No Longer At Ease
by Chinua Achebe
No Longer At Ease Chapter 1 Summary
- Mr. Obi Okonkwo enters the courtroom for his trial.
- One of his lawyers is late – his car broke down on the way – and gets a reprimand from the judge.
- The courtroom is full of idle spectators, all anxious to hear the verdict.
- Obi himself is indifferent, until the moment when the judge asks how such a promising young man could have done what Obi did.
- Obi feels the sting of tears in his eyes. He had prepared for this moment, and planned to avoid crying, but now he is unable to help himself.
- We then leave the courtroom and jump to the club bar. Mr. Green, Obi's boss, has a drink at the club bar after playing tennis. He strikes up a conversation with a British Council man.
- The British Council man says he doesn't understand why Obi "did it."
- But Mr. Green knows why: he claims that Africans are thoroughly corrupt. All the education in the world, he says, doesn't change that fact.
- In Lagos, the Umuofia Progressive Union holds an emergency meeting. Umuofia is Obi Okonkwo's hometown and the Union is meeting to discuss Obi's case again.
- They quibble over the facts of the case again: they gave him 800 pounds to study in England but he ruins himself over a girl. Should they continue to support him, since he is a brother, or should they let the case go?
- What they don't understand, most of all, is how he could get caught.
- Most people don't accept bribes themselves. They go through other people, so that it can never be traced to them.
- Everyone now wonders how Obi could have acted so foolishly? What good was that college education if he does things like this?
- Ultimately they decide that it is not their desire to wish harm on others, but if a man wishes harm on them, then they don't mind if he is ruined.
- The implication is clear: Obi is such a man.
- We then go back to the time when the Obi's village decided to send him get an education.
- After the village of Umuofia had scraped together the money to send one of their citizens to get a college education in England, Obi had been the village's first choice. His grades were the highest in his province.
- When Obi went to England, everybody in Umuofia got excited.
- The priest at the Anglican Church quoted a Bible verse about Jesus to show that this was the fulfillment of prophecy – that somehow Obi would help his people.
- Obi's father, Isaac, threw a huge feast.
- The pastor told Obi that in the past, the village would have required him to be a fighter, a man of military prowess, to protect the village. Instead, the pastor went on, Obi would help his village by bringing knowledge back to them.
- The women, led by Mary, sang hymns, said goodbye to Obi, and sent him on his way – having sacrificed a great deal to pay for his education.
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