BOOK REVIEW: Dispersing Seeds of Discord

Author Leo Masore Nyang'au. PHOTO/Courtesy.

AUTHOR: Leo Masore Nyang’au

GENRE: Fiction


REVIEWER: Zablon Ogutu


Dispersing Seeds of Discord is actually a realistic novel. It depicts what goes on in our contemporary society on a day to day basis. As the title suggests, disbursing means spreading and seeds of discord symbolizes materials or information that counteracts the other.

As can be seen from the cover illustration, there are pictures of various objects such as handcuffs, a gavel, Bible, wedding rings, a picture of a couple beautifully framed and a disbursing seed.

These objects are closely related but in the novel’s context they rather hold contradicting views. The activities in the novel hence revolve around the church, school, hospital, police and court. It is within these institutions that seeds of discord are dispersed.

One such institution that sparks a disagreeable discourse is the church. There is a hostile rivalry between Catholicism and Adventism. Catholics hold views which make them stick to their beliefs, such as the view on the day of worship. They contend that Sunday is the only true day for worship.

They support their belief by arguing that Jesus rose on Sunday. On the other hand, the Adventists also have a belief that Saturday is the only true day for worship because God rested on the seventh day.

These beliefs are actually the basis of controversial views between the two denominations.

As one tosses about the pages, one realizes that the two denominations don’t coexist peacefully even from the personal views of individuals belonging to each group. For example, there is Pastor Methuselah who arrogantly tells Father Diaz that the Sabbath is on Saturday and not on Sunday.

He argues that it was the Pope who changed the Sabbath and rearranged the Ten Commandments. He is also of the opinion that Roman Catholics should abandon Sunday and go back to the real Sabbath.

When arguing about the ominous tape, Saul tells Wilberforce that he didn’t expect a catholic to know more about the bible than an Adventist. This suggests that he holds prejudiced views about the Catholics.

Another ‘seed of discord’ is seen spreading when lastly the Mother Superior leaves the Catholic Church and decides to join the Adventist church. The questions that inevitably come to mind are: why did the Adventists decide to baptize her, knowing very well that she was baptized in her former catholic church? What was the use of her second baptism? Did the Catholics not serve the same God as the Adventists did?

It is even more surprising that his hatred leads him to copy a pornographic movie to Bishop Diaz’s evangelic tape after his return from his Christian mission in Italy. By so doing, he intentionally wanted to taint the picture of Pope and Catholicism in general.

The theme of love is the most dominant in the novel. This is perpetuated by Wilberforce and Sr. Lucina. They both are members of the Catholic Church.

Their love affair is ironic as that kind of love (of a man and woman) that could presumably lead to marriage, is not expected at the holy grounds. An altar boy and a nun are not expected to marry. That could mean desecration of the holy orders.

In spite of them knowing very clearly that they are not supposed marry, leave alone thinking of marriage, they go on in defiling the orders. It is also clear that those who are allowed to marry never preserve the sanctity of marriage.

After being caught having an affair with another woman, Wilberforce’s father kills his wife, therefore acting in discord with the Christian teachings. He is also killed by an angry mob, who also commits a sin of murder.

The effect of immorality is also felt throughout the novel. This starts with Saul’s demonic cassettes. Pornography is a sin because it is a form of adultery.

Jesus taught that if a man sees a woman and desires her, he has already committed adultery. This is what Saul has done and tries to transmit to Wilberforce through his tapes. He also tries to blackmail Wilberforce and Lucina by leading them to register the marriage in his name.

There is also the cook who alleges that his wife is having an affair with the Father. He therefore disguises himself as the Father and waits for his wife’s confession. His wife confesses that she had a dream where she commits adultery with the Father. It is also the same kind of sin that Jesus rebuked.

Mother Superior and Pastor Methuselah have committed adultery and hence violating the commandments. They are both leaders in their churches who are supposed to be good role models to others but they behave contrary to their expectations, hence spreading seeds of discord.

Saul finally succumbs to sexually transmitted diseases and dies. Sister Elizabeth Monica also suffers the same fate in her life and finally dies. It is evident that the wages of sin is death.

Betrayal is another rampant theme within the novel that spreads seeds of disharmony. Stanslaus betrays his love for Lucina by marrying another woman. This causes Lucina to run away from him to seek refuge in the convent, where she meets Wilberforce. The two get involved in a love triangle.

They therefore betray the holly orders of the convent even as their love advances to marriage. Elizabeth Monica, known as Jezebel also betrays her calling. She allows herself to be taken by the sin of adultery, immorality and deception.

Pastor Methuselah also betrays his church the same way the Mother Superior does. He also engages in adultery. He even plans to marry the Mother Superior in spite of him already having a wife. As a Christian, he vividly knows the commandment that condemns adultery but he secretly does it. He even goes further to argue that since great men of the bible had many wives, he is not exceptional.

Education is a tool that has promised hope for characters in the novel. Wilberforce is an intelligent student whose ambition is to study law at the university. He prioritizes his studies as his future life. He even extends his academic concern to Lucina, whom he encourages to take learning more seriously.

Saul also seems to be a brilliant academician but unprofessionally challenges Wilberforce and Lucina’s studies. In spite of encouraging them to study law, he ironically writes to the examination council requesting for cancellation of the students results on cheating allegations only to avenge for his humiliation! His second plans does not succeed however because they are deciphered long before they take effect.

Both Lucina and Wilberforce finally make it to university! Honestly, the school is entirely for the educational purposes and training students for better future lives, regardless of the denominations to which the students subscribe.

Pastor Methuselah does not digest this fact as he wants only Adventist students in his school, because he is an Adventist. He has strived to convert catholic students in his school to Adventism except one boy-Wilberforce, whom he promises to convert as soon as possible.

He tells father Diaz that Catholics from his school will be allowed at Meka Adventist School only if they worshiped on Saturday. This contradicts the academic and spiritual orientation of both Catholic and Adventist teachers and students.

Justice and justice implementing bodies is also what the novel focuses on. After being found in possession of the demonic cassette, was her expulsion from the convent really necessary? Couldn’t have they sorted out the matter there and then?

The Mother Superior wanted Sr. Lucina to be expelled immediately because of her own personal interests. She knew that it could be disastrous for Lucina to keep hanging around because she could unveil to other sisters the secret she had been keeping for long. It was because of the police that the case was presented to court.

She wanted Lucina to be arrested by the police and deported to her Bukobahome in Tanzania.At the court, she accuses Lucina of being an illegal immigrant and that she attacked her, which was actually false accusation. When Wilberforce also gets arrested, the mother superior suggests that he should be beaten for him to tell them where Lucina could be hiding.

When the policemen refuse her suggestion, she threatens by telling them that she can have them sued. She goes on to speak to the head of the institution. Who knows what they discussed! Saul also accuses Wilberforce of assault and confiscating his wife, what we know as lies.

If given chance, Saul could have gone to the doctor to forge false documents to be used against Wilberforce. The judge however refuses to grant him permission.

Leo has succeeded in portraying fictitious yet real like characters.He is sincere about individuals’ behavioral orientations basing his context in the contemporary society. Lucina is a committed catholic at the beginning only for us to realize how ostentatious she had been towards the end.

That she was actually forced into sisterhood by Sr. Elizabeth Monica. She is persistent as she refuses to give up while at the convent. A hardworking and brave Lucina succeeds in her studies and joins university. She wins the case at court against the Mother Superior.

When she is accused of being in love with a man, she abuses the mother superior,”Go to hell, you Warthog of a woman”. She is however apologetic as she begs for forgiveness and explains she did that out of fury.

Wilberforce is also presented as a hardworking, caring, devoted, decisive and self- controlled individual. In his studies, he is not selfish as he extends his concern for Lucina. They both excel together academically.

He remains contented on his decision to marry her and finally, they surely does. This is in spite of the challenges they have faced all along. One such challenge that stood gazing at him is sexual temptation. He was strong enough to resist the temptation even as they stayed alone in the same house.He safeguards his chastity because of Lucina’s moral stand, too.

They abided by their self-control. He is also emotional as every time Lucina rejects his suggestions, he goes away without even biding her goodbye.

Elizabeth Monica is symbolic to the biblical Jezebel.She is secretive, traitorous, deceptive and hypocritical. All that time at the convent, she had been keeping a secret of an affair with Pastor Methuselah.

She is a betrayer because as a Sister, she should be consecrated but she involves herself In Profaning the Holy orders. She is also judgmental. She pronounces punishment for Wilberforce.

She tells the policemen that Wilberforce should be beaten, saying that it was meant to discipline him. She commits adultery even though she knows that she shouldn’t, show how hypocritical she is.

She is also immoral, an old woman at her age watching pornographic movies! She represents Christians who have adorned themselves in sheep fur, but are dangerously impure in their hearts.

Pst. Methuselah is the likes of Mother Superior. He is a pseudo Christian, a hypocrite. Instead of leading his church in biblical ways, he defiles them and commits adultery.

He is even eager to take another wife, a Sister! He is also arrogant. He tells Wilberforce, “This is one of the Roman Catholics whom we have been advising you not to call ‘father’. He even tells Fr. Diaz that Catholics worshiped the Pope and brought alcohol to school.

He is materialistic. After manually cutting the wires that generated power to the machine that was playing the indecent movie, instead of showing relief, he says, “You have destroyed…you will have to take it to Nairobi for repair.” He is actually worse than the Pharisees during the time of Jesus.

Father Diaz is a stout, compassionate, quiet and hardworking bishop. He believes in and practices peaceful coexistence between Catholicism and Adventism. He also believes in being concerned about other people’s wellbeing and offers to support both Wilberforce and Lucina. He is even willing to let them leave the Holy place to pursue their desires-their marriage.

He wishes them well in their new endeavors. After realizing Pst. Methuselah’s prejudice about Catholicism, he explains that it was actually not what he thought Catholicism was. Catholics did not worship Pope nor bring alcohol to school. He is a true definition of a true Christian.

There is also the pompous, arrogant and immoral Saul.In spite of his academic progress, he engages in the immorality of watching despicable cassettes. He shows excessive pride when he tells Wilberforce that he can’t expect a catholic to know more about the Bible than an Adventist.

He is also vengeful as he seeks revenge to satiate his thirst for superiority from Wilberforce’s humiliation. His immorality attracts diseases and he finally dies.

Charlie is also a friend of the two protagonists; he is a jovial, excitable, hardworking, caring and inquisitive person. They see the good in Saul, promises to utilise their potentials so that they can also reach his academic achievements and perhaps exceed him.

Sure enough, they succeed together and finally end up in the same university, ready to pursue their dream course. When Wilberforce fails to attend to classes in the morning, Charlie inquires about where he had been because rumours had it that he might be involved in Lucina’s disappearance. He is happy because finally Wilberforce and Lucina are going to be married. He requests to be given part to play in their wedding. He’s undoubtedly a friend to keep.

The author has used a simple and easy to comprehend language and has richly decorated it with appropriate literary techniques and styles. We are introduced to a flashback that reveals how the missionaries came to Wiza and spread, and how the Niko and the Nekoi people came into being

Irony and symbolism run throughout the novel too. What some of the characters engages in is unexpected. The demonic cassette symbolizes Satan and his agents, who disrupt the activities of believers.

The third person point of view that has been used has enabled vivid portrayal of characters and situations, with vivid description that envisions the events by forming images in the mind of the readers.

In his work, the author contends that religion or spirituality should not be the cause of people’s disintegration; instead, it should be the source of unity and prosperity.

People should therefore discard what is destructive and absorb what is useful. We should keep and nurture virtues for our common good.

Finally, I urge us to agree to Wilberforce and Lucina’s opinion, that “All the problems we are getting … are as a result of sin. Live a righteous life and nothing will touch you “.

The author was born at Getai in Nyangusu, Kisii County. He attended the local Bendere D.O.K. Primary School and Kilgoris Secondary School before proceeding to Kisii High School. He studied Law at the University of Nairobi and is an Advocate of the High Court of Kenya private practice. A family man, Leo writes for leisure. He can be reached through:

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