An "agbada" is a long and intricate gown that Nigerian men wore during special occasions or in positions of high power. The wearing of agbadas is associated with prestige and influence.
Jero states he wishes his followers to think of him as an "ascetic," meaning one who isolates oneself from luxury and pleasures. There are many historical examples of Christians (and those of other religions) who chose to live as ascetics in the hopes of bringing them closer to their faith.
A cutlass, with which Chume appears in his desire to kill Jero, is a type of sword.
Daughters of Eve
Frequently used to describe women throughout the play, this term refers to the Book of Genesis, when Eve's consumption of the forbidden apple compels God to expel her and Adam from the Garden of Eden. Thus, characters referring to women as the "daughters of Eve" highlight what they see as their sinful nature, holding them accountable for all wrongs.
Jero refers to "a campaign led by six dancing girls from the French territory" during his explanation of winning beach turf for the Old Prophet. This relates to historical context: while Nigeria was a British colony until 1960, the French controlled much of the surrounding territory. In the age of empire, the British and French raced to expand their regional power and influence with colonies across the globe. Africa was an area of great attention, where imperial powers exploited Africans and natural resources of the land.
The definition of the adjective "immaculate," from Merriam-Webster online: "perfectly clean; having no flaw or error."
Pidgin developed in Nigeria as a means of communication among African and European traders, and spread in various forms among Africans who spoke different local languages. Despite its widespread use, pidgin remained mainly an oral language and was often associated with lower, uneducated classes. It was also rarely used in literature, as scholar Jane Wilkinson writes: "The phonetically based script adopted by scholars is hardly feasible for everyday or even literary usage, while the adoption of a more or less anglicized orthography [...the form used by Soyinka] has the disadvantage of presenting the language, once again, as no more than an inferior form of English."
Chume frequently uses pidgin in the text.
"Tabernacle" refers to an area where Christians pray.
The "new Mid-North-East State"
Jero tells one of his penitents that he will one day become Prime Minister of the "new Mid-North-East State," referring to the potential arrangements of territory that could come out of the colony's independence from Britain. Of course, there was really to be no such state.
The Cherubims and Seraphims, the Sisters of Judgement Day, and the Heavenly Cowboys
Jero discusses the other campaigns that fought for prized beach territory and power, listing the names of competing groups. Their names point to the irony of the profession, as Cherubim and Seraphim, angels of scripture, fight with the self-proclaimed Sisters of Judgment Day. The Heavenly Cowboys are the most absurdly named group, as Soyinka's use of "cowboy" directs attention to the bandit-like nature of these prophets who have co-opted religion and robbed heaven of its sanctity.
Urchins were usually young children who begged in the streets with drums. Various beats were played in differing instances; for example, the drummer boy insults Amope with a certain beat.
The Trials of Brother Jero Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for The Trials of Brother Jero is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
For much of the story Chume must bear Amope's unhappy and self-righteous, attitude to her world. Although set free of lies and finally independent, Chume's final fate speaks to the power of social dynamics and their restrictions.