Arrow of God
by Chinua Achebe
Arrow of God Duty Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
What do you think the Captain would say, Tony, if he were to see his young Political Officer being nice and friendly to a common road maker?" His [Wright's] big red face looked almost boyish.
"I don't know and don't much care," said Clarke, and because the fume of gin was already working on his brain, he added: "I shall be happy if in all my years in Africa I succeed in building something as good as your road…." (10.8-9).
Though Clarke doesn't necessarily intend to criticize the colonial Administration here, he inadvertently reveals that its bureaucracy prevents officers from getting much done. Wright, free from the responsibilities and ideologies of his position, is able to build something tangible that is truly useful.
"One thing worries me, though," said Winterbottom without any indication that he had even heard Clarke's last piece. "You say in the report that after careful inquiry you were satisfied that there was no truth in all the stories of Wright whipping natives." Clarke's heart fell. This was the one falsehood in the entire report. In fact he completely forgot to make any inquires, even if he had known how to set about it. It was only on his return to Okperi that he found a brief, late entry Wright & natives scribbled in pencil on the second page of his touring notebook. At first he had worried about it; then he had come to the conclusion that if Wright had in fact been employing unorthodox methods he would have heard of it without making inquiries as such. But since he had heard nothing it was safe to say that the stories were untrue. In any case, how did one investigate such a thing? Did one go up to the first native one saw and ask if he had been birched by Wright? Or did one ask Wright? From what Clarke had seen of the man he would not have thought he was that sort.
"My steward is a native of Umuaro," continued Winterbottom, "and has just come back after spending two days at home; and he tells me that the whole village was in confusion because a rather important man had been whipped by Wright. But perhaps there's nothing in it."
Clarke hoped he did not betray his confusion. Anyhow he rallied quickly and said: "I heard nothing of it on the spot." The words on the spot stung Winterbottom like three wasps. The fellow's cheek! He had been there barely a week and already he was talking as though he owned the district and Winterbottom was the new boy, or some desk-ridden idiot at headquarters. On the spot indeed! (10.42-44).
Clarke's dislike for Winterbottom, and his friendliness with Wright brought on by drinking too much gin one night, led him to lie in his report. He knows he's failed in his duties – and Winterbottom realizes it, too, though mostly because he sees Clarke's impertinence.
"Leaders of Umuaro, do not say that I am treating your words with contempt; it is not my wish to do so. But you cannot say: do what is not done and we shall take the blame. I am the Chief Priest of Ulu and what I have told you is his will not mine. Do not forget that I too have yamfields and that my children, my kinsmen and my friends – yourselves among them – have also planted yams. It could not be my wish to ruin all these people. It could not be my wish to make the smallest man in Umuaro suffer. But this is not my doing. The gods sometimes use us as a whip." (18.67)
Ezeulu tells the leaders of Umuaro that he has not called the Feast of the New Yam because he must eat the twelve sacred yams first. He was delayed by the white man and now there are three yams left. Though the time for harvesting their new yams has clearly come, they can't harvest until Ulu calls them to do it. Ezeulu insists he must follow his duty to Ulu, even if the men of Umuaro say that they will take the blame for it. But Ezeulu finishes by adding that perhaps Ulu is using him as a means to punish the people of Umuaro.