No Longer At Ease
by Chinua Achebe
No Longer At Ease Society and Class Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
"As a man comes into this world," he [Ogbuefi Odogwu] often said, "so will he go out of it. When a titled man dies, his anklets of title are cut so that he will return as he came. The Christians are right when they say that as it was in the beginning it will be in the end." 5.89
Though hierarchical structures may be part of Igbo (and colonial society), there are no distinctions made among individuals when death comes calling.
"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. (7.62-64)
Obi has fallen in love with a woman who can never be part of his social class – she belongs to the lowest possible class, an untouchable caste. And though he denies that it bothers him, a moment of silence betrays uncertainty on his part.
Obi felt very sorry for her [Elsie Mark]. She was obviously an intelligent girl who had set her mind, like so many other young Nigerians, on university education. And who could blame them? Certainly not Obi. It was rather sheer hypocrisy to ask if a scholarship was as important as all that or if a university education was worth it. Every Nigerian knew the answer. It was yes.
A university degree was the philosopher's stone. It transmuted a third-class clerk on one hundred and fifty a year into a senior civil servant on five hundred and seventy, with car and luxuriously furnished quarters at nominal rent. And the disparity in salary and amenities did not tell even half the story. To occupy a "European post" was second only to actually being a European. (9.72-73.)
Education is the key to belonging to the new social class. To be considered a European would be enormously attractive. For sixty plus years, Europeans had controlled business, politics, education, and religion in Nigeria; their status was built at the expense of the Igbo people.