Arrow of God
by Chinua Achebe
Arrow of God Respect and Reputation Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
Because of his familiarity with the white man's language the carpenter, Moses Unachukwu, although very much older than the two age groups, had come forward to organize them and to take words out of the white man's mouth for them. At fist Mr. Wright was inclined to distrust him, as he distrusted all uppity natives, but he soon found him very useful and was now even considering giving him some little reward when the road was finished. Meanwhile Unachukwu's reputation in Umuaro rose to unprecedented heights. It was one thing to claim to speak the white man's tongue and quite another to be seen actually doing it. The story spread throughout the six villages. Ezeulu's one regret was that a man of Umunneora should have this prestige. But soon, eh thought, his son would earn the same or greater honor (8.7)
Though Wright considers Unachukwu to be "uppity" because he knows too much about Western culture and language, he finds Unachukwu to be useful. It is more than useful to the people of Umuaro, and because they see the importance of it, Unachukwu's reputation goes through the roof. Ezeulu, seeing this, is glad he's made the choice to send Oduche to church to learn about the white man's source of power.
Ezeulu now sat down on the iroko panel with his back against the wall so that he could see the approaches to his compound. His mind raced up and down in different directions trying vainly to make sense of the whipping story. Now he was thinking about the white man who did it. Ezeulu had seen him and heard his voice when he spoke to the elders of Umuaro about the new road. When the story had first spread that a white man was coming to talk to the elders Ezeulu had thought it would be his friend, Wintabota, the Destroyer of Guns. He had been greatly disappointed when he saw it was another white man. Wintabota was tall and erect and carried himself like a great man. His voice sounded like thunder. This other man was short and thick, as hairy as a monkey. He spoke in a queer way without opening his mouth. Ezeulu thought he must be some kind of manual labourer in the service of Wintabota.
Ezeulu came finally to the conclusion that unless his son was at fault he would go in person to Okperi and report the white man to his master. His thoughts were stopped by the sudden appearance of Obika and Edogo Behind them came a third whom he soon recognized as Ofoedu. Ezeulu could never get used to this worthless young man who trailed after his son like a vulture after a corpse. He was filled with anger that was so great that it also engulfed his son.'
What was the cause of the whipping?" he asked Odogo, ignoring the other two. (8.94; 96-97)
Despite his initial reaction of anger against the white man for whipping his son, and despite his lack of respect for Wright, Ezeulu is wiling to believe the worst of his son. (He knows Obika to be lazy, drunk, and ill-tempered, especially in the company of his friend Ofoedu.) Ezeulu can't stand Ofoedu and seeing him with Obika now, he instantly jumps to the conclusion that Obika must be at fault.
"A man does not speak a lie to his son," he said. "Remember that always. To say My father told me it to swear the greatest oath."
"It is so," said Akuebue. A man can swear before the most dreaded deity on what his father told him."
"If a man is not sure of the boundary between his land and his neighbour's," continued Ezeulu, "he tells his son: I think it is here but if there is a dispute do not swear before a deity."
It is even so," said Akuebue.
"But when a man has spoken the truth and his children prefer to take the lie…" His voice had risen with every word towards the dangerous pitch of a curse; then he broke off with a violent shake of his head. When he began again he spoke more quietly. "That is why a stranger can whip a son of mine and go unscathed, because my son has nailed up his ear against my words. Were it not so that stranger would already have learnt what it was to cross Ezeulu; dogs would have licked his eyes. I would have swallowed him whole and brought him up again. I would have shaved his head without wetting the hair." (9.12, 9.80-83)
A man's reputation is staked on what he has heard and learned from his father. Knowledge is passed down in this way, and that knowledge is trustworthy, because a man will not lie to his son.