Laughter in Anthills of the Savannah

Elora Raymond, English 27, Brown University, 1997

What is the significance of laughter in Anthills of the Savannah? Laughter, jokes, also seem to play a role in the interactions that the council members have with their leader. Laughter is a form of flattery, a custom of former days, a sign of madness, and a way of showing defiance and courage.

"The attorney-general exploded into peals of laughter, uncontrollable and beer-bellied...his excellency, no doubt pleased with the dramatic result of his wit." (21)

"the professor laughed loud but a lone and stopped rather abruptly like a maniac." (16)

"This would have excited laughter at other times, but something totally new is happening now and we are all to amazed."

"He doesn't need a word from you. Remember he owns all the words in this country -- newspapers, radio and television stations... The peals of laughter that broke out engulfed everybody for minutes and put us at ease again. colleagues close enough were laughing and slapping my back." (6)

"He went out laughing. I too begin to laugh quite ostentatiously. Then I said to my colleagues, "there goes a man after my heart. A man who will not piss his pants at the first sign of danger." (9)

The crowd's laughter tat drives Ikem Isodi to write his editorials. At the public shooting, he observes, "even the poor man can forget what his suffering is about and become altogether too humorous in his suffering... But it wasn't Authority that worried me really; it never does. It wasn't those officious footings, either. It wasn't even the four who were mangled. It was the thousands who laughed so blatantly at their own humiliation and murder." (37)

Finally, it is Mad Medico's jokes and sense of humour that get him into trouble; he faces accusations of being an imperialist, white racist, red neck, and a negrophobist. Ikem and MM debate the matter.

"'Lets face it MM... would you have put up those jokes of yours in an English hospital?'

'Of course I wouldn't. Never said I would. But the English are not supposed to have a sense of humour to begin with. And this is not England, is it? Look outside...' We all laugh and applaud the brief oration" (p. 53)

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