1. This autobiography begins with questions of language, memory, and time. Pages 3-4, like page 63, explicitly contrast past and present. What has this contrast to do with Wordsworth's "Tintern Abbey" and the romantic return, physically or in imagination, to places one has known in the past?
2. Like the Alice in Wonderland, Aké frequently permits us to experience (or re-experience) the child's misunderstandings of adult language, as when, for example, the young Wole thinks his father, the headmaster of the local school whose initials are S. A., is named "Essay" (14). Compare his terrified reaction to his argumentative father's playing with scripture at the end of the first chapter (21). How do such passages serve to characterize the young narrator, and why, other than to provide comedy, does Soyinka include them?
3. The Bildungsroman -- the novel of growth and development (Jane Eyre, Great Expectations, North and South) and the autobiography frequently use movement through space to suggest maturation. How does the third chapter use Wole's joining the parade and marching out of Aké? What does he learn during his journey, and what does the narration of it tell the reader? What are the political implications of the episode in which he encounters the British soldier (48-49)? How does this representation of the British contrast with the women's strike later in the book?
4. The opening pages tell us that "at the Sunday school the real stories were told" (3), but immediately allude to the Arabian Nights. Why? What does this have to do with autobiography? autobiography in a colonial or postcolonial context?
5. At several key points -- pages 5 and 19, for example, -- Aké presents grotesque or fantastic episodes. How do they relate to characterization, autobiography, and postcolonial literature?
6. How old is Wole at each crucial episode? How do we know?
7. Aké seems to alternate between depictions of traumatic injury ( 27, 34) and portraits of an idyllic childhood in which he finds himself surrounded by nurturing parents. Why does Soyinka include narrations of these accidents?
8. How much of the narrative is self-aggrandizing?
9. Why does the definition of the word egúngún (31) come so long after it first appears in the text?
10. What does the loving passage about the bookseller's wife in chapter one (15) tell us about the way the idea of family in Yoruba culture differs from that in the west? What does this passage suggest about notions of beauty?
11. Where and how does Soyinka emphasize that the economical roles of women in Nigeria differ vastly from those of women in England?
12. Why does Soyinka look down on African popular music known as Afro Pop? Doesn't it attempt the same thing that his poetry and autobiography do -- that is, combine European and African traditions?
Last Modified: 20 March, 2002