The Trials of Brother Jero is a simple satire on an unscrupulous preacher who turns Christianity into a profit-making business. To bring out this important theme, Wole Soyinka’s minor characters, who include Brother Jero’s assistant Chume, his wife Amope, the Member of Parliament and the worshippers, play a central role.
Chume – Brother Jero’s assistant
A victim of Brother Jero’s prophetic lies, the first time we meet Chume, he is depicted as a pathetic victim of a brutal wife, on whom he depends for a living. Later, he will pray and beg his master, Brother Jero to allow him to beat the sense into is arrogant wife.
But Chume is one of the biggest victims of the false prophet that Brother Jero is. He is the closest disciple to the ‘man of God’ and is kept there by false promises that he would succeed his master.
Blind follower of religion
It seems the playwright wants to depict Chume as a naïve and blind follower of religion. Is it not ironical that despite being so close to Brother Jero, there are many things he does not know about him? He is in the dark as to the fact that his master is a con man, not the preacher he purports to be.
And until towards the end, Chume, who is living under the false impression that he will one day miraculously become a Chief Clerk and successor to his master, does not know where Brother Kero lives and that this self styled prophet is, actually the debtor and man his wife is after.
Yet there is another side to this former common labourer that Wole Soyinka wants us to see. Deep inside him, Chume is a strong of principle. He understands that he must control his wife, through beating, due to her bad tendency to not respect her husband. However, when he asks his master permission to punish his wife, “just once… just one sound beating…” Brother Jero refuses at first, and later allows him to do so.
More so, Brother Jero is afraid and unable to control Chume without instilling fear in him by quoting the Bible. But all the same the prophet still feels his assistant is stupid, that is why he decides to manipulate him. He describes Chume as a “too crude” and one he can easily uses “to my advantage”.
Perhaps one of the messages that the playwright attempts to bring out through Chume is how Christianity has been abused to subdue African men. Chume is not as docile as he shows on the outside. In Scene IV, after he is allowed to beat his wife, he reminds her that she is “talking to a man”.
He is surprised to learn whose house his wife has been waiting in front of all along, and makes the wrong conclusion that Brother Jero is having an affair with his wife.
At the end his master plans to get rid of Chume, who by now knows exactly what a liar the prophet, by throwing him in a mental institution. He might be able to do through the help of his new convert – the pompous Member of Parliament.
By Daniel Muhau, The Citizen