No Longer At Ease
by Chinua Achebe
No Longer At Ease Identity Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
She [Hannah] was a very devout woman, but Obi used to wonder whether, left to herself, she would not have preferred telling her children the folk stories that her mother had told her. In fact, she used to tell her eldest daughters stories. But that was before Obi was born. She stopped because her husband forbade her to do so.
"We are not heathens," he had said. "Stores like that are not for the people of the Church."
And Hannah had stopped telling her children folk stories. She was loyal to her husband and to her new faith. Her mother had joined the Church with her children after her husband's death. Hannah had already grown up when they ceased to be "people of nothing" and joined the "people of the Church." Such was the confidence of the early Christians that they called the others "the people of nothing" or sometimes, when they felt more charitable, "the people of the world."
Isaac Okonkwo was not merely a Christian; he was a catechist. In their first years of married life he made Hannah see the grave responsibility she carried as a catechist's wife. (6.21-24)
Isaac and Hannah Okonkwo are part of the first generation of Africans to assume a new identity: they embrace Christianity as their religion and forsaking their cultural customs and beliefs. For Isaac, Christianity it is not just a word, but is an entire lifestyle. For Hannah, it is part of her identity as Isaac's wife. Check out Isaac's "Character Analysis" to get a better sense of his relationship to Christianity.
"I can't marry you," she said suddenly…
"I don't understand you, Clara." And he really didn't. Was this woman's game to bind him more firmly? But Clara was not like that; she had no coyness in her….
"Why can't you marry me?" He succeeded in sounding unruffled. For answer she threw herself at him and began to weep violently on his shoulder.
"What the matter, Clara? Tell me." He was no longer unruffled. There was a hint of tears in his voice.
"I am an osu," she wept. Silence. She stopped weeping and quietly disengaged herself form him. Still he said nothing.
"So you see we cannot get married," she said, quite firmly, almost gaily—a terrible kind of gaiety. Only the tears showed she had wept.
"Nonsense!" said Obi. He shouted it almost, as if by shouting it now he could wipe away those seconds of silence, when everything had seemed to stop, waiting in vain for him to speak. (7.58-64)
In the first of many scenes where Clara tells Obi she cannot marry him, she admits her identity as part of a forbidden caste. And though Obi is quick to say that it doesn't matter, the few seconds of silence indicate that it really does matter. If he marries Clara, his own identity will forever be linked to that of an untouchable class.
"I was thinking how such a good and beautiful girl could remain unmarried until now." (7.66)
When Joseph hears that Clara is an osu, his response is similar to that of women who wonder what's wrong with an incredible guy they meet. They wonder why he wasn't snatched up before, but soon discover that he's married.