Expert Answer:SS110 World history Book Quiz (No Longer At Ease:

Answer & Explanation:What responsibilities does Obi feel he have to his family?What was the problem with Obi marrying Clara?Why did Obi take back his request to the Union for delaying of loan repayment?What was Mr. Mark’s request and how did Obi react?According to Obi, what did the Union not understand about his financial situation?

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No longer at Ease
Chinua Achebe
No Longer at Ease
First published in 1960
For Christie
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.
T. S. Eliot : ‘The Journey of the Magi’.
For three or four weeks Obi Okonkwo had been steeling himself against this
moment. And when he walked into the dock that morning he thought he was fully
prepared. He wore a smart palm-beach suit and appeared unruffled and
indifferent. The proceeding seemed to be of little interest to him. Except for one
brief moment at the very beginning when one of the counsel had got into trouble
with the judge.
‘This court begins at nine o’clock. Why are you late?’
Whenever Mr Justice William Galloway, Judge of the High Court of Lagos and
the Southern Cameroons, looked at a victim he fixed him with his gaze as a
collector fixes his insect with formalin. He lowered his head like a charging ram
and looked over his gold-rimmed spectacles at the lawyer.
‘I am sorry, Your Honour,’ the man stammered. ‘My car broke down on the way.’
The judge continued to look at him for a long time. Then he said very abruptly:
‘All right, Mr Adeyemi. I accept your excuse. But I must say I’m getting sick and
tired of these constant excuses about the problem of locomotion.’
There was suppressed laughter at the bar. Obi Okonkwo smiled a wan and ashy
smile and lost interest again.
Every available space in the court-room was taken up. There were almost as many
people standing as sitting. The case had been the talk of Lagos for a number of
weeks and on this last day anyone who could possibly leave his job
was there to hear the judgement. Some Civil Servants paid as much as ten
shillings and sixpence to obtain a doctor’s certificate of illness for the day.
Obi’s listlessness did not show any signs of decreasing even when the judge began
to sum up. It was only when he said: ‘I cannot comprehend how a young man of
your education and brilliant promise could have done this’ that a sudden and
marked change occurred. Treacherous tears came into Obi’s eyes. He brought out
a white handkerchief and rubbed his face. But he did it as people do when they
wipe sweat. He even tried to smile and belie the tears. A smile would have been
quite logical. All that stuff about education and promise and betrayal had not
taken him unawares. He had expected it and rehearsed this very scene a hundred
times until it had become as familiar as a friend.
In fact, some weeks ago when the trial first began, Mr Green, his boss, who was
one of the Crown witnesses, had also said something about a young man of great
promise. And Obi had remained completely unmoved. Mercifully he had recently
lost his mother, and Clara had gone out of his life. The two events following
closely on each other had dulled his sensibility and left him a different man, able
to look words like ‘education’ and ‘promise’ squarely in the face. But now when
the supreme moment came he was betrayed by treacherous tears.
Mr Green had been playing tennis since five o’clock. It was most unusual. As a
rule his work took up so much of his time that he rarely played. His normal
exercise was a short walk in the evenings. But today he had played with a friend
who worked for the British Council. After the game they retired to the club bar.
Mr Green had a light- yellow sweater over his white shirt, and a white towel hung
from his neck. There were many other Europeans in the bar, some half-sitting on
the high stools and some standing in groups of twos and threes drinking cold beer,
orange squash or gin-and-tonic.
‘I cannot understand why he did it,’ said the British Council man thoughtfully. He
was drawing lines of water with his finger on the back of his mist-covered glass of
ice- cold beer.
‘I can,’ said Mr Green simply. ‘What I can’t understand is why people like you
refuse to face facts.’ Mr Green was famous for speaking his mind. He wiped his
red face with the white towel on his neck. ‘The African is corrupt through and
through.’ The British Council man looked about him furtively, more from instinct
than necessity, for although the club was now open to them technically, few
Africans went to it. On this particular occasion there was none, except of course
the stewards who served unobtrusively. It was quite possible to go in, drink, sign a
cheque, talk to friends and leave again without noticing these stewards in their
white uniforms. If everything went right you did not see them.
‘They are all corrupt,’ repeated Mr Green. ‘I’m all for equality and all that. I for one
would hate to live in South Africa. But equality won’t alter facts.’
‘What facts?’ asked the British Council man, who was relatively new to the
country. There was a lull in the general conversation, as many people were now
listening to Mr Green without appearing to do so.
‘The fact that over countless centuries the African has been the victim of the worst
climate in the world and of every imaginable disease. Hardly his fault. But he has
been sapped mentally and physically. We have brought him Western education.
But what use is it to him? He is …’
He was interrupted by the arrival of another friend.
‘Hello, Peter. Hello, Bill.’
‘May I join you?’
‘Most certainly. What are you drinking? Beer? Right. Steward. One beer for this
‘What kind, sir?’
‘Yes, sir.’
‘We were talking about this young man who took a bribe.’
‘Oh yes.’
Somewhere on the Lagos mainland the Umuofia Progressive Union was holding
an emergency meeting. Umuofia is an Ibo village in Eastern Nigeria and the home
town of Obi Okonkwo. It is not a particularly big village but its inhabitants call it
a town. They are very proud of its past when it was the terror of their neighbours,
before the white man came and levelled everybody down. Those Umuofians (that
is the name they call themselves) who leave their home town to find work in
towns all over Nigeria regard themselves as sojourners. They return to Umuofia
every two years or so to spend their leave. When they have saved up enough
money they ask their relations at home to find them a wife, or they build a ‘zinc’
house on their family land. No matter where they are in Nigeria, they start a local
branch of the Umuofia Progressive Union.
In recent weeks the Union had met several times over Obi Okonkwo’s case. At the
first meeting, a handful of people had expressed the view that there was no reason
why the Union should worry itself over the troubles of a prodigal son who had
shown great disrespect to it only a little while ago.
‘We paid eight hundred pounds to train him in England,’ said one of them. ‘But
instead of being grateful he insults us because of a useless girl. And now we are
being called together again to find more money for him. What does he do with his
big salary? My own opinion is that we have already done too much for him.’
This view, although accepted as largely true, was not taken very seriously. For, as
the President pointed out, a kinsman in trouble had to be saved, not blamed; anger
against a brother was felt in the flesh, not in the bone. And so the Union decided
to pay for the services of a lawyer from their funds.
But this morning the case was lost. That was why another emergency meeting had
been convened. Many people had already arrived at the house of the President on
Moloney Street, and were talking excitedly about the judgement.
‘I knew it was a bad case,’ said the man who had opposed the Union’s intervention
from the start. ‘We are just throwing money away. What do our people say? He
that fights for a ne’er-do-well has nothing to show for it except a head covered in
earth and grime.’
But this man had no following. The men of Umuofia were prepared to fight to the
last. They had no illusions about Obi. He was, without doubt, a very foolish and
self- willed young man. But this was not the time to go into that. The fox must be
chased away first; after that the hen might be warned against wandering into the
When the time for warning came the men of Umuofia could be trusted to give it in
full measure, pressed down and flowing over. The President said it was a thing of
shame for a man in the senior service to go to prison for twenty pounds. He
repeated twenty pounds, spitting it out. ‘I am against people reaping where they
have not sown. But we have a saying that if you want to eat a toad you should
look for a fat and juicy one.’
‘It is all lack of experience,’ said another man. ‘He should not have accepted the
money himself. What others do is tell you to go and hand it to their houseboy. Obi
tried to do what everyone does without finding out how it was done.’ He told the
proverb of the house rat who went swimming with his friend the lizard and died
from cold, for while the lizard’s scales kept him dry the rat’s hairy body remained
The President, in due course, looked at his pocket-watch and announced that it
was time to declare the meeting open. Everybody stood up and he said a short
prayer. Then he presented three kola nuts to the meeting. The oldest man present
broke one of them, saying another kind of prayer while he did it. ‘He that brings
kola nuts brings life,’ he said. ‘We do not seek to hurt any man, but if any man
seeks to hurt us may he break his neck.’ The congregation answered Amen . ‘We
are strangers in this land. If good comes to it may we have our share.’ Amen . ‘But
if bad comes let it go to the owners of the land who know what gods should be
appeased.’ Amen . ‘Many towns have four or five or even ten of their sons in
European posts in this city. Umuofia has only one. And now our enemies say that
even that one is too many for us. But our ancestors will not agree to such a thing.’
Amen . ‘An only palm-fruit does not get lost in the fire.’ Amen .
Obi Okonkwo was indeed an only palm-fruit. His full name was Obiajulu—‘the
mind at last is at rest’; the mind being his father’s of course, who, his wife having
borne him four daughters before Obi, was naturally becoming a little anxious.
Being a Christian convert—in fact a Catechist—he could not marry a second wife.
But he was not the kind of man who carried his sorrow on his face. In particular,
he would not let the heathen know that he was unhappy. He had called his fourth
daughter Nwanyidinma—‘a girl is also good’. But his voice did not carry
The old man who broke the kola nuts in Lagos and called Obi Okonkwo an only
palm-fruit was not, however, thinking of Okonkwo’s family. He was thinking of
the ancient and war-like village of Umuofia. Six or seven years ago Umuofians
abroad had formed their Union with the aim of collecting money to send some of
their brighter young men to study in England. They taxed themselves mercilessly.
The first scholarship under this scheme was awarded to Obi Okonkwo five years
ago, almost to the day. Although they called it a scholarship it was to be repaid. In
Obi’s case it was worth eight hundred pounds, to be repaid within four years of his
return. They wanted him to read law so that when he returned he would handle all
their land cases against their neighbours. But when he got to England he read
English; his self-will was not new. The Union was angry but in the end they left
him alone. Although he would not be a lawyer, he would get a ‘European post’ in
the Civil Service.
The selection of the first candidate had not presented any difficulty to the Union.
Obi was an obvious choice. At the age of twelve or thirteen he had passed his
Standard Six examination at the top of the whole province. Then he had won a
scholarship to one of the best secondary schools in Eastern Nigeria. At the end of
five years he passed the Cambridge School Certificate with distinction in all eight
subjects. He was in fact a village celebrity, and his name was regularly invoked at
the mission school where he had once been a pupil. (No one mentioned nowadays
that he once brought shame to the school by writing a letter to Adolf Hitler during
the war. The headmaster at the time had pointed out, almost in tears, that he was a
disgrace to the British Empire, and that if he had been older he would surely have
been sent to jail for the rest of his miserable life. He was only eleven then, and so
got off with six strokes of the cane on his buttocks.)
Obi’s going to England caused a big stir in Umuofia. A few days before his
departure to Lagos his parents called a prayer meeting at their home. The
Reverend Samuel Ikedi of St Mark’s Anglican Church, Umuofia, was chairman.
He said the occasion was the fulfilment of the prophecy:
‘The people which sat in darkness
Saw a great light,
And to them which sat in the region and shadow of death
To them did light spring up.’
He spoke for over half an hour. Then he asked that someone should lead them in
prayer. Mary at once took up the challenge before most people had had time to
stand up, let alone shut their eyes. Mary was one of the most zealous Christians in
Umuofia and a good friend of Obi’s mother, Hannah Okonkwo. Although Mary
lived a long way from the church—three miles or more—she never missed the
early morning prayer which the pastor conducted at cockcrow. In the heart of the
wet season, or the cold harmattan.
Mary was sure to be there. Sometimes she came as much as an hour before time.
She would blow out her hurricane lamp to save kerosene and go to sleep on the
long mud seats.
‘Oh God of Abraham, God of Isaac and God of Jacob,’ she burst forth, ‘the
Beginning and the End. Without you we can do nothing. The great river is not big
enough for you to wash your hands in. You have the yam and you have the knife;
we cannot eat unless you cut us a piece. We are like ants in your sight. We are like
little children who only wash their stomach when they bath, leaving their back dry
…’ She went on and on reeling off proverb after proverb and painting picture after
picture. Finally, she got round to the subject of the gathering and dealt with it as
fully as it deserved, giving among other things, the life history of her friend’s son
who was about to go to the place where learning finally came to an end. When she
was done, people blinked and rubbed their eyes to get used to the evening light
once more.
They sat on long wooden forms which had been borrowed from the school. The
chairman had a little table before him. On one side sat Obi in his school blazer and
white trousers.
Two stalwarts emerged from the kitchen area, half bent with the gigantic iron pot
of rice which they carried between them. Another pot followed. Two young
women then brought in a simmering pot of stew hot from the fire. Kegs of palmwine followed, and a pile of plates and spoons which the church stocked for the
use of its members at marriages, births, deaths and other occasions such as this.
Mr Isaac Okonkwo made a short speech placing ‘this small kola’ before his guests.
By Umuofia standards he was well-to-do. He had been a catechist of the Church
Society for twenty-five years and then retired on a pension of twenty-five pounds
a year. He had been the very first man to build a ‘zinc’ house in Umuofia. It was
therefore not unexpected that he would prepare a feast. But no one had imagined
anything on this scale, not even from Okonkwo who was famous for his openhandedness which sometimes bordered on improvidence. Whenever his wife
remonstrated against his thriftlessness he replied that a man who lived on the
banks of the Niger should not wash his hands with spittle—a favourite saying of
his father’s. It was odd that he should have rejected everything about his father
except this one proverb. Perhaps he had long forgotten that his father often used it.
At the end of the feast the pastor made another long speech. He thanked Okonkwo
for giving them a feast greater than many a wedding feast these days.
Mr Ikedi had come to Umuofia from a township, and was able to tell the gathering
how wedding feasts had been steadily declining in the towns since the invention
of invitation cards. Many of his hearers whistled in unbelief when he told them
that a man could not go to his neighbour’s wedding unless he was given one of
these papers on which they wrote R.S.V.P.—Rice and Stew Very Plenty—which
was invariably an over-statement.
Then he turned to the young man on his right. ‘In times past,’ he told him,
‘Umuofia would have required of you to fight in her wars and bring home human
heads. But those were days of darkness from which we have been delivered by the
blood of the Lamb of God. Today we send you to bring knowledge. Remember
that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. I have heard of young men
from other towns who went to the white man’s country, but instead of facing their
studies they went after the sweet things of the flesh. Some of them even married
white women.’ The crowd murmured its strong disapproval of such behaviour. ‘A
man who does that is lost to his people. He is like rain wasted in the forest. I
would have suggested getting you a wife before you leave. But the time is too
short now. Anyway, I know that we have no fear where you are concerned. We
are sending you to learn book. Enjoyment can wait. Do not be in a hurry to rush
into the pleasures of the world like the young antelope who danced herself lame
when the main dance was yet to come.’
He thanked Okonkwo again, and the guests for answering his call. ‘If you had not
answered his call, our brother would have become like the king in the Holy Book
who called a wedding feast.’
As soon as he had finished speaking, Mary raised a song which the women had
learnt at their prayer meeting.
‘Leave me not behind Jesus, wait for me
When I am going to the farm.
Leave me not behind Jesus, wait for me
When I am going to the market.
Leave me not behind Jesus, wait for me
When I am eating my food.
Leave me not behind Jesus, wait for me
When I am having my bath.
Leave me not behind Jesus, wait for me
When he is going to the White Man’s Country.
Leave him not behind Jesus, wait for him.’
The gathering ended with the singing of ‘Praise God from whom all blessings
flow’. The guests then said their farewells to Obi, many of them repeating all the
advice that he had already been given. They shook hands with him and as they did
so they pressed their presents into his palm, to buy a pencil with, or an exercise
book or a loaf of bread for the journey, a shilling there and a penny there –substantial presents in a village where money was so rare, where men and women
toiled from year to year to wrest a meagre living from an unwilling and exhausted
Obi was away in England for a little under four years. He sometimes found it
difficult to believe that it was as short as that. It seemed more like a decade than
four years, what with the miseries of winter when his longing to return home took
on the sharpness of physical pain. It was in England that Nigeria first became
more than just a name to him. That was the first great thing that England did for
But the Nigeria he returned to was in many ways different from the picture he had
carried in his mind during those four years. There were many things he could no
longer recognise, and others—like the slums of Lagos— which he was seeing for
the first time.
As a boy in the village of Umuofia he had heard his first stories about Lagos from
a soldier home on leave from the war. Those soldiers were heroes who had seen
the great world. They spoke of Abyssinia, Egypt, Palestine, Burma and so on.
Some of them had been village ne’er-do-wells, but now they were heroes. They
had bags and bags of money, and the villagers sat at their feet to listen to their
stories. One of them went regularly to a market in the neighbouring village and
helped himself to whatever he liked. He went in full uniform, breaking the ear …
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