Arrow of God
by Chinua Achebe
Arrow of God Men and Masculinity Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
"I would not have spoken again today if I had not seen adults in the house neglecting their duty. Ogbuefi Egonwanne, as one of the three oldest men in Umuaro should have reminded us that our fathers did not fight a war of blame. But instead of that he wants to teach our emissary how to carry fire and water in the same mouth. Have we not heard that a boy sent by his father to steal does not go stealthily but breaks the door with his feet? Why does Egonwanne trouble himself about small things when big ones are overlooked? We want war. How Akukalia speaks to his mother's people is a small thing. He can spit into their face if he likes. When we hear a house has fallen do we ask if the ceiling fell with it?" (2.27)
Ezeulu suggests that real men know the dangers of war and work to prevent it. But today, the men of Umuaro are not showing wisdom. They are showing their desire for war because they are sending a volatile boy to do their work for them. Ezeulu warns that people should not be surprised if these boys don't know how to resolve this dispute peacefully.
"Go back to your house," shouted Akukali, "or I will make you eat shit."
"If you want to shout like a castrated bull you must wait until you return to Umuaro. I have told you this place is called Okperi."
Perhaps it was deliberate, perhaps accidental. But Ebo had just said the one thing hat nobody should ever have told Akukali who was impotent and whose two wives were secretly given to other men to bear his children.
The ensuing fight was grim. (2.75-78)
Intended or not, Ebo insults Akukalia's manliness. Since Akukalia happens to be impotent (the worst thing for an Igbo man), Akukalia takes the reference personally, and takes his action to extreme measures.
For those seeking but a comfortable living and a quiet occupation Nigeria is closed and will be closed until the earth has lost some of its deadly fertility and until the people live under something like sanitary conditions. But for those in search of a strenuous life, for those who can deal with men as others deal with material, who can grasp great situations, coax events, shape destinies and ride on the crest of the wave of time Nigeria is holding out her hands. For the men who in India have made the Briton the law-maker, the organizer, the engineer of the world this new, old land has great rewards and honorable work. I know we can find the men. Our mothers do not draw us with nervous grip back to the fireside of boyhood, back into the home circle, back to the purposeless sports of middle life; it is our greatest pride that they do – albeit tearfully – send us fearless and erect, to lead the backward races into line. "Surely we are the people!" Shall it be the Little Englander for whom the Norman fought the Saxon on his field? Was it for him the archers bled at Crecy and Poitiers, or Cromwell drilled his men? Is it only for the desk our youngsters read of Drake and Frobisher, of Nelson, Clive and men like Mungo Park? Is it for the counting-house they learn of Carthage, Greece and Rome? No, no; a thousand times no! The British race will take its place, the British blood will tell. Son after son will leave the Mersey, strong in the will of his parents today, stronger in the deed of his fathers in the past, braving the climate, taking the risks, playing his best in the game of life. (3.18)
This short passage, quoted from the fictional book on colonizing Africa, The Pacification of the Primitive Tribes of the Lower Niger, suggests quite a lot about what it means to be manly in British culture. Manliness stands in clear opposition to female values of hearth and home; the man goes out into the world, facing unknown dangers, to protect and extend the British Empire. According to this source, a British man must make upholding his race and his country his number one priority.