Solitude's Influence on Wole Soyinka's Childhood

Laura Pilar Gelfman'00, English 27 (1997)

From the beginning of his life, Wole Soyinka finds peace in solitude. He discovers outlets to his family life in nature and he claims these sites as his own. This solemn, introspective behavior is incongruous with his mischievous nature. The peace Wole finds under the guava tree or on the Jonah rock helps him to understand himself. He holds great respect for the power of the guava tree:

Under the brooding clouds it performed the double feat of existing yet retreating into an inner world of benevolent foliage spirits, moist yet filled with a crisp vitality, silent yet wisely communicative. It was also without time. So was Jonah in a way, but the guava had this indefinable assurance of swallowing time, making it cease to exist (65).

Wole connects with the guava tree because he too exists in the world that which surrounds him, while at the same time, he retreats to his sites in nature. He has not yet achieved a true balance between these two, and therefore he is in awe of the tree. His curiosity, imagination, and zest for learning control him. The guava tree teaches him the value of solitude and forces him to understand the power of silence. In this silence, Wole communicates with himself. The guava tree makes him lose a grasp on time because in its company, the lure of silent communication transports him away from Ake and eliminates the pressure of time. Wole struggles between his family life and his solitude as he dreams of being more and more like the guava tree.