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No Longer At Ease

No Longer At Ease


by Chinua Achebe

No Longer At Ease Chapter 5 Summary

  • Within a month of returning home, Obi encounters two examples of the kind of corrupt African that he had been criticizing: the uneducated African who gets to the top through bribery.
  • He meets this first corrupt African at the Public Service Commission when he goes for his job interview.
  • As part of the interview, Obi discusses tragedy in literature with the Chairman of the Commission, a "fat jolly" Englishman. Obi argues that suicide is not a tragedy. Real tragedy is suffering without relief. When a life does consist of endless suffering, no one else even knows because this kind of suffering often happens off to the side.
  • The Chairman asks if anybody on the Board has questions for Obi.
  • The African member who had been sleeping wakes up and asks Obi if his real motive for seeking a job in the civil service is to take bribes.
  • Enraged, Obi replies that this is an impossible question to answer because wouldn't a person who intended on taking bribes lie to the board about it?
  • At home, when Joseph tells Obi he shouldn't have gotten angry since he needs the job, Obi refers to this as the "colonial mentality."
  • Essentially, Joseph responds that Obi is tempting fate. (What he actually says is that Obi shouldn't "challenge his chi to a wrestling match," but that idiom essentially means that he shouldn't tempt fate.)
  • The two friends discuss Joseph's impending marriage, and the bride-price he paid his bride's family. Joseph tells Obi that because of his higher salary, Obi will likely pay four times as much as Joseph paid.
  • Obi claims that he will refuse to pay a bride-price at all.
  • Joseph jokes that Obi must intend to be a priest then and never marry.
  • While waiting to find out if he has a job, Obi visits his hometown of Umuofia. He catches a ride on a mammy wagon with other passengers.
  • On the way, they're stopped by a policeman. When the driver's mate tries to bribe the policeman, Obi looks his way and the policeman, not willing to risk it in case Obi is a government official, pretends he's offended by the very idea.
  • The driver continues for a while, but then stops just up the road and asks Obi why he looked at the policeman. Obi says the police officer has no right to take a bribe. The driver responds that this incident makes him unwilling to give rides to educated people in the future.
  • Then Obi realizes that they stopped because the driver's friend had run back and given the policeman a bribe after all.
  • During the rest of the trip, Obi wonders what it will take to change Nigerian society so it is not so corrupt.
  • Then he turns his mind to wondering why Clara doesn't want him to tell his family about her, and whether that means she isn't sure if she wants to marry him.
  • He feels sleepy and begins to think erotic thoughts, but finds it interesting that he can say anything in English but can only think dirty words in Igbo.
  • Two of the other passengers begin to sing a song about a man killing his in-law. Obi tries to make sense of the song, since killing an in-law (who is your chi, or your personal god) is one of the worst things you can do.
  • Obi's homecoming in Umuofia is a grand affair, with a "pleasure" car driving him from the village of Onitsha to Umuofia, and musicians waiting to serenade him into the village when he arrives. The whole village descends on Mr. Okonkwo's compound for the celebration.
  • Some of the citizens criticize Isaac Okonkwo, a Christian, for failing to do his cultural duty – that is, take a sacrifice to the chief rainmaker in Umuofia for the return of his so, Obi.
  • Meanwhile, Isaac Okonkwo has an argument with some of the men in the village about rainmaking.
  • One of the old men tells Isaac that because nobody in the village of Umuofia had been killed by lightning, it is proof that the work their forefathers had done to protect the village and its inhabitants from lightning was powerful and effective.
  • Isaac argues that Nwokeke, who survived a lightning strike the year before, should not have been hit by lightning if it was truly working.
  • But the old man tells Isaac that Nwokeke had been hit in another village, so that the lightning must have mistaken him for a citizen of that other village.
  • Throughout his time in England, Obi had been terribly homesick for Umuofia. He's proud of his people as they welcome him home in such splendor and joy.
  • They marvel at how far Obi has traveled – to England and back – and on the water.
  • They suggest that Obi has visited the land of the spirits and they must break a kola nut.
  • Isaac objects, since his is a Christian home; here they do not sacrifice kola nut to idols.
  • Ogbuefi Odogwu says he has a kola nut they can use, and they can break it the Christian way.
  • Isaac brings three kola nuts, claiming he didn't wish to refuse them a kola nut, he just didn't want to see it offered to idols.
  • Odogwu adds his kola nut to Isaac's. He blesses it in the name of Jesus Christ, and Isaac teases him that he should become a Christian. Odogwu says he will, if he is made pastor.
  • The men discuss the educated Africans who return from England with a white wife; they are glad Obi didn't do that, since it divides and separates families.
  • Obi is proud when they congratulate him for maintaining his cultural heritage, and his pride of being black and remaining black.
  • Odogwu claims that Obi, the grandson of Ogbuefi Okonkwo (the tragic hero of Things Fall Apart) is Ogbuefi Okonkwo returned in the flesh.
  • Isaac doesn't appreciate this comment and claims dead men don't return.
  • But Odogwu has already made up his mind. He goes on to say that greatness is no longer in the things they treasured in the past, like titles or having many wives and children. These days, he says, greatness is found in the white man's culture. And most importantly, he says, greatness is not something you choose – it chooses you.

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