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Arrow of God

Arrow of God

by Chinua Achebe

Tradition and Customs Quotes

How we cite our quotes:

Quote #1

"I am one of those they have chosen to go to Okperi tomorrow and bring the loads of our new teacher."

"Oduche!"

"Father!"

"Listen to what I shall say no. When a handshake goes beyond the elbow we know it has turned to another thing. It was I who sent you to join those people because of my friendship to the white man, Wintabota. He asked me to send one of my children to learn the ways of his people and I agreed to send you. I did not send you so that you might leave your duty in my household. Do you hear me? Go and tell the people who chose you to go to Okperi that I said no. Tell them that tomorrow I the day on which my sons and my wives and my son's wife work for me. Your people should know the custom of his land; if they don't you must tell them. Do you hear me?" (1.128-131).

Though Ezeulu has sent his son Oduche to learn the ways of the white man, he asserts the superiority of Igbo customs and traditions, as well as his right to tell his son what to do.

Quote #2

"I have not yet heard of a message that could not wait. Or have you brought us news that Chukwu, the high god, is about to remove the foot that holds the world? If not then you must know that Eke Okperi does not break up because three men have come to town. If you listen carefully even now you can hear its voice; and it is not even half full yet. When it is full you can hear it from Umuda. Do you think a market like that will stop to hear your message?" he sat down for a while; nobody else spoke.

"You can see now, Son of our Daughter, that we cannot get our elders together before tomorrow," said Otikpo.

"If war came suddenly to your town how do you call your men together, Father of my Mother? Do you wait till tomorrow? Do you not beat your ikolo?"

Ebo and Otikpo burst into laughter. The three men from Umuaro exchanged glances. Akukalia's face began to look dangerous. Uduezue sat as he had done since they first came in, his chin in his left hand.

"Different people have different customs," said Otikpo after his laugh, "In Okperi it is not our custom to welcome strangers to our market with the ikolo." (2.68-72)

Otikpo's reference to common customs is condescending and provokes Akukalia's anger. Otikpo is reminding Akukalia that he is unimportant, and that his message is unimportant, no matter what it is about. Even if it is a message of war.

Quote #3

"Has anybody ever asked why the head of the priest of Ulu is removed from the body at death and hung up in the shrine?" asked Ezidemili rather abruptly.

[…]

"Idemili means Pillar of Water. As the pillar of this house holds the roof so does Idemili hold up the Raincloud in the sky so that it does not fall down. Idemili belongs to the sky and that is why I, his priest, cannot sit on bare earth."

Nwaka nodded his head…..Every boy in Umuaro knew that Ezidemili did not sit on bare earth.

"And that is why when I die I am not buried in the earth, because the earth and the sky are two different things. But why is the priest of Ulu buried in the same way? Ulu has no quarrel with earth; when our fathers made it they did not say that his priest should not touch the earth. But the first Ezeulu was an envious man like the present one; it was he himself who asked his people to bury him wit the ancient and awesome ritual accorded to the priest of Idemili. Another day when the present priest begins to talk about things he does not know, ask him about this." (4.17, 23-25)

We see here not only the competition between men, but also competition between the various ways in which traditions can be twisted for personal advantage. Ezidemili uses the tradition for burying the high priest of Idemili as a way to criticize his enemy, Ezeulu.

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