Dukana Fetes the the Sanitary Inspector

George P. Landow, Professor of English and Art History, Brown University

The following passage, which closes "The Inspector Calls by Ken Saro-Wiwa, beautifully captures the difficulties of modernizing traditional culture - in this case to insure that everyone in Nigeria has clean, uncontaminated water and that living areas do not serve as breeding grounds for all kinds of lethal germs:

On that occasion when the Sanitary Inspector himself came riding into town on his motor cycle, raising a storm of dust in his wake, he was confronted by the dollops of faeces of children, goats and dogs and by the bushes growing luxuriantly between the houses and along the footpaths. And the gods of the town decreed that the Sanitary Inspector should not see these blemishes which he was duty-bound to obliterate. And he found no one in the town lest he be tempted to ask any citizen where he and his children defecated. The spirits took over his motor-cycle and led him to the house of the Chief where Birabee and his assembled assistants fed him with the good things of life and gave him a good, fat envelope containing you know what, and made sure he drank alcohol to his heart's delight, and then they led him out again, on the same path by which he had come. He took away with him, in the dustclouds following upon his now heavily-laden motor-cycle, all those ill winds which, had they remained behind, would surely have plagued Dukana.

And once again, Dukana returned to its accustomed peace, somnolence, tranquility, dirt and happiness.["The Inspector Calls," A Forest of Flowers, 17-18]

How does the author's tone differ from that found in Saro-Wiwa's other stories that relate encounters of past and present, modern and traditional, western and indigenous cultures-- stories like "Night Ride," "Home, Sweet Home," and "The Stars Below"? How do this story, "The Inspector Calls," and "Case No. 100," which appears in the "High Life" section, illuminate each other?


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