Parentheses Of Blood Essay, Research Paper
Parentheses of blood
By Sony Labou Tansi
Dramas are classified into four sub-fields: tragedies, comedies, melo-dramas, and satires. Each sub-field has characteristics, which makes it identifiable. It is common to find any combination of the sub-fields within a play. To classify drama one must look at the more prominent theme.
This paper is focusing on the drama ?Parentheses of blood?, by playwright Sony Labou Tansi. Tansi was born in Congo in 1947. Of his fifteen plays most were published in French. In 1986 his work was commissioned for English translation. Tansi has lived through Africas period of colonialism and the dictorial governments that followed.
Congo was under French colonial rule through his adolescent years. It went through periods of military dictatorship before democratization. Tansi was a member of the opposing party in Congo and won himself a seat in the National assembly in 1993, just two years before his death. Like many others in post-colonial Africa, Tansi felt oppressed and untrusting of government, this is clearly evident in ?Parentheses of blood.?
This play is an African Drama. Three-dimensional characters are common in African dramas, this is necessary in order to make the drama believable. Another theme of African plays is the presence of a storteller. This is common because many plays have been passed down through generations by word. A third distinguishing feature is an audience that has an active role within the play. A final identifying source is the presence of song and dance.
The characters in Tansi?s play were unquestionably three-dimensional. They all had distinct personalities and body, an essential for making the drama believable. How can the absence of the three remaining elements of African drama be explained? Tansi?s work was done in the post-colonial period. Because of French influence African song and dance became less prominent. It was not totally wiped out, but because of French policy many once common tribal songs and dance became less common among Africans. Writing in a modern period Tansi had no need for a storyteller. This play is a depiction of the way Tansi saw life in Africa from his own point of view. Tansi did not choose to have an active audience. Not all African dramas had this characteristic, but this could be another consequence of the transition to the post-modern literature of Africa. All literature changes with time and specific elements of literature can be associated with a given period; this transition in African drama can be compared with the identifiable periods in American literature.
Tansi?s piece of literature can be classified as a satire. There are three identifying themes in a satire; they deal with societal vices, reject individuals so the society can be cleansed, and are highly ironic. Each of these themes is found in this play.
The setting of Tansi?s piece is in an African community in postcolonial Africa. This small community is symbolic of many African countries after colonialism. After independence was granted the imperial empires of France and Britain picked up and moved out of Africa. Most African states were left without stable political institutions. This made it easy for powerful army leaders to take control of the government. Once in power the leaders would establish fake democracies. Elections were held in African societies, but the ruling party often rigged them. In a sense dictators ruled each country.
In the play the vices of the African society are clearly identified, ?The law forbids belief in Libertashio?s death, whether he is dead or not. Therefore he is not dead?(11). The vice of this society is with its political institution. The army had orders from the capital to kill Libertatio and anybody who denied that he was still alive. The irony of the situation was seen when Martial asked Mark what would happen if they brought back a fake. ?Mark: Send us back for another. Martial: And what happens to the fake? Mark: He is killed. What else? Libertatio has a different face every time. His body changes as often as most people?s moods. He?s tough as they come?(14).
Who is Libertatio? He symbolizes the feelings that many African people had. As was said earlier fake democracies were established in Africa, Libertatio stands for those that were sick of their government. One could say that Libertatio is a true democracy. In the beginning the group denied that Libertatio was alive. Because of this they were sentenced to death. As the story progress their moods change. They begin to stand up for Libertatio, ?Long live Libertatio?. This is ironic because they are standing up against their government. The reason for their support of Libertatio is not for anything he has done; it is their way of speaking out against political corruption.
The play is full of irony; it is impossible to mention it all. One highly ironic scene comes at the end. All know that death is coming. They have protested it and have even begun to prepare themselves. All were afraid to die, but one much less then the others. Dr. Portes realized that death was inevitable and stood strong. He supported Libertatio even as the gun barrel was at his head, begging them to kill him. Just then a soldier came with the news that Libertatio was a national hero, and this group was to be spared. The irony comes in here. The group is killed by Cavacha and supporting soldiers, but who is left alive, none other then Dr. Portes. Cavacha leaves saying, ?Those who want to follow me, let?s go. We?ll destroy the state radio station. We?ll tear down the capital?(56). This is another example of the political instability; Cavacha is planning a coup.
In satire?s individuals are rejected so the society can be cleansed. One would usually assume that it is the ?bad? that is rejected. In this play I would argue that those being oppressed are rejected. By the plays end those that stood against a brutal government lost. It is evident that Cavacha would not give up power without a fight. Either way one looks at it there are two sides and each side rejects the motives of the other.
Could this play possibly be a tragedy? I would argue that it couldn?t. The characters were not of the noble class, but the deciding factor for me was there was no main character ?hero? that died because of a tragic flaw. Classifying it as a comedy can be ruled out. One feature of a comedy is that it ends positively and this piece certainly did not do that. It was a comical play, but this was due to the irony, the humor of a comedy is different. Why not a melo-drama? I could not positively rule out this classification. Melo-dramas have a simple line between good and evil and this play does have that. One could argue that it is an emotional play as well. I would say it was mostly due to the irony found throughout the play that led me to the conclusion that it was a ?political? satire.
I think Maryse Conde said it best, ?We should avoid trying to find a single meaning, thereby reducing it to a set of symbols, narrowly conceived.? Interpreting literature is not an easy task. Many things can be taken different ways, depending on the reader?s own biases. However this play is interpreted one must not forget Tansi?s background. He was frustrated with the corruption of the government he was part of, ?Parentheses of blood? gives one a look at a small piece of the oppression Africans endure everyday.