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Dilemma of a Ghost


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A: Ama Ata Aidoo Pf: 1964, Legon, Ghana Pb: 1965 G: Drama in 5 acts and a prelude; prose and free verse S: Courtyard of the Odumna Clan house, rural Ghana, 1960s C: 2m, 8f, 2 children (1m, 1f), 1 birdThe Wayside Bird tells of Ato Yawson, who has gone to the USA to study and is now returning to his ancestral home in Ghana. While at college, he meets and marries an African-American graduate Eulalie. His family are shocked that their oldest son has married a ‘woman who has no tribe’ and ‘the daughter of slaves’. Eulalie is excited by being in Africa but fearful of being thought a witch. She would like to have children, but Ato urges her to wait. Ato dreams of a traditional song about a ghost who did not know in which direction to travel. His mother Esi Kom gives Eulalie some snails to cook, and she horrifies Esi by throwing them away. Esi complains to Ato that, after all the sacrifices made to pay for his education, he now shows no gratitude or respect towards the family. Ato blames Eulalie for his troubles. About a year after her arrival, Eulalie is the subject of malicious gossip, because she has borne no children and insists on spending money on household appliances. The relatives come with magic herbs to make Eulalie fertile, but Ato lacks the courage to admit they are using birth control. Eulalie smokes and drinks too much and finally has an angry confrontation with Ato, who slaps her. That evening, Ato explains to his mother about birth control, and she is sorry that her family has been made fools of. Eulalie arrives unhappily, and Esi gently leads her off, while Ato hears again the ‘dilemma of the ghost’.

A: Ama Ata Aidoo Pf: 1964, Legon, Ghana Pb: 1965 G: Drama in 5 acts and a prelude; prose and free verse S: Courtyard of the Odumna Clan house, rural Ghana, 1960s C: 2m, 8f, 2 children (1m, 1f), 1 bird

Together with Sutherland, Aidoo is one of Ghana's leading playwrights, and this is her best-known play. It deals, as does Soyinka's Death and the King's Horsemen, with the problematic relationship with traditional tribal customs experienced by Africans educated abroad, facing the dilemma of not knowing in which direction to travel. It is the generous warmth of the women, the tenderness of the mother towards her daughter-in-law, that may solve the dilemma.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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Authors

Ama Ata Aidoo (b. 1942)


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