Arrow of God
by Chinua Achebe
Arrow of God Race Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
The other man, Wright, did not really belong to the station. He was a Public Works Department man supervising the new road to Umuaro. Captain Winterbottom had already had cause to talk to him seriously about this behaviour especially with native women. It was absolutely imperative, he told him, that every European in Nigeria, particularly those in such a lonely outpost as Okperi, should not lower themselves in the eyes of the natives. In such a place the District Officer was something of a school prefect, and Captain Winterbottom was determined to do his duty. He would go as far as barring Wright from the club unless he showed a marked change. (3.15)
The value that Winterbottom is trying to impart to Wright here is the idea that Europeans are superior. Thus, they must behave with certain proprieties intact.
"It was rather interesting what you said about Allen. A little smug, I think you said." [Winterbottom]
"That was the impression I had – sometimes. He doesn't allow, for instance, for there being anything of value in native institutions. He might really be one of the missionary people." [Clarke]
"I see you are one of the progressive ones. When you've been here as long as Allen was and understood the native a little more you might begin to see things in a slightly different light. If you saw, as I did, a man buried alive up to his neck with a piece of roast yam on his head to attract vultures you know…Well, never mind. We British are a curious bunch, doing everything half-heartedly. Look at the French. They are not ashamed to teach their culture to backward races under their charge. Their attitude to the native ruler is clear. They say to him: 'This land has belonged to you because you have been strong enough to hold it. By the same token it now belongs to us. If you are not satisfied come out and fight us." What do we British do? We flounder from one expedient to its opposite. We do not only promise to secure old savage tyrants on their thrones – or more likely filthy animal skins – we not only do that, but we now go out of our way to invent chiefs where there were none before. They make me sick." (3.46-48)
Winterbottom expresses several ideas about race in this short passage. For one thing, he clearly distinguishes between African cultures and European cultures, suggesting that European cultures are superior. But he also discusses the French habit of ruling through "direct rule," which he calls a more honest approach to colonialism. He considers the British habit of ruling through "indirect rule" to be ineffective and hypocritical.
"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. He was very light in complexion, almost red. One finds people like that now and again among the Ibos. I have a theory that the Ibos in the distant past assimilated a small non-negroid tribe of the same complexion as the Red Indians." (3.61)
Winterbottom speculates freely about the genetic origin of skin like Ezeulu's. One can ask a number of questions about Winterbottom based on these quotes here: Is his respect for Ezeulu born from the fact that Ezeulu told the truth or because he's light-skinned? And does he think that Ezeulu told the truth because his genetic origins are "non-negroid"? Does Winterbottom consider Ezeulu a man because he told the truth, or because he's closer in appearance to Europeans?