No Longer At Ease
How we cite our quotes:
And if one thought objectively of the matter…could one blame those poor men for being critical of a senior service man who appeared reluctant to pay twenty pounds a month? They had taxed themselves mercilessly to raise eighth hundred pounds to send him to England. Some of them earned no more than five pounds a month. He earned nearly fifty. They had wives and school going children; he had none. After paying the twenty pounds he would have thirty left. And very soon he would have an increment which alone was as big as some people's salary.
Obi admitted that his people had a sizable point. What they did not know was that, having labored in sweat and tears to enroll their kinsman among the shining elite, they had to keep him there. Having made him a member of an exclusive club whose members greet one another with "how's the car behaving?" did they expect him to turn round and answer: "I'm sorry, but my car is off the road. You see I couldn't pay my insurance premium"? That would be letting the side down in a way that was quite unthinkable. (10.16-17)
As the first member of his village to achieve status and money through a position in the senior service, Obi is on his own when it comes to dealing with the multitude of financial problems that come his way. His obligations to his family and the Progressive Union make it increasingly difficult for him to maintain his status. Furthermore, nobody in the Union can understand or see his point because nobody has ever been there before.
"Why didn't you tell me?" she asked when he had told her about the overdraft.
"Well, there was no need. I'll pay it easily in five monthly installments."
"That's not the point. You don't think I should be told when you're in difficulty."
"I wasn't in difficulty. I wouldn't have mentioned it if you hadn't pressed me." (10.39-42)
Obi is so used to dealing with his problems alone, that he doesn't even understand why Clara might be hurt that he hasn't confided in her.
"We are Christians," he [Isaac] said. "But that is no reason to marry an osu."
"The Bible says that in Christ there are no bond or free."
"My son," said Okonkwo, "I understand what you say. But this thing is deeper than you think."
"Osu is like leprosy in the minds of our people. I beg of you, my son, not to bring the mark of shame and of leprosy into your family. If you do, your children and your children's children unto the third and fourth generations will curse your memory. It is not for myself I speak; my days are few. You will bring sorrow on your head and on the heads of your children. Who will marry your daughters? Whose daughters will your sons marry? Think of that, my son. We are Christians, but we cannot marry our own daughters." (14. 33-35, 38)
If Obi marries Clara, his family will be alone in the world, isolated from the larger society. His children will not be able to marry. Though he can try to break the rules of society, society is less flexible than he thinks. And he cares more about his family's situation than he originally admits.