The Apprentice by Odun Balogun
In The Apprentice by Odun Balogun we have the theme of independence, loss, change, acceptance, tradition, connection, freedom, conflict and struggle. Narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator it becomes clear to the reader after reading the story that Balogun may be exploring the theme of independence. Ogunmola by refusing to go to school is displaying an element of independence. He is not following the path that is expected of him. In many ways the strength that Oba showed prior to his death is mirrored by the strength that Ogunmola is showing by refusing to go to school. It is also noticeable that Ogunmola has never gotten over the loss of Oba. A man that Ogunmola not only loved but respected too. There is also a sense that Ogunmola laments the loss of not only Oba but the traditions that his people had prior to the arrival of white colonizers. It is the arrival of white colonizers that acted as the impetus for change in Ogunmola’s life. A change that he does not necessarily agree with. However it is clear to the reader that Ogunmola accepts the changes that have occurred since the arrival of the white colonizers. There is also a sense that Ogunmola is freeing himself by refusing to go to school and becoming a blacksmith instead.
Ogunmola’s relationship with both Omotaiye and Omotola is also interesting as both men seem to try and mould Ogunmola into their own likeness by way of their craft. There is no doubting that Ogunmola is a talented blacksmith however neither Omotaiye nor Omotola give Ogunmola the credit he deserves for the work he produces. Neither man is able to change Ogunmola which may be important as by not being able to change Ogunmola Balogun may be further exploring the theme of independence. If anything Ogunmola is his own man. Though he does need certification from either Omotaiye or Omotola in order to be able to fulfil his potential and work independently of others. Which is somewhat ironic considering that Ogunmola’s work may in reality be better than both Omotaiye and Omotola’s work. Something that may actually displease both men. In many ways Ogunmola stands out from others. It is also interesting that Ogunmola is interested in oral tradition and listening to stories about Oba. As this may suggest that Ogunmola is still connected to his past. The changes that came when white colonizers arrived has not shaken Ogunmola’s appreciation for his past.
What the narrator tells the reader about Oba may also be important as Oba appears to have lived an honest and selfless life even going as far as sacrificing himself in order to please the Spirit of the Land. Something that might seem unusual for those who favour modernity over tradition. Just as Ogunmola accepts the changes that are occurring around him. Oba too accepted that he must give his life in order to save others. How influential Oba is on Ogunmola’s life is also noticeable by the fact that he doesn’t forget Oba. This too may be important as it further suggests that Ogunmola is still connected with his past despite the changes that are occurring. If anything Oba and the memory Ogunmola has of him gives Ogunmola hope and meaning in a world that he doesn’t fully understand. Life for Ogunmola is confusing not only have white colonizers arrived but both Omotaiye and Omotola are critical of his work. Yet neither man is prepared to admit to Ogunmola that his work is original. That the reality is there is nothing wrong with his craftsmanship. The real problem lies with both Omotaiye and Omotola rather than with Ogunmola.
There is also a sense throughout the story and particularly at the end of the story that Ogunmola is struggling. Not only has Ogunmola’s world changed since the arrival of white colonizers but he is also caught up in the feud between Omotaiye and Omotola. With neither man due to their pride setting aside their differences and helping Ogunmola. What is also interesting about Omotaiye and Omotola is the fact that not only are they identical twins but they are identical in character too. Both men are also willing to dismiss Ogunmola because they feel his work is tainted by the others hand. If anything Ogunmola is stuck in the middle of a family quarrel. Something that Ogunmola wants no part of. Ogunmola chose a difficult path by becoming a blacksmith rather than going to school and both Omotaiye and Omotola due their differences are making life harder for Ogunmola. It is as though Ogunmola’s confidence is being knocked by the actions of both Omotaiye and Omotola. However it is interesting that Balogun at the beginning of the story tells the reader that Ogunmola succeeded in becoming a blacksmith because of his past. Which suggests that the strength that Oba showed through his selfless act is mirrored by the strength and resilience Ogunmola showed during difficult times with both Omotaiye and Omotola.