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We Wear the Mask Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906) We wear the mask that grins and lies, It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes, This debt we pay to human guile; With torn and bleeding hearts we smile, And mouth with myriad subtleties. Why should the world be over-wise, In counting all our tears and sighs? Nay, let them only see us,while We wear the mask. We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries To thee from tortured souls arise. We sing, but oh the clay is vile Beneath our feet, and long the mile; But let the world dream otherwise, We wear the mask!

Once upon a time Gabriel Okara Once upon a time, son, they used to laugh with their hearts and laugh with their eyes: but now they only laugh with their teeth, while their ice-block-cold eyes search behind my shadow. There was a time indeed

nice talking to you, after being bored. But believe me, son. I want to be what I used to be when I was like you. I want to unlearn all these muting things. Most of all, I want to relearn how to laugh, for my laugh in the mirror shows only my teeth like a snake's bare fangs! So show me, son,

they used to shake hands with their hearts: how to laugh; show me how but that's gone, son. I used to laugh and smile Now they shake hands without hearts: once upon a time when I was like you. while their left hands search my empty pockets. `Feel at home! `Come again: they say, and when I come again and feel at home, once, twice, there will be no thricefor then I find doors shut on me. So I have learned many things, son. I have learned to wear many faces like dresses - homeface, officeface, streetface, hostface, cocktailface, with all their conforming smiles like a fixed portrait smile. And I have learned too to laugh with only me teeth and shake hands without my heart. I have also learned to say,`Goodbye, when I mean `Good-riddance`: to say `Glad to meet you, without being glad; and to say `It's been

Osiris & Isis Retold by Padraic Colum And from Qb, the Father, and Nut, the When Osiris reigned death was not in the land. Arms were not in mens hands; there were not any wars. From end to end of the land music sounded; men and women spoke so sweetly and out of such depth of feeling that all they said was oratory and poetry. Osiris taught men and women wisdom and he taught them all the arts. He it was who first planted the vine; he it was who showed men how and when to sow grain, how to plant and tend the fruit-trees; he caused them to rejoice in the flowers also. Osiris with Sth and was his wife, and Sths made laws for men so that they were able to abode was in the desert. live together in harmony; he gave them Sth, in his desert, was angered against knowledge of the Gods, and he showed them Osiris, for everywhere green things that how the Gods might be honored. Sth hated were growing over the land And this was what he taught them concerning the Gods: In the beginning was the formless abyss, Nuu. From Nuu came R, the Sun. R was the first and he was the most divine of all beings. R created all forms. From his thought came Shu and Tefnet, the Upper and the Lower Air. From Shu and Tefnet came Qb and Nut, the Earth and the Sky. The Earth and the Sky had been separated, the one from the other, but once they had been joined together. From the eye of R, made out of the essence that is in that eye, came the first man and the first woman. vine, and grain, and the flowers. Many times Sth tried to destroy his brother Osiris, but always his plots were baffled by the watchful care of Isis. One day he took the measurement of Osiriss bodyhe took the measurement from his shadow and he made a chest that was the exact size of Osiris. Soon, at the time before the season of drought, Sth gave a banquet, and to that banquet he invited all the children of Earth and the Sky. To that banquet came Thout, the Wise One, and Nephthys, the wife of Sth, and Sth himself, and Isis, and Osiris. Mother, Osiris was born. When he was born a voice came into the world, crying, Behold, the Lord of all things is born! And with Osiris was born Isis, his sister. Afterwards was born Thout,1 the Wise One. Then there was born Nephthys. And, last, there was born Sth. And Sth tore a hole in his mothers sideSth the Violent One. Now Osiris and Isis loved each other as husband and wife, and together they reigned over the land. Thout was with them, and he taught men the arts of writing and of reckoning. Nephthys went

And where they sat at banquet they could see the chest that Sth had madethe chest made of fragrant and diversified woods. All admired that chest. Then Sth, as though he would have them enter into a game, told all of them that he would give the chest to the one whose body fitted most closely in it. The children of Qb and Nut went and laid themselves in the chest that Sth had made: Sth went and laid himself in it, Nephthys went and laid herself in it, Thout went and laid himself in it, Isis went and laid herself in it. All were short; none, laid in the chest, but left a space above his or her head. Then Osiris took the crown off his head and laid himself in the chest. His form filled it in its length and its breadth. Isis and Nephthys and Thout stood above where he lay, looking down upon Osiris, so resplendent of face, so perfect of limb, and congratulating possession him upon coming into

and having soldered it, took up the sealed chest, and, with Sth going before them, they ran with it out of the hall. Isis and Nephthys and Thout ran after those who bore the chest. But the night was dark, and these three children of Qb and Nut were separated, one from the other, and from Sth and his crew. And these came to where the river was, and they flung the sealed chest into the river. Isis, and Thout, and Nephthys, following the tracks that Sth and his crew had made, came to the riverbank when it was daylight, but by that time the current of the river had brought the chest out into the sea. Isis followed along the bank of the river, lamenting for Osiris. She came to the sea, and she crossed over it, but she did not know where to go to seek for the body of Osiris. She wandered through the world, and where she went bands of children went with her, and they helped her in her search.

of the splendid chest that Sth had made. Sth was not beside the chest then. He shouted, and his attendants to the number of seventy-two came into the banquetting hall. They placed the heavy cover upon the chest; they hammered nails into it; they soldered it all over with melted lead. Nor could Isis, nor Thout, nor Nephthys break through the circle that Sths attendants made around the chest. And they, having nailed the cover down, The chest that held the body of Osiris had drifted in the sea. A flood had cast it upon the land. It had lain in a thicket of young trees. A tree, growing, had lifted it up. The branches of the tree wrapped themselves around it; the bark of the tree spread itself around it; at last the tree grew there, covering the chest with its bark. The land in which this happened was

Byblos.2 The king and queen of the city, Melquart and wonderful Astarte, heard of the

her finger in its mouth. At night she would strip wood from the column that had grown as a tree, and throw the wood upon the fire. And in this fire she would lay the queens child. The fire did not injure it at all; it burned softly around the child. Then Isis, in the form of a swallow, would fly around the column, lamenting. One night the queen came into the hall where her child was being nursed. She saw no nurse there; she saw her child lying in the fire. She snatched the child up, crying out. Then Isis spoke to the queen from the column on which, in the form of a swallow, she perched. She told the queen that the child would have gained immortality had it been suffered to lie for a night and another wood of the column. Now it would be long-lived, but not immortal. And she revealed her own divinity to the queen, and claimed the column that had been made from the wonderful tree. The king had the column taken down; it was split open, and the chest which Isis had sought for so long and with so many lamentations was within it. Isis wrapped the chest in linen, and it was carried for her out of the kings house. And then a ship was given to her, and on that ship, Isis, never stirring from beside the chest, sailed back to Egypt. And coming into Egypt she opened the chest, and took the body of her lord and

tree, the branches and bark of which gave forth a fragrance. The king had the tree cut down; its branches were trimmed off, and the tree was set up as a column in the kings house. And then Isis, coming to Byblos, was told of the wonderful tree that grew by the sea. She was told of it by a band of children who came to her. She came to the place: she found that the tree had been cut down and that its trunk was now set up as a column in the kings house. She knew from what she heard about the wonderful fragrance that was in the trunk and branches of the tree that the chest she was seeking was within it. She stayed beside where the tree had been. Many who came to that place saw the queenly figure that, day and night, stood near where the wonderful tree had been. But none who came near was spoken to by her. Then the queen, having heard about the stranger who stood there, came to her. When she came near, Isis put her hand upon her head, and thereupon a fragrance went from Isis and filled the body of the queen. The queen would have this majestical stranger go with her to her house. Isis went. She nursed the queens child in the hall in which stood the column that had closed in it the chest which she sought. She nourished the queens child by placing

husband out of it. She breathed into his mouth, and, with the motion of her wings (for Isis, being divine, could assume wings), she brought life back to Osiris. And there, away from men and from all the children of Qb and Nut, Osiris and Isis lived together. But one night Sth, as he was hunting gazelles by moonlight, came upon Osiris and Isis sleeping. Fiercely he fell upon his brother; he tore his body into fourteen pieces. Then, taking the pieces that were the body of Osiris, he scattered them over the land. Death had come into the land from the time Osiris had been closed in the chest through the cunning of Sth; war was in the land; men always had arms in their hands. No longer did music sound, no longer did men and women talk sweetly and out of the depths of their feelings. Less and less did grain, and fruit trees, and the vine flourish. The green places everywhere were giving way to the desert. Sth was triumphant; Thout and Nephthys cowered before him. And all the beauty and all the abundance that had come from R would be destroyed if the pieces that had been the body of Osiris were not brought together once more. So Isis sought for them, and Nephthys, her sister, helped her in her seeking. Isis, in a boat that was made of reeds, floated over the marshes, seeking for the pieces. One, and then another, and then another was found. At last she had all the pieces of his torn body. She laid them together on a floating island, and reformed them. And as the body of Osiris was formed

once more, the wars that men were waging died down; peace came; grain, and the vine, and the fruit trees grew once more. And a voice came to Isis and told her that Osiris lived again, but that he lived in the Underworld where he was now the Judge of the Dead, and that through the justice that he meted out, men and women had life immortal. And a child of Osiris was born to Isis: Horus3 he was named. Nephthys and the wise Thout guarded him on the floating island where he was born. Horus grew up, and he strove against the evil power of Sth. In battle he overcame him, and in bonds he brought the evil Sth, the destroyer of his father, before Isis, his mother. Isis would not have Sth slain: still he lives, but now he is of the lesser Gods, and his power for evil is not so great as it was in the time before Horus grew to be the avenger of his father. #

Respond and Interpret 1. What details in Osiris and Isis remind you of other myths and legends you have read? 2. (a)How does Seth trick Osiris? (b)What do Seths actions convey about his character? 3. (a)How does Seths rule affect Egyptian civilization? (b)Why might details about Seths rule be included in the myth? 4. (a)What does Isis do with the child of Queen Astarte? (b)What does this episode reveal about Isis? 5. (a)What changes does the reformation of Osiriss body produce in the Egyptian landscape? (b)What does this indicate about the nature of Osiris in Egyptian belief? 6. (a)How do the roles of Osiris, Isis, and Seth shift throughout this myth? (b)In your view, which of the three emerges as the most powerful figure, and why? 7. What is your opinion of Isiss decision to spare Seth? 8. Why do you think the story of Osiris and Isis was central to Egyptian mythology? 9. Connect to Today Heroes with extraordinary abilities abound in popular culture. Who are some of these heroes, and why do you think they remain popular? Literary Element Archetype Archetypes such as heroes, villains, tricksters, and quests appear frequently in myths and legends. 1. What characteristics associated with Seth indicate that he is an archetypal figure? 2. Think of another famous archetypal villain. What do this villain and Seth have in common? Reading Strategy Identify Genre A myth is a traditional story that may explain a fact about the world, a custom, or a force of nature. 1. Osiris and Isis explains the origin of what fact of life?

2. What aspects of Egyptian civilization are explained?

The VOTER Rufus OkekeRoof for shortwas a very popular man in his village. Although the villagers did not explain it in so many words Roofs popularity was a measure of their gratitude to an energetic young man who, unlike most of his fellows nowadays had not abandoned the village in order to seek work, any work, in the towns. And Roof was not a village lout either. Every one knew how he had spent two years as a bicycle repairers apprentice in Port Harcourt, and had given up of his own free will a bright future to return to his people and guide them in these difficult times. Not that Umuofia needed a lot of guidance. The village already belonged en masse to the Peoples Alliance Party, and its most illustrious son, Chief the Honorable Marcus Ibe, was Minister of Culture in the outgoing government (which was pretty certain to be the incoming one as well). Nobody doubted that the Honorable Minister would be elected in his constituency. Opposition to him was like the proverbial fly trying to move a dunghill. It would have been ridiculous enough without coming, as it did now, from a complete nonentity. As was to be expected Roof was in the service of the Honorable Minister for the coming elections. He had become a real expert in election campaigning at all levels village, local government or national. He could tell the mood and temper of the electorate at any given time. For instance he had warned the Minister months ago about the radical change that had come into the thinking of Umuofia since the last national election. The villagers had had five years in which to see how quickly and plentifully politics brought wealth, chieftaincy titles, doctorate degrees and other honors some of which,

like the last, had still to be explained satisfactorily to them; for in their navet they still expected a doctor to be able to heal the sick. Anyhow, these honors and benefits had come so readily to the man to whom they had given their votes free of charge five years ago that they were now ready to try it a different way. Their point was that only the other day Marcus Ibe was a not too successful mission school teacher. Then politics had come to their village and he had wisely joined up, some said just in time to avoid imminent dismissal arising from a female teachers pregnancy. Today he was Chief the Honorable; he had two long cars and had just built himself the biggest house anyone had seen in these parts. But let it be said that none of these successes had gone to Marcuss head as well they might. He remained devoted to his people. Whenever he could he left the good things of the capital and returned to his village which had neither running water nor electricity, although he had lately installed a private plant to supply electricity to his new house. He knew the source of his good fortune, unlike the little bird who ate and drank and went out to challenge his personal spirit. Marcus had christened his new house Umuofia Mansions in honor of his village, and he had slaughtered five bulls and countless goats to entertain the people on the day it was opened by the Archbishop. Everyone was full of praise for him. One old man said: Our son is a good man; he is not like the mortar which as soon as food comes its way turns its back on the ground. But when the feasting was over, the villagers told themselves that they had underrated the power of the ballot paper before and should not do so again. Chief the Honorable Marcus Ibe was not unprepared. He had drawn five months salary in


advance, changed a few hundred pounds into shining shillings and armed his campaign boys with eloquent little jute bags. In the day he made his speeches; at night his stalwarts conducted their whispering campaign. Roof was the most trusted of these campaigners. We have a Minister from our village, one of our own sons, he said to a group of elders in the house of Ogbuefi Ezenwa, a man of high traditional title. What greater honor can a village have? Do you ever stop to ask yourselves why we should be singled out for this honor? I will tell you; it is because we are favored by the leaders of PAP. Whether or not we cast our paper for Marcus, PAP will continue to rule. Think of the pipeborne water they have promised us . . . Besides Roof and his assistant there were five elders in the room. An old hurricane lamp with a cracked, sooty, glass chimney gave out yellowish light in their midst. The elders sat on very low stools. On the floor, directly in front of each of them, lay two shilling pieces. Outside beyond the fastened door, the moon kept a straight face. We believe every word you say to be true, said Ezenwa. We shall, every one of us, drop his paper for Marcus. Who would leave an Ozo feast and go to a poor ritual meal? Tell Marcus he has our papers, and our wives papers too. But what we do say is that two shillings is shameful. He brought the lamp close and tilted it at the money before him as if to make sure he had not mistaken its value. Yes, two shillings is too shameful. If Marcus were a poor man which our ancestors forbidI should be the first to give him my paper free, as I did before. But today Marcus is a great man

and does his things like a great man. We did not ask him for money yesterday; we shall not ask him tomorrow. But today is our day; we have climbed the iroko tree today and would be foolish not to take down all the firewood we need. Roof had to agree. He had lately been taking down a lot of firewood himself. Only yesterday he had asked Marcus for one of his many rich robesand had got it. Last Sunday Marcuss wife (the teacher that nearly got him in trouble) had objected (like the woman she was) when Roof pulled out his fifth bottle of beer from the refrigerator; she was roundly and publicly rebuked by her husband. To cap it all Roof had won a land case recently because, among other things, he had been chauffeurdriven to the disputed site. So he understood the elders about the firewood. All right, he said in English and then reverted to Ibo. Let us not quarrel about small things. He stood up, adjusted his robes and plunged his hand once more into the bag. Then he bent down like a priest distributing the host and gave one shilling more to every man; only he did not put it into their palms but on the floor in front of them. The men, who had so far not deigned to touch the things, looked at the floor and shook their heads. Roof got up again and gave each man another shilling. I am through, he said with a defiance that was no less effective for being transparently faked. The elders too knew how far to go without losing decorum. So when Roof added: Go cast your paper for the enemy if you like! they quickly calmed him down with a suitable speech from each of them. By the time the last man had spoken it was possible, without great loss of dignity, to pick up the things from the floor . . . The enemy Roof had referred to was the Progressive Organization Party (POP) which had been formed by the


tribes down the coast to save themselves, as the founders of the party proclaimed, from total political, cultural, social and religious annihilation. Although it was clear the party had no chance here it had plunged, with typical foolishness, into a straight fight with PAP, providing cars and loudspeakers to a few local rascals and thugs to go around and make a lot of noise. No one knew for certain how much money POP had let loose in Umuofia but it was said to be very considerable. Their local campaigners would end up very rich, no doubt. Up to last night everything had been moving according to plan, as Roof would have put it. Then he had received a strange visit from the leader of the POP campaign team. Although he and Roof were wellknown to each other, and might even be called friends, his visit was cold and businesslike. No words were wasted. He placed five pounds1 on the floor before Roof and said, We want your vote. Roof got up from his chair, went to the outside door, closed it carefully and returned to his chair. The brief exercise gave him enough time to weigh the proposition. As he spoke his eyes never left the red notes on the floor. He seemed to be mesmerized by the picture of the cocoa farmer harvesting his crops. You know I work for Marcus, he said feebly. It will be very bad . . . Marcus will not be there when you put in your paper. We have plenty of work to do tonight; are you taking this or not? It will not be heard outside this room? asked Roof. We are after votes not gossip. All right, said Roof in English. The man nudged his companion and he brought forward an object covered with a red

cloth and proceeded to remove the cover. It was a fearsome little affair contained in a clay pot with feathers stuck into it. The iyi2 comes from Mbanta. You know what that means. Swear that you will vote for Maduka. If you fail to do so, this iyi take note. Roofs heart nearly flew out when he saw the iyi; indeed he knew the fame of Mbanta in these things. But he was a man of quick decision. What could a single vote cast in secret for Maduka take away from Marcuss certain victory? Nothing. I will cast my paper for Maduka; if not this iyi take note. Das all, said the man as he rose with his companion who had covered up the object again and was taking it back to their car. You know he has no chance against Marcus, said Roof at the door. It is enough that he gets a few votes now; next time he will get more. People will hear that he gives out pounds, not shillings, and they will listen. Election morning. The great day every five years when the people exercise power. Weather-beaten posters on walls of houses, tree trunks and telegraph poles. The few that were still whole called out their message to those who could read. Vote for the Peoples Alliance Party! Vote for the Progressive Organization Party! Vote for PAP! Vote for POP! The posters that were torn called out as much of the message as they could. As usual Chief the Honorable Marcus Ibe was doing things in grand style. He had hired a highlife band from Umuru and stationed it at such a distance from the voting booths as just managed to be lawful. Many villagers danced to the music, their ballot papers held aloft, before proceeding to the booths. Chief the Honorable Marcus Ibe sat in the owners corner of his enormous green car and smiled and nodded. One


enlightened villager came up to the car, shook hands with the great man and said in advance, Congrats! This immediately set the pattern. Hundreds of admirers shook Marcuss hand and said Corngrass! Roof and the other organizers were prancing up and down, giving last minute advice to the voters and pouring with sweat. Do not forget, he said again to a group of illiterate women who seemed ready to burst with enthusiasm and good humor, our sign is the motor car . . . Like the one Marcus is sitting inside. Thank you, mother, said Roof. It is the same car. The box with the car shown on its body is the box for you. Dont look at the other with the mans head: it is for those whose heads are not correct. This was greeted with loud laughter. Roof cast a quick and busy-like glance towards the Minister and received a smile of appreciation. Vote for the car, he shouted, all the veins in his neck standing out. Vote for the car and you will ride in it! Or if we dont, our children will, piped the same sharp, old girl. The band struck up a new number: Why walk when you can ride . . . In spite of his apparent calm and confidence Chief the Honorable Marcus was a relentless stickler for detail. He knew he would win what the newspapers called a landslide victory but he did not wish, even so, to throw away a single vote. So as soon as the first rush of voters was over he promptly asked his campaign boys to go one at a time and put in their ballot papers. Roof, you had better go first, he said. Roofs spirits fell; but he let no one see it. All morning he had masked his deep worry with a surface exertion which was unusual even for him. Now he dashed off in his springy fashion towards the booths. A policeman at the entrance searched him for illegal ballot papers and passed him.

Then the electoral officer explained to him about the two boxes. By this time the spring had gone clean out of his walk. He sidled in and was confronted by the car and the head. He brought out his ballot paper from his pocket and looked at it. How could he betray Marcus even in secret? He resolved to go back to the other man and return his five pounds . . . Five pounds! He knew at once it was impossible. He had sworn on that iyi. The notes were red; the cocoa farmer busy at work. At this point he heard the muffled voice of the policeman asking the electoral officer what the man was doing inside. Abi na pickin im de born? Quick as lightning a thought leapt into Roofs mind. He folded the paper, tore it in two along the crease and put one half in each box. He took the precaution of putting the first half into Madukas box and confirming the action verbally: I vote for Maduka. They marked his thumb with indelible purple ink to prevent his return, and he went out of the booth as jauntily as he had gone in. m Respond and Think Critically Respond and Interpret 1. In this story, Roof has to make a difficult decision about how to cast his vote. Do you agree with the way he resolves this dilemma? Why or why not? 2. (a)Why is Roof popular in his village? (b)What can you infer about the villages economic situation from the narrators explanation of Roofs popularity? 3. (a)What do the villagers think of Marcus Ibe? (b)Do you think their opinion of him is deserved? Explain.


4. (a)Why does the leader of the oppositions campaign offer Roof a bribe? (b)Do you think Roof believes he is betraying Marcus Ibe by accepting the bribe? Explain. 5. (a)What decision does Roof make in the voting booth? (b)What do you think will be the result of Roofs vote? Analyze and Evaluate 6. (a)Apart from offering the villagers bribes, what reasons does Roof give to convince the villagers to vote for Marcus Ibe? (b)Are his reasons sincere or mere campaign rhetoric? Support your answer with evidence from the story. 7. A theme is a central message or idea about life in a literary work. What is the main theme in The Voter? 8. A symbol is an object or an action that stands for something else in addition to itself. What might Roofs torn ballot symbolize? Connect 9. Big Idea Living with Independence How do Roofs actions in this story parallel the problems Nigeria faced after gaining independence? 10. Connect to the Author Achebe is famous for his anti-imperialist views and his appreciation of Ibo culture. Despite this, The Voter is a harsh criticism of Nigeria and its politics. Why might Achebe have chosen to criticize his country in this story?