In this play is obeah a real force or an imaginary superstition? State what dealings the characters have with obeah and the outcome of these dealings. The play “Old Story Time” by Trevor Rhone, was set in rural Jamaica around 1979; post-colonial period. During this time, obeah was a widely held belief which was prominent in Jamaica. It was a feared weapon and was much sought after for protection as well. As a result, obeah has been mentioned several times in the play by Miss Aggy, Pa Ben and Len. The way Rhone employs obeah in this play is quite fascinating.
The first nstance we heard of obeah takes us to the fact that Miss Aggy does not trust her fellow village members, as a black woman herself, she despises “black people” (internalized racism); in her eyes they were not seen as advancement. While Len was away following his studies, he hardly wrote to his mother. Since Miss Aggy did not trust “black people” she was convinced that the villagers had turned to obeah to work against her out of enw and Jealousy of the success of her son Len; “dem light candle pon him head”.
However, the audience is aware through Pa Ben that Len does ot write to her because he secretly blames her for something; we later find out that it was what had happened to him at the hands of George and his friends because of the letter he had written to Margret in school. The other instance occurs when Miss Aggy causes the major dramatic conflict in the sub-plot of the play which traces her attempt to set obeah at work against Lois. Miss Aggy worked very hard and made many sacrifices to ensure that Len received the best education.
Miss Aggy had also wanted Len to get married to the “brown skin girl with tall hair down her back”; Miss Margret, reverend Greaves daughter. She had beaten Len when she found him playing with the black girl Pearl- because “anything black nuh good” and “dem is no advancement”. Miss Aggys disgust increased when Len chose to marry Lois; a black woman, she was convinced that Len would not marry a black girl in his right senses, therefore, Lois had to have used obeah to win Len’s heart and for this reason, she is very spiteful to Lois. To Miss Aggy, Lois was seen as a threat to the relationship she shared with her son.
Miss Aggy believed that the behaviour change in Len was aused by Lois; and she blamed Lois for Len’s refusal to help George. All of this along with the fact that Len discharged Mama’s concerns about Lois and the moment when he picked up a piece of furniture to hit Miss Aggy made her come to the decision that she must fght obeah with obeah by visiting an obeah doctor to undo what Lois had done; to free Len from Lois’ bondage. Len although educated and modern-minded, knew that obeah is a very important issue and decided to consult with Pa Ben as he greatly feared for the safety of Lois. Pa Ben sent Len to an obeah doctor, Mother
Racheal, who gave Len a charm for Lois and told him to do a ritual to keep her safe from the obeah Miss Aggy had set out against her. Here obeah was being used as a source of humor, as Lens performs the ritual with the red underwear on his head. The obeah doctor turned out to be “a fake”, whether Pa Ben sent Len to a fake obeah doctor on purpose or not we do not know. However, Pa Ben is the character that best understands obeah in the play. He was the only person that recognized that the family (Miss Aggy, Len and Lois) did not need obeah; they needed to rid themselves of the hatred they kept within themselves.
Although mama had already set her obeah to work against Lois, when everything was brought to the light, Miss Aggy repented and sought Lois’ forgiveness which she received; and no one died or was affected by any form of obeah. It can therefore be concluded that in the play obeah is used as a mere superstition and metaphor, not as a real force. It represents the social and personal ills in Jamaica at that time. Rhone presents things such as self-contempt as the cause for the difficulties the family experienced, not obeah, and this is conveyed to the audience through the storyteller Pa Ben.