Arrow of God
How we cite our quotes:
[Ukpaka:] "The white man thinks we are foolish; so we shall ask him one question. This was the question I had wanted to ask him this morning but he would not listen. We have a saying that a man may refuse to do what is asked of him but he may not refuse to be asked, but it seems the white man does not have that kind of saying where he comes from. Anyhow the question which we shall beg Unachukwu to ask him is why we are not paid for working on his road. I have heard that throughout Olu and Igbo, wherever people do this kind of work the white man pays them. Why should our own be different?"
"The message is not complete," said Nwoye Udora. "It is not enough to ask him why we are not paid. He knows why and we know why. He knows that in Okperi those who do this kind of work are paid. Therefore the question you should ask him is this: Others are paid for this work; why are we not paid? Or is our own different? It is important to ask whether our own is different."
This was agreed and the meeting broke up.
"Your words were very good," someone said to Nwoye Udora as they left the market place. "perhaps the white man will tell us whether we killed his father or his mother." (8.74, 77-79)
The pride of the men of Umuaro is hurt by the fact that they are being forced to give free labor, while the nearby region, Okperi (their enemy), is paid for labor. They wonder why they are treated so disrespectfully. But the final question suggests that they also wonder if the white man has a legitimate reason. Is this treatment an act of revenge?
"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." (9.80-83)
Ezeulu uses the saying that "a man will not lie to his son" to criticize his own son Obika. Ezeulu suggests that he would seek revenge on Wright if only his son did what was required of him, namely listen to his father. Apparently, there are certain rules governing Ezeulu's ideas of revenge. He will seek revenge for his sons if they fulfill their duties to him as their father. If they don't, however, he refuses to help them.
Ezeulu took out his ground tobacco and put a little in each nostril to help his thinking. Now that Obika was asleep again he felt free to consider things by himself. He thought once more of his fruitless, albeit cursory, search for the door of the new moon. So even in his mother's village which he used to visit regularly as a boy and a young man and which next o Umuaro he knew better than any village – even here he was something of a stranger! It gave him a feeling of loss which was both painful and pleasant. He had temporarily lost his status as Chief Priest which was painful; but after eighteen years it as a relief to be without it for a while. Away from Ulu he felt like a child whose stern parent had gone on a journey. But his greatest pleasure came from the thought of his revenge which had suddenly formed in his mind as he had sat listening to Nwaka in the market place.
These thoughts were a deliberate diversion…His quarrel with the white man was insignificant beside the matter he must settle with his own people. For years he had been warning Umuaro not to allow a few jealous men to lead them into the bush. But they had stopped both ears with fingers. They had gone on taking one dangerous step after another and now they had gone too far. They had taken away too much for the owner not to notice. Now the fight must take place, for until a man wrestles with one of those who make a path across his homestead the others will not stop. Ezeulu's muscles tingled for the fight. Let the white man detain him not for one day but one year so that his deity not seeing him in his place would ask Umuaro questions. (14.11-12)
Ezeulu thinks about his revenge on his people with pleasure and longing. They hadn't respected him as chief priest, they hadn't listened to his advice, and now they are going to get what they deserve. Ezeulu will frame his revenge in terms of the Feast of the New Yam, and his obligations as the chief priest. If Ulu's chief priest isn't in Umuaro, he can't perform the functions required. And if the chief priest can't perform the functions required of him, Ulu will exact his revenge on the people of Umuaro. It just remains to be seen how he will do it. In this sense, it seems like Ezeulu's revenge is indirect.