Arrow of God
by Chinua Achebe
Arrow of God Men and Masculinity Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
Mr. Clarke had been desperately searching for a new subject. Then luckily he lit on a collection of quaint-looking guns arranged like trophies near the low window of the living-room. "Are they native guns?" He had stumbled on a redeeming theme.
Captain Winterbottom was transformed.
"Those guns have a long and interesting history. The people of Okperi and their neighbours, Umuaro, are great enemies. Or they were before I came into the story. A big savage war had broken out between them over a piece of land. This feud was made worse by the fact that Okperi welcomed missionaries and government while Umuaro, on the other hand, has remained backward. It was only in the last four or five years that any kind of impression has been made there. I think I can say with all modesty that this change came about after I had gathered and publicly destroyed all firearms in the place except, of course, this collection here. You will be going there frequently on tour. If you hear anyone talking about Otiji-Egbe, you know they are talking about me. Otiji-Egbe means Breaker of Guns. I am even told that all children born in that year belong to a new age-grade of the Breaking of Guns." (3.55-57)
Captain Winterbottom's power is symbolized in the guns he carried away from the war between Okperi and Umuaro. (He brought about an end to the war by breaking and burning the guns, and then settling the question of the land dispute between the neighboring regions.) By revealing his nickname, Winterbottom illustrates his role as peace-maker, settling the disputes of subjects. But this also symbolizes his manhood, as we see in his boast that the children of that year have also been named for him.
"One thing you must remember in dealing with natives is that like children they are great liars. They don't lie simply to get out of trouble. Sometimes they would spoil a good case by a pointless lie. Only one man – a kind of priest-king in Umuaro – witnessed against his own people. I have not found out what it was, but I think he must have had some pretty fierce tabu working on him. But he was a most impressive figure of a man." (3.61)
Here Winterbottom reveals that part of the colonial administrative power is in infantilizing an entire group of people; he insults men from another culture, by considering them to be "children" in the eyes of the Administration. He also reveals his admiration for Ezeulu, who told the truth, by calling him a real man. In fact, Winterbottom refers to him as an "impressive figure of a man."
"Is it true, Obika," asked one of the men, "that your new bride has not returned after her first visit?"
"Yes, my friend," Obika replied light-heartedly. "My things always turn out differently from other people's. If I drink water it sticks between my teeth."
"Do not heed him," said Ofoedu. "her mother is ill and her father asked if she could stay back and look after her for a while."
"Aha, I knew the story I heard could not be true. How could a young bride hesitate over a handsome ugonachomma like Obika?"
"Ah, my friend, come out from that," said the half-drunk man. "She may not like the size of his penis."
"But she has never seen it," said Obika.
"You are talking to small boys of yesterday: She has not seen it!" (7.19-25)
This lighthearted banter between the men about Obika's new bride suggests that being handsome and well endowed are important characteristics for manhood. (These attributes are also important in Western culture.)