The Trials of Brother Jero

The Trials of Brother Jero Essay Questions

  1. 1

    Soyinka's play is often characterized as satire. Do you agree? If so, what does he satirize, and how? If not, how would you categorize this work?

    Soyinka's play can easily be seen as a satire in his critical focus on the falsities of certain religious followings. Soyinka satirizes his specific visions of Christianity and religion through his ridiculous portrayal of Jero and his determination to expand his Brotherhood. Soyinka's play, however, can also be considered a tragicomedy, as its humor also ends in a disappointing outcome for Chume and further perpetuation of Jero's lies, highlighting humanity's unbounded desire to believe.

  2. 2

    Amope is not exactly a heroine or a villain, but she is undoubtedly one of the play's leading characters. What purpose does she serve in the play?

    Although Amope's constant complaints make it hard to view her favorably, she is often the voice of reason in the text. She is, in fact, the only character that accurately calls Jero out for what he is: a debtor and a fraud. Although she is often correct, she is also the character people are least likely to listen to, and most likely to avoid, demonstrating the ease with which characters can stray from reality.

  3. 3

    How does Soyinka incorporate the use of Nigerian pidgin into the script, and for what purpose does he do this?

    Never fully comfortable in English, Chume often breaks into pidgin while particularly excited, both for negative and positive reasons. Chume's use of pidgin as such first seems to underline the stark differences in background and education between Chume and Jero. However, pidgin is not necessarily to be looked down upon here: rather, it can be seen as tool exploited by Jero to further cement his own position of power.

  4. 4

    Jero, the Old Prophet, and Chume, all of who are significantly sexist, constantly criticize women. What does Soyinka intend to reveal about gender dynamics in this play, and how? Does he agree with the men of his story?

    Soyinka's play certainly draws attention to the gendered divides common in parts of Nigeria; however, it is important to remember that the society he here describes is corrupt and confused. Although women do face marginalization and sexism, Soyinka provides irony in creating Amope as one of the most feared characters of the play. Chume and Jero alike are equally terrified of Amope, underlining what Soyinka presents as ridiculous and unfounded stereotypes about women.

  5. 5

    Analyze, with reference to Soyinka's description of Jero's character, Jero's desired title of "Immaculate Jero, the Articulate Hero of Christ's Crusade." What does this self-attributed title intend to highlight?

    Jero's proud title seems odd for that of a prophet, yet it stems from a will to place himself apart from his own economic and cultural climate. His desire to be seen as "immaculate" reflects his peculiar dress and appearance, his need to separate himself from the rest of the villagers. His emphasis on "articulate" is a reaction to what he sees as the uneducated pidgin used by Chume and others. As he separates himself from his peers, Jero's title, too, must reflect the visible signs that prove his prophethood.

  6. 6

    Chume faces a large transformation over the course of this tale. Describe his change of character as it relates to one of the play's themes.

    Chume begins without his own sense of agency, blindly following Jero's words, deeply frustrated with his wife, and almost resigned to his unhappy state of affairs. However, he is empowered by his moment of leadership while taking over Jero's sermon, emboldened by Jero's permission to beat Amope, and finally snaps when he discovers that Jero is a phony. Although set free of lies and finally independent, Chume's final fate speaks to the power of social dynamics and their restrictions.

  7. 7

    Upon Chume's sudden change of character, Amope declares that he has gone mad. Discuss the role of madness in the play as it relates to the main characters.

    Amope's assertion that Chume has gone mad and Jero's plans to have him sent to a "lunatic asylum" are ironic as they comes when Chume has finally discovered the truth of his situation. Having broken free from his former deception, Chume's newfound ability to act outside of the constraints set upon him by Jero or Amope cause both to frame him as "mad." Thus, madness in the play is actually associated with Chume's ability to act independently, highlighting the constant deception by which other characters, acting as the followers Jero forms, live.

  8. 8

    Discuss the significance of the social and historical context in which the play was written on its action and characters. Answer with reference to historical research.

    This essay can lead to a number of directions. One route could discuss Soyinka's experience with a Christian upbringing combined with elements of the traditional Yoruba faith. Another could discuss how the social and political circumstances post-independence in Nigeria contributed to an environment that makes this play believable.

  9. 9

    Discuss the significance of the beachfront, where Jero proselytizes and claims to live. What is important about this location, and why?

    The beachfront is almost holy for Jero, where he holds his congregation meetings and where he convinces his congregation he sleeps. Thus this liminal space, located between the ocean and the mainland, serves as an important borderland between reality and illusion. It is the home to Jero's deception: the location where Jero targets his new converts like the Member of the House and pulls them into his following.

  10. 10

    Jero is always seen with his velvet cape, which is of great importance to him. Discuss its role in the play, as well as its symbolic significance.

    Brother Jero's velvet cape is a symbol for his false prophecies. With the intention of being known as the "velvet-hearted" Brother Jero, Jero believes the cape will allow him to embody the title. Yet the action, and his reliance on the cape, speaks more to his vision of religion and prophecies as a transactional business--something that can be purchased and exchanged. In fact, at the end of the play the audience learns that Jero purchased this velvet cape from Amope, and it is the item for which he owes her money. The cape, therefore, embodies the debt he owes others, and the false credit on which he bases his own claims.