No Longer At Ease
How we cite our quotes:
Obi did not sleep for a long time after he had lain down. He thought about his responsibilities. It was clear that his parents could no longer stand on their own….
"I must give them a monthly allowance from my salary." How much? Could he afford ten pounds? If only he did not have to pay back twenty pounds a month to the Umuofia Progressive Union. Then there was John's school fees.
"We'll manage somehow," he said aloud to himself. "One cannot have it both ways. There are many young man in this country today who would sacrifice themselves to get the opportunity I have had." (6. 37-39)
Obi feels his duty as a son deeply. Although it will come at a significant cost, he does what he can to help his parents financially. Before he even begins to pay back his college scholarship to the Umuofia Progressive Union, he resents that he is indebted to this organization.
"What is a pioneer? Someone who shows the way. That is what I am doing. Anyway it is too late to change now."
"It is not," said Joseph. "What is an engagement ring? Our fathers did not marry with rings. It is not too late to change. Remember you are the one and only Umuofia son to be educated overseas. We do not want to be like the unfortunate child who grows his first tooth and grows a decayed one. What sort of encouragement will your action give to the poor men and women who collected the money?"
Obi was getting a little angry. "It was only a loan, remember. I shall pay it all back to the last anini." (7.105-107)
Joseph reminds Obi that his duty, as the first college-educated son of Umuofia, is to show the way and break the path for others. That means being a pioneer, but it does not mean flaunting customs and breaking the taboos of their people. Instead, he should be a model of respectability.
"Let joking pass," said the old man who had earlier on greeted Umuofia in a warlike salute. "Joshua is now without a job. We have given him ten pounds. But ten pounds does not talk. If you stand a hundred pounds here where I stand now, it will not talk. That is why we say that he who has people is richer than he who has money. Everyone of us here should look out for openings in his department and put in a word for Joshua. This was greeted with approval.
"Thanks to the Man Above," he continued, "we now have one of our sons in the senior service. We are not going to ask him to bring his salary to share among us. It is in little things like this that he can help us. It is our fault if we do not approach him…."
"Your words are very good," said the President. "We have the same thought in our minds. But we must give the young man time to look round first and know what is what."
The meeting supported the President by their murmurs. "Give the young man time." "Let him settle down." Obi felt very uneasy. But he knew they meant well. Perhaps it would not be too difficult to manage them. (8.24-27)
As Obi sits in the Umuofia Progressive Union and hears the men talk about what they expect their "son" in the senior service to do for them. Obi realizes that his duties to his fellow kin will interfere with his principles not to take bribes or be corrupt.