Soyinka's "Wailing Wall"

Julia Edwards '93 (English 32, Spring 1990)

In "Wailing Wall" Soyinka invites us into and guides us through a fiercely religious and death-ridden landscape. Soyinka prefaces this section with the historical signicance of the title "Wailing Wall," which was so dubbed "because [the Wall] overlooks the yard where a vioce cried out in agony all of one night and died at dawn, unattended." (p.32) He makes use of the ironic juxtaposition of words and images to illustrate the violent cruelty and evil that exists along side of [within, perhaps?] supposed religiosity and goodness: "stained-glass wounds," "broken Word," "tattered surplice," and "alters of evil." Of primary interest in this ironic imagery is the image of the Wailing Wall, a sacred wall of prayer and lamentation in Jerusalem believed to be a remnant of Solomon's temple, depicted as a wall that is "preyed upon/By scavenger, undertaker." What is believed holy and good has been infected and now infects. The initial description of this evil-ridden landscape is delivered from an absent narrator. However, the narrator appears in the fourth stanza, inviting the reader in, to illustrate the deathly effects of the "alters of evil" upon the individual as evil "feeds upon the wound and tears of piety." Soyinka uses the religious imagery to symbolize the general danger of a system gone bad and, in his specific history, the infected Judicial System responsible for his "hope buried in soil of darkness."

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