No Longer At Ease
How we cite our quotes:
In recent weeks the [Umuofia Progressive] Union had met several times over Obi Okonkwo's case. At the first meeting, a handful of people had expressed the view that there was no reason why the Union should worry itself over the troubles of a prodigal son who had shown great disrespect to it only a little while ago…
This view, although accepted as largely true, was not taken very seriously. For, as the President pointed out, a kinsman in trouble had to be saved, not blamed; anger against a brother was felt in the flesh, not in the bone. And so the Union decided to pay for the services of a lawyer from their funds. (1.29; 31)
Despite the bad blood between Obi Okonkwo and his union of fellow expatriates from Umuofia, the men support him because he is family. These Africans, who are less educated than Obi, had a stronger sense of ethnic ties than Obi.
"The guests then said their farewells to Obi, many of them repeating all the advice that he had already been given. They shook hands with him and as they did so they pressed their presents into his palm, to buy a pencil with, or an exercise book or a loaf of bread for the journey, a shilling there and a penny there—substantial presents in a village where money was so rare, where men and women toiled from year to year to wrest a meager living from an unwilling and exhausted soil. (1.51)
The men and women of Umuofia are generous with their gifts when Obi departs for England. Part of the reason for this generosity is that because they are investing in Obi, whom they see as their collective child.
"Yes," said Obi. "Many black men who got the white man's country marry their women."
"You hear?" asked Matthew. "I tell you I have seen it with my own two eyes in Onitsha. The woman even had two children. But what happened in the end? She left those children and went back to her country. That is why I say a black man who marries a white woman wastes his time. Her stay with him is like the stay of the moon in the sky. When the time comes, she will go."
"Very true," said another man who had also traveled. "It is not her going away that matters. It is her turning the man's face away from his kinsmen while she stays."
"I am happy that you returned home safe," said Matthew to Obi.
"He is a son of Iguedo," said old Odogwu. "There are nine villages in Umuofia, but Iguedo is Iguedo. We have our faults, but we are not empty men who become white when they see white, and black when they see black." (5.96-101)
Obi feels the pride of familial connection and kinship, not realizing that his own engagement to Clare will cause the same (or worse) consternation as marrying a white woman.