Themes and message

Colonialism

The story is a fable which symbolically illustrates the type of society created by colonialism and, more specifically, by the British Empire in Africa, and in the author’s country of origin, Kenya. In the author’s view, the colonial powers have established their rule in the colonies by appearing friendly and interested to protect the people and develop their society. However, the colonisers took advantage of the natives’ lack of power , and soon began to occupy the land and exploit the people, revealing their true intentions.

The man is forced to build huts that are occupied by the animals, without being able to oppose them: “The man, having no alternative, and fearing that his refusal might expose him to the teeth and claws of members of the Commission, did as they suggested”. In a similar manner, the colonisers’ dominance was maintained through manipulation and the threat of violence through their superior military power. Other important aspects of this society are  bureaucracy and corruption, as shown by the formalities that the man has to go through – several investigations led by a Royal Commission – which are ultimately useless to him, because they always rule in the animals’ favour.

The lion and the rest of the animals make him go through this process, to show that their society is governed by clear rules. This allows them to keep up appearances about the civilised ways they pretend to have. However, the judges believe that the man is inferior – “no one from his side was well enough educated to understand the intricacy of jungle law” – and treat him unjustly as a result, taking his huts.

At the end of the story, the man manages to escape the animals’ abuse of power  by burning them alive. His plan works because the man is able to take advantage of the animals’ selfishness and greed:

Presently they all began disputing about their rights of penetration, and from disputing they came to fighting...

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