"Ever-Ready Bank Accounts"

Kelley Wilson '93 (English 32, 1990)

In "Ever-Ready Bank Accounts", Soyinka writes about debt. He discusses money and the results of having it, and, more importantly, not having it, and he attacks the effects of the economics that leave Nigeria an extremely stratified society.

In the first stanza, Soyinka concentrates on the economic policies of the elite and the results of these policies. He brings money down to its most basic meaning for the masses, who do not have enough of it: "Bread Bread Bread!" (Wole Soyinka, A Shuttle in the Crypt, New York: Hill and Wang, 1972, p. 81, l. 4). The elites are portrayed as selfish, non-caring "fingers / Clutching loud at plenty" (ll. 4-5). This greed is clearly unnecessary and acts only to take food from the mouths of the hungry. Since the elites have power, they are able to "clutch" or make their demands. The masses are shown as entirely unrepresented, left only to wait for "father-forager's return with empty sack" ( l. 16). The future holds no hope; tomorrow, the sack will still be empty. By means of word play, he shows how different the worlds of the two groups are: the elites worry that their "bank accounts / Are ever red" (ll. 1-2), while among the poor, "bank accounts / Are never read" (p. 81, ll. 7-8). Economic facts, such as the balance of payments, seem much less important when one's belly aches from hunger. He continues to give the reader a sickening description of the complete poverty which the destitute must deal with:

The mind of hungered innocence must turn
To strange cuisine - kebab of houseflies
On a broomstick prong; beetles broiled in carapace.(ll.11-13)

With this description, Soyinka purposely alienates and disgusts the reader, who is almost certainly unfamiliar with this life-style. Soyinka himself belongs to neither group, but he identifies more with the masses: "Slugs are scientific stores of high protein / They tell me - I never tried it yet" (ll. 14-15). Although he has never had to try eating slugs, the "yet" shows that he does not preclude the possibility of his being forced to.

The second and third stanzas concentrate on Soyinka personally; he describes an incident where he was short of funds. He shows that money is beyond normal human comprehension: "those noughts and crosses" are "mystic signs" (l. 23). Now a lack of money, although not as severe as that of the masses, forces him to lie:

My black deceit, my bold and knowing
"Damn-they're-late-again-with-that-cheque skin--
You know, my royalties, late again I see
It's alright really, do present it at month's end" (ll. 28-31)

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