Q & A: Write on the character of Yoko as a tragic heroine in Let Me Die Alone

Yoko embodies everything there is in a tragic heroine. Her story is a pitiable one of betrayals and distrust, capped off by a tragic end.

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Write on the character of Yoko as a tragic heroine in Let Me Die Alone

A tragic heroine is a female protagonist who suffers a tragic fate, often due to circumstances beyond her control. In John Kolosa Kargbo’s Let Me Die Alone, Yoko embodies everything there is in a tragic heroine. Her story is a pitiable one of betrayals and distrust, capped off by a tragic end.

Yoko is Gbanya’s wife who later becomes the ruler of Mende chiefdom. Being a woman in a typically male-dominant society, the societal dynamics is wired against her, even before the beginning of the play. She is one of Gbanya’s multiple wives, though the favourite, and a Sande dancer. Gbanya has initially promised to announce her as his successor, only to renege on his promise, in view of the demanding roles of a chief. For Gbanya, Yoko will not be able to handle the strenuous and exerting duties of the chief, an opinion formed based on a certain prejudice about her gender as the weaker sex. Gbanya will, however, take a U-turn yet again, this time in his death throes. He relinquishes the throne to Yoko when he discovers that he has been poisoned by Musa and Lamboi.

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The foregoing paragraph thus gives us a background of the things Yoko, in her ambition for power, must contend with in the play. However, her first visible loss is at the beginning of the play when she loses her husband to the sharp claws of death. Yoko lays claim to Gbanya’s throne after his demise, as per their agreement. But she faces much antagonism from her husband’s murderers who equally want the throne for themselves.

Musa and Lamboi plot against her. They kill Jeneba and implicate Yoko in the girl’s disappearance. They discreetly spread rumours about how Yoko had buried Jeneba alive to court the favour of the colonial governor. Meanwhile, Jeneba has become another victim of Musa’s human sacrifices, her organs harvested, and her body buried somewhere in the bush. The whole village turns against Yoko. The girl’s father, Ndapi, who is the chief warrior of the chiefdom, particularly challenges Yoko’s legitimacy. The Sande dancers disown and ostracise her. In other words, Yoko is disgraced, humiliated, and subjected to indignities by her subjects.

Yoko is vindicated when Jeneba’s body is unearthed, and it is discovered that some of her body parts are missing. The implication of this discovery is that the rumour of Yoko burying Jeneba alive is totally untrue. Despite the vindication, Yoko is so emotionally invested in the opinions of her people about her that she is devastated and psychologically let down by how they ill-treat her.

While she is resolute to unmask the killers of Jeneba, she is already on the path of depression or what she considers “disease of the mind,” one speeded by the colonial governor’s decision to strip her of a part of her territory. During her reign, Yoko has meticulously extended the reach of her chiefdom, only for the colonial governor to cede part of it to another ruler. While this points to how powerless traditional rulers are under colonial administration, it also leads to her depression and eventual suicide.

Another angle to the arc of Yoko, the tragic heroine, is her inability to conceive. As the favourite wife of Gbanya, she no doubt has access to coital activity with Gbanya more than the other wives. However, this does not make her a mother. When Gbanya dies, she chooses power over another chance at being a mother. She takes the people of Mende as her children instead, which is why their ill-treatment of her regarding the issue of Jeneba’s disappearance stings her. It is apparent that Yoko has disproved the impression that women are not fit for governance, especially with her diplomatic relation with the colonial governor, the expansion of her territorial reach, and the movement of her seat of power.

In conclusion, Yoko is a likable character in Let Me Die Alone but her loss, the antagonism from her detractors, the betrayal and ill-treatment by her people, the betrayal by the colonial governor, her barrenness, and her suicidal death qualifies her as a tragic heroine.

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