Summary and Analysis of The Interpreters by Wole Soyinka

by Kev

Brief Summary of the Novel

The interpreters are a book written in series of events and scenes following the experiences of young Nigerian intellectuals who have returned to the country after independence. In a way, they are Nigeria’s lost generation, struggling to find their way in Lagos of a new Nigeria. The new Nigeria is in fact still forming and the characters are forced to face situations in which they also have to decide which they prefer-the old Nigerian system or a new one.

The boys have been educated abroad and the types of events they come across them and teaches them in different ways. They are able to compare different values and structures for example, Egbo experiences the struggle directly in which he is given two options. He can continue the way of his ancestors by refusing to his home and following tribal rules or can adopt and maintain a modern way of life in the new Nigeria.

Another part of the book is about Sagoe and his very interesting experiences. The author also delves into spirituality, religion and mysticism in Nigerian society. Through their experiences the boys learn not only more about their culture, but also the downsides of the Nigerian system such as corruption.

Although the major characters of the book are intellectuals, they do have differing personalities and responses to situations. While some of them can be rash and respond negatively at times, others like Bandela are calm and work to resolve problems and keep people together. In a way, the main characters themselves reflect the wide range of personalities and characters in Nigerian society itself.


The novel the interpreters has no central plot, instead it is written in an episodic style with scenic descriptions following sequence though with interpreted flashbacks enriching its structures and narrations.


The novel is set in Lagos and in the university of Ibadan. It is set in the 1960 in post independence and pre-civil war Nigers.

Diction/ Language

The language is difficult and obscured. Wole Soyinka is an obscured writer.

Point Of View

The writer adopted the omniscient point of view


The mood is that of sadness probing to what the people in Nigeria are facing in their everyday life.


The writer adopted the episodic style in his work with scenic descriptions following sequence though with interrupted flashbacks enriching its structure and narration.


There is a range of characters types  in the interpreters. In that each of the main personae has an individual way of interpreting the world though of course, due to their association with each other.


Egbo: The foreign ministry clerk

Bandele : University professor

Seloni: The engineer

Sagoe: The journalist

Kola: The artist

Minor Characters



Egbo: He is one of the five intellectuals. He is caught up on the frenzy of being a leader. Whether to rule in his village or stay on the urban area. Thus, he says in page 14 “I ask myself, is there between the ugly mudskeppers on this creck and the raucous roads of our sewage rodden ports?” he is the foreign ministry clerk Egbo represents the modern African at the point of choice between the old and the new. That it is clearly a very difficult and deep choice is evidenced by the foot that he with all his intellectual equipment, is enable to make it Egbo lost his parents, and the pains beeps aftecting him because they were drowned. He later had an affair with one Bandela’s student.

Sekoni: He is an engineer. He invented the unsolicited power station at Ijioha upon which politics holding the country’s progress and development back is played out. The expatriate writes off the project and the expectorate came to Ijioha, saw and condemned.

Corruption is played out through the registration of the project given to a two month old niece being the solepower contractor at the expense of the nation’s development.

Sekonr later got himself preked up by the police and eventually finds himself in the mental hospital in the depicting the height of injustice at insistence on treating the path of righteousness.

Sagoe Sagoe is a journalist. He became scared looking at Delinwe’s wardrobe supposedly housing Sir Derin’s ghost. He is a convenient character to provide many of the   mechanical links in the structure of the action, because as a journalist he can range over the greater part of society of the satire in the reasons why most of the satire in the novel is introduced through the perceptions of this character. Sagoe is aware of the importance of social differentiations such as the criterion of good taste. At the independent view point, the messenger, who assisted him during the interview.

Bandele: Bandele is a university professor. He is the teacher to the student that had an affair with. Through bandele, the novel’s taste out of the precarious religious experiences needing urgent interpretation in line with their thoughts and professional were drawn out.

Kota: Kota is an artist. He depicted an Ogun although the Ogun reveals some distortions, Egbo described Kola’s Ogun as not in his heroic aspect but frozen in kota’s depiction of one single myth associated with Ogun during which he at his drunkenness, loses his sense of recognition and slaughters his men in battle.

Kota integrates those homogenous religious characters with same beliefs used as models. This tends to interpret reciprocally both the people and the beliefs. Kola’s herd working nature forms a catalyst which causes other characters to react in significantly revealing ways.


  • Problem of leadership
  • Theme of dream
  • Extinction of the prevalent African culture
  • Theme of tribalism


Theme Of Problem Of Leadership

Just like there has always been a problem of leadership in Nigeria so also has Wole Soyinka depicted in his novel. Through Egbo, we see a problem of leadership. Egbo with all his intellectual equipment is unable to make a choice. Egbo represents the modern African at the point of choice between the old and the new. That is clearly a very difficult and deep choice is evidenced by the fact that Egbo, with all his intellectual equipment, is unable to make it.

Theme Of Death

Egbo lost his parents. They were crowded at this particular incident kept causing an excruciating pain on him. Whenever he realizes that his parents are dead, he feels bad. Sekoni also died in the novel.

Theme Of Tribalism

This is strongly seen in most countries of the world especially in Nigeria where an Hausa man would find it difficult to settle with an Igbo woman. Dehinwa’s parents loath the idea of their daughter getting married to a Gambar. (an Hausa man) having expended much on her education abroad. This depicts tribalism on a multicultural setting like Nigeria.

Figures Of Speech In The Novel

Symbolism: The reason of Egbo’s parents was seen as a symbol in the novel and it constantly laid a stunt on Egbo’s life because he remembers their leader always Egbo’s parents were drawn.

Egbo’s cultural connectivity escapades with his dead parents. Here, he shows his strong a head phenomenon. Though condemned by his guardians, this symbolize the prevalent African culture quite going into extinction because of such condemnation in the face of civilization and new religions.

Symbolism was also sighted where Egbo see Simi’s fears as water where he says in page 126 “Perhaps after all Simi could weep, for the length filled waters in the rockpools were the weave of Simi’s eyes.”

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