No Longer At Ease
How we cite our quotes:
Everybody was properly dressed in aghada or European suit except the guest of honor, who appeared in his shirtsleeves because of the heat. That was Obi's mistake Number One. Everybody expected a young man from England to be impressively turned out. (4.11)
It is Obi's duty, as the educated son of Umuofia, to appear decently clothed and to fulfill his social and financial obligations to the Umuofia Progressive Union. This is especially true of his reception, which included members of the press.
"Our people have a saying 'Ours is ours, but mine is mine.' Every village struggles at this momentous epoch in our political evolution to possess that of which it can say: 'This is mine.' We are happy that today we have such an invaluable possession in the person of our illustrious son and guest of honor."
He traced the history of the Umuofia Scholarship Scheme, which had made it possible for Obi to study overseas, and called it an investment which must yield heavy dividends. He then referred (quite obliquely, of course) to the arrangement whereby the beneficiary from this scheme as expected to repay his debt over four years so that "an endless stream of students will be enabled to drink deep at the Pierian Spring of knowledge." (4.16-17)
Obi's duty goes beyond repaying his scholarship. He also represents the village's investment in the future. His duty is to be an example, to provide the education of other Umuofian young people, to represent the village in government, and to lift the Umuofia out of poverty.
Four years in England had filled Obi with a longing to be back in Umuofia. The feeling was sometimes so strong that he found himself feeling ashamed of studying English for his degree. He spoke Igbo whenever he had the least opportunity of doing so. Nothing gave him greater pleasure than to find another Igbo-speaking student in a London bus. But when he had to speak in English with a Nigerian student from another tribe he lowered his voice. It was humiliating to have to speak to one's countryman in a foreign language, especially in the presence of the proud owners of that language. They would naturally assume that one had no language of one's own. He wished they were here today to see. Let them come to Umuofia now and listen to the talk of men who made a great art of conversation. Let them come and see men and women and children who knew how to live, whose joy of life had not yet been killed by those who claimed to teach other nations how to live. (5.73)
Alone in England, Obi felt the sting of the British assumption that they are superior to the colonized African peoples. He felt bereft of his culture and denied his language, especially when he had to speak the language of the colonizer with other Africans abroad. Now in his hometown, he is proud to realize that Africans have not yet taken on the habit of self-deprecation, a symptom of being colonized.