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AN INVESTIGATION INTO CRIME AND PUNISHMENT IN PLAYS

CHAPTER ONE

Introduction

The literature of every society serves as the written document, which forms the set of political principles by which the society is governed. While critics of such literature accede to the responsibility of providing the reader with a comprehensive interpretation and appreciation of its provision, they also caution the government of the day in her administrative strategies. According to X9yinkq, criticism is so important because a critic‟s job is not merely to review an existing piece of work, but also to create an atmosphere of appreciation, of tolerance, and “to cultivate an experimental attitude not only in writers, but in the audience,” (Cook, 1977: x).This dialectical study of crime and punishment, has been inspired, largely, by the sense of anomie caused by neo-colonial developments that benefit only a selected few, leaving the majority condemned to poverty and crime. The widespread corruption engendered by successive political systems in a country where a sequence of military dictatorships and subsequent civilian governments have become the norm, has become a deafening voice, which cannot be denied attention, particularly considering how this has been ascribed as a reason for the dystopia‟s incommensurate eruptions, and the attitude of the so-called Nigerian leaders in deliberately ignoring the notion of justice and its true definition by imposing their own definition and injecting it on the sensibility of their subjects, whose frame of mind they have deadened by poverty and other criminal acts. As Yerima observed in his Hard Ground (2005), nobody can grow in this way and will still remain calNm. Everybody has a right to live. But when this right is being stolen by those who should protect it, it simply suggests that one has been committed to death. Claude McKay, in his “If We Must Die”, concludes that the distinction, stateliness and, of course, resolution of such a humiliated person, infect the critic‟s psyche with strong indignation against the leaders in question. He writes: UNIVERSITY OF IBADAN LIBRARY 2 If we must die, let it not be like hogs/Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot! … If we must die, O let us nobly die … we must meet the common foe! … And for their thousand blows deal one deathblow! … Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back!”(McKay, 1922: 1). The conclusion could be reached that at this level of human experience, it is necessary to “kill … and often by any means we can lay our hands on”, (Yerima, 2005: 11).Poverty stinks. Therefore, if one man holds the soap, and will not let another have it, then there is a need for the latter to nudge the former slightly and collect the soap. “For you need a good bath to become a decent perfumed human being like him,”(Yerima, 2005: 11).This is the argument of the dramatists selected for this research. The brutish insensitivity of the leaders of any society toward their subjects, has always generated excruciating mental anguish, which in turn degenerates into a stoic, flagrant and daring disregard of the government and the principles or laws designed to regulate human behaviour. The consequence, however, is the brutal and inhuman methods employed in the name of punishment by agencies of the government to deal with the masses who simply are defending their existence. This sequence of cause and effect has been the thematic motif common to all the plays selected for this study, and this remains the compelling pressure on the title. It is aimed that this study would offer to identify and address the inequalities and injustices in the Nigerian socio-political experiences as represented in the texts under study by first attempting a comprehensive dialectics of crime and punishment, and second, attempt to sort and merge meanings that are closely related to achieve, at least, a near-common meanings of them. The selected plays are mainly revolt drama, existing to salvage a decaying society as they have succeeded in driving home salient social truths such as the political class being the cause of the criminal actions of the masses, giving deeper insights to the experience of the masses as they explore the three dimensions of revolt that are prominent in them, namely, messianic, social and existential.

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Updated: 10th October 2019 — 2:41 pm

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