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the Complete Review
the complete review - drama

Mr. Rabbit is Dead

Ogali Ogali

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To purchase Mr. Rabbit is Dead

Title: Mr. Rabbit is Dead
Author: Ogali A. Ogali
Genre: Drama
Written: 1958
Length: 40 pages
Availability: in: Veronica My Daughter
in: Veronica My Daughter - UK
  • Mr. Rabbit is Dead is included in the collection Veronica My Daughter and Other Onitsha Plays and Stories (see our review)

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Our Assessment:

B- : fairly dramatic story, quite well done

See our review for fuller assessment.

The complete review's Review:

       Mr. Rabbit is Dead is a story of murder, justice, and power. In his introduction, Ogali says it shows "the effect of Western civilisation over our natural laws and customs".
       Chief Reuben -- the "Paramount Chief", also known as Mr Rabbit -- has been poisoned. On his deathbed he tells his family that "Mr. Henry, Clerk to the Supreme Council" was the one who killed him. Henry owes £ 200 to Mr. Rabbit, and he also owes his high position to him.
       It is a great shock to all that Mr. Rabbit is dead. Ogali has a nice scene in which various citizens perform at the Town Hall, drinking wine donated by the generous Mr. Rabbit -- and there is then great disappointment that their benefactor has died.
       Henry tries to convince everyone that Mr. Rabbit died of natural causes, but enough people believe that he was killed, and there is an inquiry. Dr. Jonathan, a native doctor, brings his oracle and tests all the possible suspects. Henry almost dodges him, but he is exposed after all. The citizens want to lynch him, but he appeals to be tried in a court of law -- a foreign (Western) institution, and not the way the citizens want to deal with the crime.
       Ogali has little respect for the law: "It is rather very flexible" one character says. Through some cleverness and a bit of word-play in the dramatic courtroom scenes Henry is acquitted -- though he is, in fact, clearly guilty of the crime he is accused of. Henry fares very well: by the end he is well on his way to replacing Mr. Rabbit as Paramount Chief. "It is very easy to convince poor people over a pot of wine", he recognizes.

       Ogali's simplistic representation of Western-type justice and the rule of law is a bit disappointing. The ridiculous oracle that exposes Henry is given far greater weight. Admittedly, clever lawyering (or rather: a terrible prosecution) helps get Henry off at trial -- but Ogali apparently has no respect whatsoever for the basic system, and suggests his readers shouldn't either. It seems a dangerous message.
       However, Henry is a very well-presented character, cynically using whoever he can and taking advantage of all situations. It makes for a dark play, but a fairly effective one.

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Onitsha market literature: Other books by Ogali A. Ogali under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Nigerian author Ogali A. Ogali was born in 1935 and was a leading author of the pamphlet literature sold at Onitsha market.

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