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Power Dynamics and Cultural Ideologies in “Rain” and “People Like Them”

Power dynamics in literature seek to illuminate the intricate workings of human relationships. A cultural criticism perspective analyzes how established social and cultural forces foster or hinder the shifting of power in communities. Cultural criticism explores power plays in society by scrutinizing power distribution among the characters, unraveling the underlying reasons for their positions, and discerning the transformative moments when power shifts within the texts. In the literary works of Osunde’s “Rain” and Ragbir’s “People Like Them,” the influence of social and cultural forces in the dynamics of dominant and subjugated groups plays a significant role in the power held by the characters. In comparing these characters, it is evident that while social and cultural forces shape the power dynamics of Osunde’s “Rain” and Ragbir’s “People Like Them,” Wura Blackson wields more power than Gloribel.

While social and cultural forces that create and threaten the community influence the power dynamics in Osunde’s “Rain” and Ragbir’s “People Like Them,” Wura Blackson has more power than Gloribel. Wura’s social standing as a sacred name “amongst upper-class women” gives her power (Osunde). Wura’s power also comes from the privilege that her family affords her. As Chief Blackson’s daughter, Wura is privileged in that she does not need anybody since her father has already “taken care of” her (Osunde). The money stowed away in a Swiss bank earns Wura the privilege of not needing anyone, giving her more power. As a result, Wura’s power allows her to bypass the social and cultural forces that may hinder her freedom. For instance, Wura is able to quit her job in the family business and opens a large boutique store “as a way to leap into the dream, yes, but only because she could” (Osunde). This mirrors Belsey’s interpretation of the feminist slogan “the personal is political” (5). According to Belsey, power operates even in personal relationships and intimate moments, suggesting that individuals may unknowingly collude with their oppression by internalizing societal expectations and values (5). Wura is able to internalize societal expectations and values by colluding with the oppression of her family. In addition to her power among the upper-class women of Nigeria, this internalization helps Wura recognize the culturally produced emotions of anger and reluctance to protest (Belsey 5). In effect, Wura reasons that since power remains operational in personal relationships and intimate moments, her family would not “cane” her or do anything to her if she left her old job with the family business to establish her own business. Wura’s power stems from her social standing as a sacred name among upper-class women and the privilege afforded her by her father, Chief Blackson. Her financial independence allows her to bypass the dominant social and cultural forces that might hinder her freedom. Wura’s ability to quit her job and open a boutique store reflects her power.

On the other hand, Gloribel has little to no power when compared to Wura. Gloribel’s lack of power stems from cultural colonization imposing a dominant power’s beliefs and social practices on a subjugated one, resulting in the loss or change of her native culture. The arrival of foreign developers makes Gloribel powerless by restricting access to the beach and importing bananas instead of appreciating the local crops like plantains and figs (Ragbir). This shift in the economy and lifestyle brought about by the developers reflects the influence of a dominant culture that values profit and consumption over preserving the traditions and resources of the local community. As a result of this cultural colonization, Gloribel, and her community experience a loss of their native culture and a decline in their power and autonomy. The fences around the best beaches, the construction of buildings, and the influx of wealthy tourists transform her once familiar and accessible surroundings into exclusive spaces that cater to the desires of outsiders. Moreover, unlike Wura, whose family’s finances contribute to her power, the economic state of Gloribel helps diminish her power. Despite the assurance by Gloribel’s parents that selling their farmlands to developers fetched “a good price,” to her, it only means that “her children would never chase each other through rows of tender stalks or catch shade beneath flapping plasticky leaves” (Ragbir). Gloribel’s lack of power stems from the cultural colonization imposing a dominant power’s beliefs, practices, and economic priorities on her subjugated community, resulting in the erosion of her native culture and, with it, her power.

Although Wura and Gloribel have distinguished cultural ideologies, both employ their belief systems to get the best out of their situations. Gloribel possesses certain values and ways of thinking through which she sees the world she lives in and explains why it exists. Gloribel’s belief system is rooted in her vision of eventually owning a house and hopes the legendary “mythical tips call” would provide her with enough money to own one (Ragbir). Gloribel values the mythical tips the visitors of Platinum Coast are known for giving out. This is evident when Gloribel opts to answer the distress call from Tral and Shanya rather than going to the Executive Club concierge desk, alluding that “a ring down a drain, and the potential of a mythical tip, had more allure than whatever question waited for her at the desk” (Ragbir). To attain a mythical tip from Tral and Shanya, Gloribel uses othering to gain power over them and favor in their eyes. As an Executive Club concierge, Gloribel gains power by reassuring and flattering the visitors of the Platinum Coast. Gloribel’s reassurance that “the repairman is on his way” and “sometimes this is a quick fix” helps her gain power as an exotic other over Tral and Shanya (Ragbir). This is evident as she admits it amuses her when strangers believe her husband could fix anything because she calls him “the repairman” (Ragbir).

Gloribel belief in the mythical tips drives her to engage in exotic othering, complimenting that Tral and Shanya look like “islanders” (Ragbir). However, when she realizes Shanya’s demonic othering of islanders, Gloribel quickly changes her tact, saying that their vacation is so good that it seems they belong on the island. Gloribel explains that this always works, but just for a “one-dollar tip” (Ragbir). Gloribel’s over-dependence on the mythical tips comes from the low wages. According to Lin et al., hotel housekeepers represent a low-income minority in the hospitality industry (26). In addition, since her belief system is based on owning a house, she engages in desperate and risky behaviors to earn more tips. Gloribel retrieves the lost ring and hides it in her mouth in the seconds it takes Tral and Shanya to bring Herman. This is risky because the cleaning products used in hotels contain volatile organic compounds which can have adverse health effects (Lin et al. 27). Nonetheless, Gloribel was determined to endure the “drain-scum-covered ring” in her mouth so that she can “discover” it on the countertop and earn a mythical tip (Ragbir). In the wake of her powerlessness, Gloribel’s ideology aims to help her overcome the oppression of her cultural colonization and make the best out of her situation.

Similarly, Wura develops a cultural ideology to help her make the best of her situation. However, unlike Gloribel, whose cultural beliefs remain the same, Wura’s ideology changes throughout her life. Although Wura values a peaceful life and silent death, she has to contend with the predominant cultural beliefs of her nationality as a Nigerian. When Rain asks her why she is keen on engaging in societal norms she dislikes, such as attending events and weddings, Wura responds, “This is Nigeria” (Osunde). To make the of her situation in a predominant Nigerian culture, Wura develops a belief system through which she sees the world she lives in and explains why it exists. The basis of this ideology is that “gossipers are easily distracted” (Osunde). This ideology helps Wura establish her brand and social standing among the upper-class women who “need to look arresting at parties” because of their “terrible secrets” (Osunde).

In trying to balance the predominant culture and needs unique to her, Wura develops a sense of double consciousness where she is torn between being her true self or conforming to the dominant social norms. Despite her strength and “unconventional beliefs,” Wura acknowledges that she is still in a “bleedable body” and a human being (Osunde). This recognition implies an awareness of her vulnerability and her position within a society that expects certain behaviors and conformity. Despite hating the excesses associated with these events, she finds herself saying yes to many things she wants to say no to, such as attending weddings and funerals. While she may be recognized and celebrated in certain circles, Wura still experiences a sense of unhomeliness that diminishes her power over herself. However, once she discards the predominant beliefs and embraces her ideology, Wura regains her power.

The mother-daughter relationship between Wura and Rain help shape Wura’s ideology differently from the predominant society. With the help of Rain, Wura manages to navigate her struggles with societal expectations and her desires. Rain asks her, “You’ve lived your entire life for people. All these years and you’ve convinced yourself that you want what they want you to want, but do you?” (Osunde). Wura has always lived her life for other people, doing things she does not want to do to please others. Only after her daughter Rain confronts her and asks her what she really wants does Wura realize she wants “peace, some silence, freedom” (Osunde). The ability of the mother-daughter relationship to help Wura overcome societal norms asserts Jean-Charles’ concept of black women’s literature tradition. According to Jean-Charles, women converse with other women, and their friendships with other women “are vital to their growth and well-being.” Further, Rain shapes Wura’s self-improvement by helping her learn to “say no” (Osunde). Rain encourages Wura to be more assertive by challenging her negative self-talk and encouraging her to take small steps toward being more confident. Rain recognizes that Wura’s fear of saying no and being judged by others is holding her back and could even harm her health. By urging Wura to say no, Rain is helping Wura overcome her fear. Rain’s supportive and patient approach also creates a safe space for Wura to practice being more assertive without fear of judgment or failure. Ultimately, Rain’s coaching and encouragement help Wura develop self-confidence and assertiveness, which makes Wura acquire power by othering. Once Wura entirely discards the whims of a predominant society, she views those different from her as inferior. Having discarded the religious beliefs of the dominant Nigerian culture, Wura feels “sorry” for Ms. Kolawole because of her religious beliefs (Osunde). Wura’s othering increases her superiority over Ms. Kolawole’s beliefs and concerns, saying Ms. Kolawole is “scared” and needs the Bible more than her. Wura’s power and changing cultural beliefs help her make the best of her social standing by dying alone in peace and silence. However, for Gloribel, with her powers diminished by cultural colonization, her beliefs remain the same. She fails to realize her dream of owning a house and has to continue searching for mythical tips.

In conclusion, the analysis of power dynamics from a cultural criticism perspective in “Rain” by Osunde and “People Like Them” by Ragbir reveals the profound impact of social and cultural forces on the distribution and shifting of power between Wura Blackson and Gloribel. Wura Blackson in “Rain” wields more power than Gloribel in “People Like Them.” Wura’s power stems from her social standing as a sacred name among upper-class women, the privilege afforded her by her family, giving her financial independence, and her mother-daughter relationship. This enables her to bypass social and cultural hindrances and exercise power over her life. In contrast, Gloribel experiences a lack of power due to cultural colonization that imposes dominant beliefs and practices on her subjugated community. The loss of her native culture and economic struggles contribute to her diminished power and autonomy. Nonetheless, both characters employ their respective cultural ideologies to navigate their power struggles. Gloribel’s static belief in owning a house makes her value mythical tips and Wura’s evolving ideology of prioritizing her desires over societal expectations.

Works Cited

Belsey, Catherine. “Feminism and beyond.” Shakespeare Studies 25 (1997).

Jean-Charles, Régine Michelle. “Danticat and the African American Women’s Literary Tradition.” Edwidge Danticat: A Reader’s Guide (2010).

Lin, Nan, et al. “Occupational exposure and health risks of volatile organic compounds of hotel housekeepers: Field measurements of exposure and health risks.” Indoor Air 31.1 2021: 26–39.

Osunde, Eloghosa. “Rain.” Catapult, 12 Feb. 2021,

Ragbir, Lise K. “People Like Them.” Catapult, 01 Jul. 2022,


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