Death and the King’s Horseman

Jane Pilkings Character Analysis

Pilkings's wife. She's far more understanding and thoughtful than her husband, though she also fully supports Pilkings in his work of policing the native population in Nigeria, and at times, seems even more dutiful to the cause than he does—she's the one to suggest that they skip the ball so that he can deal with Elesin's suicide. An observant woman who wants to understand, Jane often tries to tell Pilkings to behave more politely to the natives or explains that whatever he's doing is rude in their culture. Despite this, she also doesn't think highly of the natives at all and considers them primitive, while she finds English culture to be refined and superior. She believes in the Christian ideal of the sanctity of all life, so she's dismissive of Elesin's suicide and of the deaths of other individuals who sacrifice themselves for the greater good. However, she also doesn't see anything wrong with all of the young Englishmen who are dying in World War Two. During her conversation with Olunde, she tries her best to understand why he wants Elesin to follow through with his suicide, and why Olunde isn't upset that his father is dying. Though she's able to get information from Olunde that helps the reader/audience understand, she herself cannot manage to see things from Olunde's perspective.

Jane Pilkings Quotes in Death and the King’s Horseman

The Death and the King’s Horseman quotes below are all either spoken by Jane Pilkings or refer to Jane Pilkings. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Life and Death Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Norton edition of Death and the King’s Horseman published in 1975.
Act 2 Quotes

Pilkings: Nonsense, he's a Moslem. Come on, Amusa, you don't believe in all this nonsense do you? I thought you were a good Moslem.

Amusa: Mista Pirinkin, I beg you sir, what you think you do with that dress? It belong to dead cult, not for human being.

Pilkings: Oh Amusa, what a let down you are. I swear by you at the club you know—thank God for Amusa, he doesn't believe in any mumbo-jumbo. And now look at you!

Related Characters: Simon Pilkings (speaker), Sergeant Amusa (speaker), Jane Pilkings
Page Number: 24
Explanation and Analysis:
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Jane: But Simon, do they really give anything away? I mean, anything that really counts. This affair for instance, we didn't know they still practised the custom did we?

Pilkings: Ye-e-es, I suppose you're right there. Sly, devious bastards.

Related Characters: Simon Pilkings (speaker), Jane Pilkings (speaker), Elesin, Sergeant Amusa
Page Number: 29
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

Jane: Simon, you really must watch your language. Bastard isn't just a simple swear-word in these parts, you know.

Pilkings: Look, just when did you become a social anthropologist, that's what I'd like to know.

Jane: I'm not claiming to know anything. I just happen to have overheard quarrels among the servants. That's how I know they consider it a smear.

Related Characters: Simon Pilkings (speaker), Jane Pilkings (speaker), Joseph
Page Number: 30
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Act 4 Quotes

Olunde (mildly): And that is the good cause for which you desecrate an ancestral mask?

Jane: Oh, so you are shocked after all. How disappointing.

Olunde: No I am not shocked Mrs. Pilkings. You forget that I have now spent four years among your people. I discovered that you have no respect for what you do not understand.

Related Characters: Olunde (speaker), Jane Pilkings (speaker)
Page Number: 50
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

Olunde: I don't find it morbid at all. I find it rather inspiring. It is an affirmative commentary on life.

Jane: What is?

Olunde: The captain's self-sacrifice.

Jane: Nonsense. Life should never be thrown deliberately away.

Olunde: And the innocent people round the harbour?

Jane: Oh, how does anyone know? The whole thing was probably exaggerated anyway.

Olunde: That was a risk the captain couldn't take.

Related Characters: Olunde (speaker), Jane Pilkings (speaker)
Page Number: 51
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

How can I make you understand? He has protection. No one can undertake what he does tonight without the deepest protection the mind can conceive. What can you offer him in place of his peace of mind, in place of the honour and veneration of his own people? What you think of your Prince if he had refused to accept the risk of losing his life on this voyage? This...showing-the-flag tour of colonial possessions.

Related Characters: Olunde (speaker), Elesin, Jane Pilkings, The Prince
Page Number: 53
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

How can you be so callous! So unfeeling! You announce your father's own death like a surgeon looking down on some strange... stranger's body! You're a savage like all the rest.

Related Characters: Jane Pilkings (speaker), Elesin, Olunde
Page Number: 55
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
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Jane Pilkings Character Timeline in Death and the King’s Horseman

The timeline below shows where the character Jane Pilkings appears in Death and the King’s Horseman. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 2
Colonialism Theme Icon
At the district officer Simon Pilkings's home, Pilkings and his wife, Jane, are tangoing through their living room, dressed in egungun costumes. As they dance, a native... (full context)
Colonialism Theme Icon
...that Amusa state why he came to see him. He also shares that he and Jane believe that they'll win first prize at their costume party later with their costumes. Jane... (full context)
Duty and Collective Responsibility Theme Icon
Colonialism Theme Icon
Jane tries to reason with Amusa and points out that he helped arrest the egungun cult... (full context)
Life and Death Theme Icon
After Amusa leaves, Pilkings emerges, reads his note, and immediately calls for Jane. The note reads that tonight, Elesin plans to "commit death" per native custom, which is... (full context)
Duty and Collective Responsibility Theme Icon
Colonialism Theme Icon
Pilkings thinks that this may just be an unfounded rumor, but Jane points out that Amusa is usually pretty reliable. Pilkings says that Amusa is acting strange,... (full context)
Life and Death Theme Icon
Colonialism Theme Icon
...on in town. Joseph says that Elesin is going to kill himself, and explains to Jane that this is the law and custom: the king died a month ago and will... (full context)
Life and Death Theme Icon
Women and Power Theme Icon
Duty and Collective Responsibility Theme Icon
Colonialism Theme Icon
Jane asks Pilkings and Joseph whether Olunde was Elesin's oldest son. Joseph says that Olunde was,... (full context)
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Colonialism Theme Icon
Joseph stiffly excuses himself. Jane reprimands Pilkings, as "bastard" isn't just a swear word here—it's extremely offensive. Pilkings is unconcerned... (full context)
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Colonialism Theme Icon
Once Joseph is gone, Jane implores Pilkings to understand that insulting holy water in front of Joseph is like insulting... (full context)
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As Jane walks away to change, Pilkings shouts that he'll look extremely foolish if the drumming is... (full context)
Duty and Collective Responsibility Theme Icon
Jane calls Pilkings for supper and asks how Joseph reacted when he said that the holy... (full context)
Act 4
Colonialism Theme Icon
...The resident brings couples over to introduce them to the prince, and finally, Pilkings and Jane approach the prince. The prince is fascinated by their egungun costumes, and Pilkings demonstrates how... (full context)
Colonialism Theme Icon
...exaggerating. Looking at the note again, the resident says that Amusa sounds desperate. He asks Jane to go find his aide-de-camp and Amusa. (full context)
Women and Power Theme Icon
Duty and Collective Responsibility Theme Icon
Colonialism Theme Icon
...evening and gets ready to leave himself. The clock strikes midnight and Pilkings stares at Jane with a look of horror. Jane seems nervous too, and says that the natives don't... (full context)
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Jane stands awkwardly. A young black man appears and peers into the ballroom as though he's... (full context)
Life and Death Theme Icon
Women and Power Theme Icon
Duty and Collective Responsibility Theme Icon
Jane sighs that Olunde has returned with a chip on his shoulder, and she asks how... (full context)
Colonialism Theme Icon
Olunde asks again for Pilkings. For the first time, Jane understands the significance of Olunde being here. She says that there's a problem in town... (full context)
Duty and Collective Responsibility Theme Icon
Colonialism Theme Icon
...was dead. Olunde explains that he knew he needed to come home to bury Elesin. Jane says that Pilkings is going to stop Elesin from dying, and Olunde says that this... (full context)
Life and Death Theme Icon
Women and Power Theme Icon
Duty and Collective Responsibility Theme Icon
Colonialism Theme Icon
...the same convoy as the prince, so it was a safe and well-protected journey here. Jane suggests that Elesin is entitled to the same kind of protection, but Olunde insists that... (full context)
Life and Death Theme Icon
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Even more offended, Jane says that the ritual of the king's horseman committing suicide is still barbaric and "feudalistic."... (full context)
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Jane questions again whether ritual suicide is acceptable, and Olunde suggests that it's nowhere near as... (full context)
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Women and Power Theme Icon
Colonialism Theme Icon
Hesitantly, Jane asks if Olunde experienced discrimination in England based on his skin color, but Olunde says... (full context)
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Colonialism Theme Icon
Jane scoffs, but Olunde leads her outside to listen to the drums. The rhythm builds, stops... (full context)
Women and Power Theme Icon
Duty and Collective Responsibility Theme Icon
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Jane implores Olunde to try and understand that everyone is just trying to help. She says... (full context)
Life and Death Theme Icon
Duty and Collective Responsibility Theme Icon
...that he can't make a mistake, as a mistake could put his people in danger. Jane reminds Olunde that Elesin disowned him, but Olunde says that Elesin was just stubborn and... (full context)
Duty and Collective Responsibility Theme Icon
Colonialism Theme Icon
From offstage, Pilkings tells someone to "keep them here." He steps into Jane and Olunde's line of sight, jumps when he notices Olunde, and sends Jane to fetch... (full context)
Life and Death Theme Icon
Women and Power Theme Icon
Pilkings turns to Jane and asks her to stay with Olunde. When Olunde asks to see Elesin, Pilkings briskly... (full context)
Life and Death Theme Icon
Duty and Collective Responsibility Theme Icon
From a distance, Olunde and Jane hear Elesin bellowing angrily for the white men to get their hands off of him.... (full context)
Act 5
Life and Death Theme Icon
Colonialism Theme Icon
...heaven grimly, and don't necessarily make the journey to the afterlife willingly. Elesin sighs, but Jane runs in, calling for Pilkings, before he can answer. Pilkings and Jane run off. (full context)
Duty and Collective Responsibility Theme Icon
Colonialism Theme Icon
Pilkings and Jane return to the cellar. Pilkings is annoyed that Jane keeps interfering as he looks over... (full context)
Women and Power Theme Icon
Pilkings leaves to fetch Iyaloja while Jane encourages Elesin to understand that Pilkings is trying to help. Elesin gives her a strange... (full context)
Life and Death Theme Icon
Colonialism Theme Icon
...not to cross it, and instructs the guards to whistle if she does. He leads Jane away. (full context)
Women and Power Theme Icon
Duty and Collective Responsibility Theme Icon
...aide-de-camp races in with news that there's a group of women chanting on the hill. Jane suggests that this is what Olunde referred to in the letter, but Pilkings snarls that... (full context)