Arrow of God
by Chinua Achebe
Arrow of God Competition Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
"Has anybody ever asked why the head of the priest of Ulu is removed from the body at death and hung up in the shrine?" asked Ezidemili rather abruptly.
"Idemili means Pillar of Water. As the pillar of this house holds the roof so does Idemili hold up the Raincloud in the sky so that it does not fall down. Idemili belongs to the sky and that is why I, his priest, cannot sit on bare earth." Nwaka nodded his head…..Every boy in Umuaro knew that Ezidemili did not sit on bare earth.
"And that is why when I die I am not buried in the earth, because the earth and the sky are two different things. But why is the priest of Ulu buried in the same way? Ulu has no quarrel with earth; when our fathers made it they did not say that his priest should not touch the earth. But the first Ezeulu was an envious man like the present one; it was he himself who asked his people to bury him with the ancient and awesome ritual accorded to the priest of Idemili. Another day when the present priest begins to talk about things he does not know, ask him about this." (4.17; 23-25)
We see here that there is not only the competition between the men, but also among the many ways that traditions can be twisted for personal advantage. Ezidemili uses the tradition for burying the high priest of Idemili as a way to criticize his enemy, Ezeulu, who is the High Priest of a deity greater than Idemili.
"But what worries me is that my father makes Nwafo think he will be chosen. If tomorrow as you say Ulu chooses another person there will be strife in the family. My father will not be there then and it will all rattle around my own head."
The old man and his friend's son talked for a long time. When Edogo finally rose to go…Akuebue promised to talk to Ezeulu. He felt pity and a little contempt for the young man. Why could he not open his mouth like a man and say that he wanted to be priest instead of hiding behind Oduche and Obika? That was why Ezeulu never counted him among people.
And yet Akuebue felt sorry for Edogo. He knew how a man's first son must feel to be pushed back so that the younger ones might come forward to receive favour. No doubt that was why in the first days of Umuaro, Ulu chose to give only one son to his Chief Priests, for seven generations. (12.37, 40-41)
For seven generations, the priest of Ulu had only one son, and thus the mantle of priesthood passed to that one son. Finally, there is a generation with several sons, so the question of who will get the priesthood becomes a real question and a source of conflict. Though Edogo claims he doesn't want to become the next priest of Ulu, Akuebue believes otherwise. They both wonder if Ezeulu is angling things so that his favorite son, Nwafo, will be the automatic choice of the deity. But if Ulu chooses somebody else – Ulu is the deity after all, and has the final say – the strife in the family will be unendurable.
Ezeulu walked as unhurriedly as he could into the outer compound and asked what all the noise was about. Matefi wailed louder.
"Shut your mouth," Ezeulu commanded.
"You tell me to shut my mouth," screamed Matefi, "when Oduche takes my daughter to the stream and beats her to death. How can I shut my mouth when they bring back a corpse to me. Go and look at her face; the fellow's five fingers…" Her voice had risen till it reverberated in the brain.
"I say shut your mouth! Are you mad?"
Matefi stopped her screaming. She moaned resignedly: "I have shut my mouth. Why should I not shut my mouth? After all Oduche is Ugoye's son. Yes, Matefi must shut her mouth."
"Let nobody call my name there!" shouted the other wife as she came out from her hut where she had sat as though all the noise in the compound came from a distant clan. "I say let nobody mention my name at all." (12.57-62)
This brief passage demonstrates the strife that can dominate in a polygamous compound. Though Ojiugo and Oduche had fought in a way that is typical between a half-brother and half-sister, this conflict becomes Matefi's personal complaint against her co-wife Ugoye. It doesn't help matters that there is already a significant amount of competition among Matefi and her co-wife for Ezeulu's affection and time.