Characterisation in Joe De Graft’s “Sons and Daughters”

The characters in the two-act play are Hannah Ofosu, James Ofosu, Aunt Fosuwa, Aaron Ofosu, Maanan Ofosu, George Ofosu, Lawyer Bonu, Mrs Bonu, Awere, and Adwoa.

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Sons and Daughters by J. C. De Graft is a 1964 play that deals with family life and the tensions that result from the clash of two generations in an era of rapid social change.

The characters in the two-act play are Hannah Ofosu, James Ofosu, Aunt Fosuwa, Aaron Ofosu, Maanan Ofosu, George Ofosu, Lawyer Bonu, Mrs Bonu, Awere, and Adwoa.

Hannah Ofosu

In Sons and Daughters, Hannah Ofosu embodies the essence of a traditional African woman. She is the devoted wife of James and the caring mother of George, Kofi, Aaron, and Maanan.

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Hannah Ofosu is a woman who effortlessly bridges the generation gap between parents and their children in the light of social change.

She typifies the traditional African woman: homely, courteous and concerned about her children’s welfare. She keenly observes her children’s personal struggles and aspirations, especially as it concerns their career choices. Unlike her husband, James, she readily embraces social change and readily accepts their children’s choices.

Hannah’s unconditional love and understanding create a safe space for her children. She even welcomes Aaron’s friend, Awere, into their home despite James’ reservations, believing that Awere is a positive influence. Hannah’s caring nature becomes evident when she recognises that Maanan is unhappy working in Lawyer Bonu’s office. She becomes a confidante for Maanan, providing a listening ear and support when Maanan opens up about Bonu’s harassment.

As a loving and respectful wife, Hannah warmly receives James when he returns home, taking his briefcase, offering him a glass of water, and inquiring about his day. She ensures that the family meals are prepared on time, displaying her commitment to her family’s well-being. Hannah’s tolerance extends even to James’ domineering elder sister, Fosuwa, although she strives to balance her family’s interests with Fosuwa’s presence.

Hannah’s assertiveness shines through when she defends the innocent relationship between Maanan and Awere against Fosuwa’s insinuations. She values her independence and expresses her dissatisfaction with living in the same household as their extended relatives, particularly the nosy Aunt Fosuwa. Hannah desires a harmonious relationship between her children and their father, patiently working to make James understand the perspective of the younger generation and their unique challenges.

Hannah helps unravel Lawyer Bonu’s true identity, leading to the resolution of the central conflict. She creates an environment in which both James and the children can openly express their opinions, facilitating a meaningful conclusion. Hannah becomes the pillar of support for everyone, offering her shoulder to lean on and resolving their divergent views.

James Ofosu

James Ofosu, a wealthy transport service owner, is the central character in J. C. De Graft’s Sons and Daughters. He is the husband of Hannah and father to George, Kofi, Aaron, and Maanan. He is a self-made man with modest educational background but substantial wealth.

The play unfolds within the confines of his house, serving as the backdrop for the story. Initially, James is depicted as a hot-tempered individual, often dismissing differing opinions without consideration. This strained his relationships, particularly with Maanan, Aaron, and Hannah, his wife.

His youngest son, Aaron, aspires to become a graphic artist, while Maanan dreams of a career in stage dancing. However, James strongly opposes their career choices, favouring engineering for Aaron and law for Maanan.

When his wife and Maanan attempt to reveal Lawyer Bonu’s attempts to seduce Maanan, James immediately dismisses it as a plot to blackmail his trusted friend. His limited education plays a role in allowing Lawyer Bonu to exploit him. Once James makes a decision, he staunchly resists any attempts to sway his judgment.

Unfortunately for James, his trust in Lawyer Bonu, a supposed close friend, proves to be his downfall when Bonu betrays him by seducing his only daughter. This revelation shakes James to the core and reveals a deeper aspect of his character. While he may have a generally domineering nature, he is also capable of swift and dramatic action when faced with the truth or the reality of a situation. For instance, upon discovering Bonu’s infidelity, James promptly expels him from his house.

James Ofosu can also be described as a round character. This is evident in his journey from a rigid and uncompromising father to a more understanding and accepting figure. James undergoes a transformative journey, gradually becoming more accommodating of differing viewpoints and exercising caution in forming friendships. As the story progresses, James begins to display growth and maturity, developing a willingness to listen to his children and consider their chosen career paths.

Aunt Fosuwa

Aunt Fosuwa is a paternal aunt to Aaron and Maanan, and an intriguing presence in Ofosu household. She holds a deep reverence for prestige and wealth, often prioritising these values above all else. Beneath her materialistic façade, Fosuwa possesses a complex mix of motivations and desires.

Fosuwa’s initial disapproval of Awere, a young man associated with Maanan, stems not only from his modest means but also from her eagerness for Maanan to marry someone as financially successful as Lawyer Bonu. Her fixation on money clouds her judgment and leads her to subvert James’ well-intentioned efforts.

Encouraging Lawyer Bonu’s advances towards Maanan, Fosuwa blindly supports their relationship, pleading for Lawyer Bonu’s forgiveness on Maanan’s behalf, even in the face of wrongdoing.

Driven by her love for money, Fosuwa becomes an unwitting accomplice in jeopardizing Maanan’s well-being and disregarding James’ concerns. When Lawyer Bonu’s wife visits James’ house in search of her husband, Fosuwa’s loyalty to the Lawyer and her greed are exposed as she insults the wife, suggesting that if Lawyer Bonu were satisfied with her, he would not be interested in Maanan.

Fosuwa’s gossiping tendencies and interference in matters that do not concern her reveal her character flaws. Hannah, James’ wife, is forced to reprimand her for meddling in their family affairs. Fosuwa epitomises the archetypal African sister-in-law, frequently reacting with hostility whenever Hannah’s actions threaten to limit her influence on the family dynamics.

Fosuwa’s endorsement of polygamy further exemplifies her morally questionable perspective. She believes that men have the right to marry multiple wives, and her own history of three marriages serves as her justification. This mindset influences her encouragement of the relationship between Maanan and Lawyer Bonu, as she believes that a wealthy man like Bonu is a desirable match for Maanan, regardless of the consequences.

Aaron Ofosu

Aaron is the youngest son of James Ofosu and Hannah Ofosu, and a brother to Maanah in whom he confides his frustrations about his father’s rigidity and resoluteness.

Although his father wants him to become an engineer, Aaron wants to become an artist and has a flair for painting. As a result of this, Aaron is continually frustrated and easily vents his anger on his brother, George, and their maidservant, Adwoa.

Aaron is an advocate of doing art for art sake.

“Art must bring in money, or there will be no art — no painting, no writing, no drama, no dancing, no music. Our society is sold on money: nothing is worth anything unless it brings in money; and those who have the talent to be real great artists — what do they do about it? They allow our philistine public to browbeat them into submission, they dare not love their calling, they dare not give themselves heart and soul to her, they are ashamed of her because she wears no golden ornaments.”

Aaron (Sons and Daughters, p. 8)
Sons and Daughters

Maanan Ofosu

Maanan Ofosu is a sister to Aaron and a daughter to James and Hannah Ofosu. Maanan aspires to become a professional stage dancer, a career which her father, influenced by Lawyer Bonu, sees as a shameful occupation that reeks of nudity.

Maanan Ofosu tries to make her father see the true picture of her chosen career but her father rather holds fast to the lies he is being fed by his friend. She is instead apprenticed to Lawyer Bonu to learn about law practice while she prepares to go and study the course in the appropriate institution of learning. Lawyer Bonu tries to take advantage of her father’s rigidity by making sexual advances at her, while promising to convince her father to allow her pursue her aspiration if she accepts his sexual advances. As a result, she is frustrated working in Lawyer Bonu’s office and tired that no one could see through Bonu’s pretence.

Lawyer Bonu will later bring his shameless sexual advances down to the Ofosu’s doorstep. It takes the synergy and harmonious daughter-to-mother relationship between Manaan and her mother, Hannah, for them to make James Ofosu see through Lawyer Bonu ulterior motives and see the lawyer for the sexual predator and betrayer he is.

This shocking revelation breaks through her father’s resolve, resulting in her being allowed to pursue her dream of becoming a professional dancer.

George Ofosu

George Ofosu is an elder brother to Aaron and Maanan. He is a medical doctor by profession and a tennis player in his pastime.

For his father, George is the perfect example of an obedient child who followed the career path chosen for him. James does flaunt George at every opportunity at Aaron and Maanan as an example of what they could become if they follow the career paths he has chosen for them.

As a result, George becomes a victim of transferred aggression from his younger siblings, especially Aaron.

George intimates his father later that medicine has always been a profession he loves and is passionate about. It is only coincidental that it is the same course his father wanted him to study. He urges his father to allow Aaron and Maanan follow their dreams just like he did.

Lawyer Bonu

Lawyer Bonu is a friend of the Ofosu family. He is a selfish individual who capitalizes on the half-education of his trusted friend, James, to hold his family at ransom. He badmouths Maanan’s career choice and feeds James lies about the entails of the profession just so he can have Maanan within his reach and James in his pocket.

He betrays his friend’s trust by shamelessly making sexual advances at Maanan. It is not enough that he does that in his office. He even had the audacity to replicate it in James’ home, thinking James is not around. He offers to sweet-talk James into allowing Maanan to pursue her career as a professional dancer only if she gives him a chance. He is however caught red-handed by James.

Lawyer Bonu is an example of what a man shouldn’t be. He is a betrayer, sexual predator and an unfaithful husband. His conduct also shows that being educated does not translate to being morally upright.

Mrs. Bonu

Mrs. Bonu is the wife to Lawyer Bonu. She is introduced into the play in the second act of the play. She is showed in by Adwoa, the maidservant, just in time to witness the aftermath of her husband’s misbehaviour. She claims to have been alerted by Lawyer Bonu’s clerk about a possible affair between the lawyer and Maanan.

She appears disappointed and somewhat unhappy. Before she and her husband could turn Ofosu’s house to their marital battleground, they are sent out of the house to settle their differences elsewhere.

Awere

Awere is Aaron’s friend. Like Aaron, he is an artist, a very talented one at that. He is a persona non grata in the Ofosu’s household, despite maintaining a cordial relationship with Aaron and Maanan. To James Ofosu, Awere is a bad influence on Aaron. To Aunt Fosuwa, Awere is competing with Lawyer Bonu for Maanan’s attention.

Awere succeeds in his painting career and sells one of his paintings for £220. His success, announced on the radio, in a way melts away the wrong notion James Ofosu has about painting.

Adwoa

Adwoa is the maidservant of the Ofosu family. She helps Hannah in the management of the house in respect of the domestic chores. She is yet another victim of Aaron’s transferred aggression. Aaron vents his temper on her for taking “a steaming pan of slops” across the room.

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