retrospect, after reading the play, these images are poignant and fitting.

Furthermore, after reading the character list, the reader is able to see a potential conflict. Specifically, the African versus the African-American experience is quite different. Also, the number of women listed in the character list is interesting. In essence, there are many women who have the potential to greatly influence the main character, Ato Yawson.

Moreover, Aidoo is Ibsen-like in his stage directions. The directions are very detailed and methodical. I felt as if they are used to foreshadow the plight of the protagonist. The main character is trapped, but there appears to be hope in the horizon. To further explain, on the right, the old building represents the old customs. On the left, the protagonist is enclosed by new customs. The enclosure, in the center of the building, represents the struggle within Ato.

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I believe the building is used to symbolize a life struggle, a life choice. If he chooses to follow the narrow passageway, the old ways offers spaciousness in an enclosed space. The door on the left, in the new building, leads to new rooms, new ideas. However, in the background, there is a path that leads to endless possibilities – the river (salvation, sanctification), the farm (everlasting life), and the market (new ideas, new relationships, and new commerce).

Similarly, to explicate the prelude, the reader senses the “Bird of the Wayside” as a listener, an observer, or a bard. This is important. Similar to Shakespeare’s usage of the chorus in his plays, Aidoo’s “Bird of the Wayside” is aware of the past, present, and the future. He is ever-present, knowledgeable. He is the informer. Possibly, he is represented by the all-seeing eye that is illustrated on the cover of the book. Also, in the prelude, the narrator sets up a conflict with the One Scholar. Finally, the “Bird of the Wayside” states, “I can furnish you with the reasons why / This and that and other things / Happened… / Look around you, / For the mouth must not tell everything. / Sometimes the eye can see / And the ear should hear” (11-13, 16-19). The narrator is calling the audience to action. The reader must take apart in the play.

Finally, as the Acts begin, the audience immediately recognizes the cultural disconnect between the protagonist, Ato, and his wife, Eulalie. Eulalie makes ignorant statements about African women and culture. Eulalie even states that all palm trees are the same, and she asserts that knowing the difference does not really matter. Similarly, Ato’s female relatives make ignorant statements about African Americans. The cultural miscommunication and misrepresentation is highlighted. Ato is the mediator, the educator. In essence, he is the bridge between the two spectrums of experience, but he fails at his tasks. Each Act can be explicated in a similar manner.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

aidoo is a woman

Dionne Blasingame said...

Yes, Aidoo is a woman.

Unknown said...

Who is the ghost and what is his dilemma, please?

razawally said...

The ghost here is Ato, the character of boy in the play is actually the ghost of Ato's former self.
Ato's dilemma is on how to bridge the gap between how he has become western influenced through education and his cultural identity

Deme Mouhamadou said...

Very inspiring play, culturally rich in learning, i am dealing with this play for a deeper understanding of the content, by the way is the film available her on the page? Thank you,

Unknown said...

Where to get a detailed analysis of the play