Arrow of God
by Chinua Achebe
Analysis: Booker's Seven Basic Plots Analysis
Christopher Booker is a scholar who wrote that every story falls into one of seven basic plot structures: Overcoming the Monster, Rags to Riches, the Quest, Voyage and Return, Comedy, Tragedy, and Rebirth. Shmoop explores which of these structures fits this story like Cinderella’s slipper.
Plot Type : Tragedy
Nwaka challenges Ulu.
The people of Umuaro take Nwaka's advice and go to war with Okperi, despite the fact that the Chief Priest of Ulu, Ezeulu, advises them not to do it. He says that Ulu will not side with them if their cause is not just. Though the people lose the war when the white man enters, it's clear that Nwaka hasn't received his comeuppance. He continues to jeer at Ulu, suggesting that he's an impotent god and may be replaced.
Oduche violates the sacred python.
After Captain Winterbottom breaks the guns in Umuaro and rules in favor of Okperi, he advises Ezeulu to send one of his children to church. Ezeulu takes his advice a couple years later, realizing that he needs to understand the source of the white man's power.
The period leading up to Oduche's violation of the sacred python serves as the dream stage because Ezeulu still assumes he can manage and manipulate Umuaro, despite the introduction of a competing ideology – the white man's religion, education system, and political power. Ezeulu imagines that if he sends Oduche to learn the white man's religion and culture, he can continue to maintain the status-quo. When a new catechist arrives and challenges Christians to kill the royal python, Oduche takes him up on the challenge. He loses courage and ends up imprisoning the python in a box instead.
Ezeulu discovers the abomination, and is not sure what to do about it, knowing it's a serious offence. When Ezeulu receives a chastising message from Ezidemili – the priest of Idemili, the god who owns the python – he sends an insult back. Ultimately, the incident serves to drive a deeper wedge between Ezeulu and Ezidemili, and their respective villages. Further, Oduche's abomination against the sacred python is Ezeulu's first hint that he may not be able to control the white man's power within his own village.
Ezeulu is detained at Okperi.
When Captain Winterbottom sends messengers to request Ezeulu's presence in Okperi, Ezeulu refuses to go. But he consults the elders of Umuaro, and they argue that because Winterbottom is his friend, he should go. Ezeulu is frustrated, thinking that his elders are essentially throwing him to the lions. But he goes, in part because he had already decided he would go. Meanwhile, Winterbottom has received the message that Ezeulu refused to come see him, and he sends policemen out to arrest him. Winterbottom falls ill and is hospitalized. When Ezeulu arrives, he's detained – first, because Tony Clarke wants to teach him a lesson, and then because Ezeulu refuses to take the position of warrant chief. Clarke and Winterbottom decide that he should remain imprisoned until he learns to be more cooperative.
Ezeulu takes revenge on Umuaro.
During his first few days in Okperi, Ezeulu has a dream that convinces him his real battle is with his own people, not with the white man. He realizes that Ulu plans to use him to punish the people for their arrogance and ignorance, and for their refusal to respect Ulu.
After being released by Clarke, Ezeulu returns to Umuaro, ready to take revenge on the people. When the new moon comes, he fails to announce the Feast of the New Yam. His assistances come to find out why, and he sends them away. The elders – including Nwaka – come to find out why, and Ezeulu explains that because he was detained for so long, he is behind on eating the sacred yams. It will take three more months before he can appoint the day for the festival. The elders panic, realizing that their crops will rot – they cannot harvest until the Feast. They ask what their sin is, why they are being punished, and Ezeulu replies that while he was imprisoned, "two new moons came and went and there was no on to break kolanut to him and Umuaro kept silent" (18.69). In other words, the people failed to honor Ulu while his priest was absent.
Obika dies, and the people of Umuaro turn away from Ulu and toward Christianity.
The people go hungry and spend money buying yams from neighboring regions even while their own yams rot in the ground. All of Umuaro is shocked and saddened when Obika dies suddenly while performing a funeral rite, but they interpret the death as a judgment against Ezeulu. The people of Umuaro decide that Ulu has taken the side of the people instead of his chief priest's side.
Ezeulu's public humiliation allows the people of Umuaro to take the Christian catechist, Mr. Goodcountry, up on his offer – they sacrifice their new yams to the Christian god, instead of to Ulu. Many of the yams planted that year are sown in the name of Christianity, suggesting that harvests from that day forward will also be reaped in the name of Christianity. In punishing his people, Ezeulu has ensured the death of his own god.