Arrow of God
by Chinua Achebe
Take a story's temperature by studying its tone. Is it hopeful? Cynical? Snarky? Playful?
In contrast to the darkness of the tale Achebe relates, the tone of the novel is light-hearted, even jovial, sometimes poking fun of the characters themselves, such as in this short passage:
"He is a man of very high principles, something of a missionary. I believe his father was a Church of England clergyman, which is a far cry from my father, for instance, who is a Bank of England clerical." They both laughed heartily at this. When Clarke recalled this piece of wit in the morning he realized how much alcohol he must have drunk… (10.28).
Scenes that move the tragic plot along may be interspersed with long interludes that have no apparent point except to entertain. For example, we may be treated to the scene of a quarrel between two of Ezeulu's children, or the drunken boasts of Obika and his friends. The reader unfamiliar with Achebe's style may be lured into believing that this is a comedy, or a novel where all will turn out well in the end, instead of a classic tragedy. Don't be fooled: the light-hearted tone has little to do with the tragic events of Arrow of God.