An Analysis On The Relationship Between Bohannan And The Tiv

  • Category: English
  • Words: 560
  • Grade: 80
An analysis on the relationship between Bohannan and the Tiv
Laura Bohannan in "Shakespeare in the Bush" tells a story in which she travels to Africa to learn about the people of Tiv. An ironic point to her story is that she feels that the Tiv wasted their time drinking and telling stories, while she is serious, reading books and doing research about Africa. At the same time, the Tiv's considered Bohannan wasting her time; one man's good is another man's wrong. It is this cultural difference that sets the mood for the relationship between Bohannan and the Tiv, giving each their respectful differences of perspectives to one another's values.
As an African from a tribe, it is a common fact that a guest is treated with the utmost respect and hospitality. This implies to every guest regardless of past or present disputes; this due to honor which is an important part of tribal customs. It is with these points in mind that Bohannan's relationship with the Tiv is very high. The Tiv do not bother her and they allow her her privacy while she study's in her hut. But after a certain period of time, it is the right of the host to ask the guest to explain himself; as what the Tiv did by asking Bohannan to tell them a story. This request is very significant since " storytelling is a skilled art ... [and] standards are high, and the audiences critical" (302). This signifies Bohannan's important place among the elders of the Tiv people. Their willingness to listen to Bohannan means they respect her and her values.
As Bohannan conveys the story of Hamlet, the Tiv elders start to criticize many points of the story, which are considered important to the idea of Hamlet, in Bohannan's understanding of the story. These shaking new views of Hamlet upset her and make way for a new page of Hamlet interpretation. An elder senses her disturbance and asks for "his goatskin bag"(303), in which beer is served. This request symbolizes the gradual change in the relationship between the Tiv and Bohannan. She becomes an equal with the Tiv by drinking from a "goatskin bag"(303), which holds sentimental value.
It is at this point that Laura realizes that every person is entitled to his or her opinion and interpretation. The different view of Hamlet, other than an "English"(300), portrays the Tiv's cultural and ethical views by which their culture is based upon and how they interpret life as a whole. So Bohannan "[takes] out [her] notebook "¦ to be told "¦ about "¦ new [ideas]"(305), that criticize different themes and plots of Hamlet. These criticisms explain parts of the Tiv culture to Bohannan in an indirect manner. Bohannan's relationship evolves from being a guest to a student in which she finally attains her goal of learning about the Tiv culture. Ironically, through what she thinks is a waste of time, turns out to be the leading spark in reaching her main objective.
Work Cited
Bohannan, Laura. "Shakespeare in the Bush". Essay Writing for Canadian
Students. 4th ed. Eds. Kay L. Stewart, Chris J. Bullock, Marian E. Allen.
Scarborough: Prentice Hall, 1999. 300 - 309.
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