# Saturday, June 8, 2019

NoLongerAtEaseIn Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe introduced us to Okonkwo, a west African tribesman trying to preserve his people's culture as European colonialists invaded his homeland in the late 19th century.

Achebe's second novel - No Longer at Ease - follows the life and downfall of Okonkwo's grandson Obi decades later.

Obi returns from a college education in England to begin a life of civil service in his homeland of Nigeria. He returns with high expectations and high ideals, but he finds himself conflicted in every part of his life.

He wants to help his people, but he has seen the world and known many of its pleasures.

He wants to marry Clara, but his family and the rest of society disapproves because she is an osu - an inferior caste. And he is tempted by other beauties.

He resists the temptations of bribery, but many of his friends and colleagues are ready with rationalizations why bribes are acceptable.

He earns far more than most Nigerians, but he finds himself overwhelmed by his expenses and constrained by the salary of a civil servant.

Even his education presented conflict. The elders who loaned him for his education instructed him to study Law; but Obi decided he liked English better and switched majors during his tuition.

Worse, he discovers on his return that Lagos has changed - more modern and more corrupt - from his earlier days. It is the late 1950s and the colonial era is ending and countries like Nigeria are struggling to find their new, post-colonial identity.

Achebe brings to life the time and his characters in a lyrical, yet straightforward style. He peppers the speech of his character with frequent African proverbs.

I loved the reference back to the first novel: The rift between Obi's father and grandfather when his father converted to Christianity, rejecting the violence of the past and beginning the family's assimilation.

No Longer at Ease is a story of Local Culture vs Colonialism; of Idealism vs Practicality; of Individualism vs Duty; of Acceptance of Modern Christianity vs Adherence to an old caste system; and of Tradition vs Progress.

The reader struggles with these conflicts along with Obi.

Saturday, June 8, 2019 9:43:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
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