Arrow of God
by Chinua Achebe
Arrow of God Chapter 3 Summary
- Winterbottom watches the rain from his veranda.
- He hasn't slept well since December and now it's mid-February. He thinks he might have malaria; he feels the heat in Africa the way one feels they're going to die.
- Fifteen years have passed since he arrived in Africa and now he's hardened. His belief in colonialism was strengthened when he fought the Germans in 1916 during the Cameroon campaign.
- Winterbottom's servant John prepares the house for the arrival of the rain.
- Winterbottom watches the children running around the house and asks John what they're saying. John says they're talking about how quickly the rain is coming. Winterbottom asks, with some envy, if they're his children. No, John replies. Then he points out the two that are Winterbottom's.
- The rain falls for an hour, then stops. Winterbottom, remembering that Tony Clarke was coming for dinner, goes to the kitchen to see what Cook has planned.
- The Okperi station has only five Europeans, including Winterbottom. Winterbottom is the District Officer and Mr. Clarke is the Assistant District Officer. Mr. Clarke has only been in Africa for four weeks.
- Tony Clarke was dressed for dinner early. Though it was hot, and he didn't want to dress, he'd been told that it was easy to let standards slide in Africa due to the heat. He was determined not to let that happen. He was busy reading George Allen's The Pacification of the Primitive Tribes of the Lower Niger and was excited by its call to Europeans to carve out a civilization in the wilderness.
- Clarke checks his watch. He has plenty of time. He recalls the time he arrived fifteen minutes early to dinner at the Lieutenant-Governor's house before he came to Okperi. He had been made to feel the fool. The worst was going to dinner and discovering that though others had their names by a plate, he did not. He had to wait until he was noticed and one of the stewards brought him a chair.
- Winterbottom is drinking when Clarke arrives. They discuss the rain and Clarke mentions that he finds Allen smug. Winterbottom's house servant, a young boy of about thirteen, brings him a drink. They watch the flying ants and Winterbottom assures Clarke that they're harmless.
- Winterbottom asks Clarke what he meant by commenting that Allen is smug and Clarke criticizes Allen for not recognizing that there are valuable things in "native institutions."
- Winterbottom observes that Clarke is a "progressive one" but that'll change after he's been in Africa a short while. Then he says that the British cut corners with everything, and that their system of indirect rule makes no sense, especially when they have to invent chiefs in order to make it work.
- Clarke says he's open to correction, of course.
- Clarke, desperate for a new conversation, asks Winterbottom about his collection of guns. Winterbottom tells him the story of Umuaro's attempt to make war on Okperi because of a piece of land.
- The war was complicated by the fact that Okperi had welcomed the institutions of the white man, while Umuaro had not. But after Winterbottom destroyed their guns (except for those now displayed on his wall), the place changed. With some pride, Winterbottom explains that his nickname is Otiji-Egbe, the Breaker of Guns.
- Then Winterbottom tells the tale of how the war started. A man from Umuaro went to visit a friend in Okperi. After he had gotten a good deal drunk on palm wine, he reached for his friend's ikenga and cracked it in half.
- The ikenga, he explains to Clarke, is an important fetish, representing a man's ancestors. He must make a daily sacrifice to it. It is only split in two when he dies – half buried with him and half thrown away. The man whose ikenga had been split took his gun and killed the other man and that's how the war started.
- After Winterbottom stopped the war, he tried to determine who owned the land, and decided it was clearly Okperi. Every witness lied, except for one man – a "priest-king" in Umuaro. He looks different than many of the other men, almost red instead of black. (We know that he's talking about Ezeulu here.)
- Winterbottom explains that he believes that the Igbos must have bred together with a small tribe that had similar complexions as the American Indians.
- The men go get dinner.
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