I rather liked Jones’ piece on “Death and the King’s Horseman.” Besides the obvious length of the piece, which was an absolute bonus, I thought that he made a well thought out argument. His main point “this loss of honour and the sacrifice of his son make up the Elesin’s real tragedy” (154), was spot on. After our class discussion on the play, it seemed that the majority of the class agreed that in some shape or fashion, the play was about moral choices and the decisions we make. Elesin was forced to make a moral and very difficult decision. Suicide cannot be an easy decision, I imagine that it is a very painstaking and terrible ordeal; but ritualistic suicide, the kind Elesin was being asked to commit must be even more difficult. He was being forced to end his own life, with the entire community watching. But Jones would argue, and I agree, that the real tragedy is the loss of pride and face that Elesin is forced to endure. Pilkings stopped the suicide and forced Elesin to endure endless scorn from the townspeople. This is the true tragedy of the play. It does not matter if Elesin was having second thoughts about his own death, I believe that he was actually going to go through with the suicide; but his destiny was deterred by Pilkings, and Elesin’s son was forced to take his place.
Here in lies the true tragedy that Jones argues for. The loss of the son and the loss of pride are what truly make Elesin’s life tragic. If Elesin had been permitted to commit suicide, all would have been right in the world. Elesin would have followed a time honored tradition, his son would still be alive, and Pilkings would not have been forced to take drastic measures that eventually led to an ‘innocent’ bystander’s death. I thought that Jones’ analysis of the play was interesting because he attempted to address one of the central issues of the play. He did not try and apply a literary criticism that did not make sense. His discussion of Elesin’s tragic demise was similar to what our class discussed and what our class agreed upon.