Arrow of God is set in 1920s Nigeria, after the pacification period and long before independence. During these the decades many Nigerians began turning away from their traditional religions, becoming Christians, and sending their children to mission schools to get a more Western education. At the point in which the novel is set, the colonial project is well under way, and many British officials and contractors are in Nigeria building the infrastructure needed to continue this project to "civilize" and modernize Africa.
The novel's two settings – rural Umuaro and the British colonial station – provide a contrast between two different worlds. We see Igbo rural life during the transitional time period as the old culture is slowly giving way to new cultural norms and belief systems. This is contrasted with the British colonial station, where colonial officials debate the merits of official colonial ideology, such as "indirect rule." In Umuaro, we watch as the importance of the deity Ulu slowly declines over the course of several years, after Umuaro makes contact with the colonial administration. At the British colonial station in Okperi, we observe first hand how the inconsistency of colonial ideology affects colonial officials like Winterbottom and Clarke. We also see how Africans who work for the colonial administration, like John Nwodika, have a wider vision of the world than those who have never experienced life outside of Umuaro.