Study Guide

Arrow of God Chapter 19

By Chinua Achebe

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Chapter 19

  • Amalu died a few months ago. In a time of famine, this is bad because there is nothing for the funeral feast. So Amalu had called his son Aneto and told him to wait until there were yams but not to wait for more than four months.
  • Aneto announced the time of the funeral, but now that there is no New Yam Festival, he doesn't know what to do. He doesn't want to give his father a poor man's burial. But neither does he want to postpone it. He goes to the oracle and asks if he should postpone the funeral. Through the oracle, Amalu says no.
  • Now Aneto doesn't know what to do. He calls his relatives together and they discuss the problem. They blame Ezeulu. Like the rest of Umuaro, they don't realize that Ezeulu's family is also truly suffering.
  • Ezeulu feels lonely and burdened. He had always been used to Umuaro being behind him and now it isn't. He had never known the people to let their support for him die.
  • Because nobody comes to see how much of a burden he carries, they think he's gloating. What he's most worried about is the fact that this isn't a punishment, it's a situation that will remain forever.
  • Akuebue is the only friend Ezeulu has left. He speaks his troubles to Ezeulu today. He says the problem is that when two brothers fight, it is a stranger who benefits.
  • Ezeulu calls Oduche to him when Akuebue leaves. He asks if it's true that the Christians are offering the people a way out of the predicament that Ulu has put them in.
  • Oduche says it's true. Ezeulu asks why he hasn't brought him this news before? Oduche does not answer. Finally, Ezeulu reminds Oduche that he sent him to church to be his eyes and ears. He didn't know that he would send somebody who would betray him.
  • Finally, Ezeulu eats the twelfth yam. The next morning, he sends word to his assistants to announce that the New Yam feast will take place in 28 days. All day, the drums beat for Amalu's funeral.
  • Ezeulu dreams that night – not ordinary dreams, but the kind of dreams that mean something.
  • In the dream, it is morning. He is surprised and slightly annoyed that the mourners are passing behind his compound, creating a new path. He decides to confront them.
  • Ezeulu goes to call his family to join him but discovers that Matefi's hut is empty. Then he sees Ugoye's hut is also empty.
  • In fact, nobody is there. His entire compound is empty. He hears the mourners singing about a python. Then he hears a single voice singing a mournful song about desolation, about changing customs. The singer breaks into laughter and Ezeulu wakes up suddenly, frightened.
  • Ezeulu is glad it's a dream but he is reminded that the voice of the python singing had suddenly sounded like his mother's voice, who had gone crazy. He had spent his childhood fearful of the new moon, when his mother's craziness seized her.
  • Ogbazulobodo, the night spirit, passes at that moment, followed by the next day on its heels. Ezeulu wonders why it hadn't saluted him.
  • He tries to sleep but instead his sleep is interrupted by Amalu's family firing the cannon in his honor. Finally, he gets up and gets the fire in his hut going again.
  • Obika is the best carrier of Ogbazulobodo, the night spirit. So Aneto, Amalu's son, asks him to carry it for them. Obika tries to get out of it, but eventually accepts. To himself, Obika thinks that if he said no, everybody will talk and say it is more evidence that Ezeulu's family is determined to destroy Amalu's proper burial.
  • Okuata chides him when he tells her he's going out. She reminds him that he has a fever.
  • But Obika persists and leaves.
  • Obika chats with others while they wait until the right moment. The ekwe beats the drum and finally beats the second and final warning. With Ozumba's help, Obika dresses in the skirt, then took the iron staff. He accepts the ike-agwu-ani necklace from Ozumba, who chants, "The speed of the deer is seen on the hill." (19.54) Then Obika is Ogbazulobodo and he spins around, putting the staff in the ground and pulling it out. Then he begins to run in the direction of the next day, Nkwo.
  • The story breaks into a monologue, though it's not clear who is speaking. The words are nonsensical.
  • The story returns to the narrative. Obika is blind and only stops when he senses light. The nonsensical monologue returns.
  • Obika begins to feel extremely ill, like he is burning up. He feels split in two – the person who is running and then the sick person.
  • The nonsensical narrative returns.
  • The men are talking, waiting to sing the ayaka chorus when Ogbazulobodo returns. Ogbazulobodo falls to the floor. Ozumba calls Obika's name but Obika doesn't answer. A second time. They pour water on him, but he is still.
  • Ezeulu is in his hut. Morning hasn't yet arrived. He could hear people coming and he prepares himself for an attack.
  • He calls out, "Who is it?"
  • Ozumba tells him it is he. They have come because there is an abomination.
  • Ezeulu stokes the fire and invites them in. That's when he sees Obika's body. He takes his machete and asks who did this. Ozumba tries to explain but Ezeulu falls to the floor, weeping over his son and the abandonment of his god.
  • By the time morning arrives, they have already arranged to announce Obika's death. Ezeulu tries to help the compound prepare for the arrival of people but his family won't let him.
  • Umuaro is shocked by Obika's death. Ezeulu acts as though he has died himself. People expected Ezidemili to be triumphant, but he is not. He does, however, say that this will teach Ezeulu to dare his god another time.
  • But Ezeulu is done. Why had his god treated him like this? What had he done? Hadn't he obeyed Ulu?
  • He cracks up over it and lives his last days as the "demented high priest" (19.86).
  • Winterbottom gets better and marries the doctor. He never hears of Ezeulu again.
  • For Umuaro, the problem is obvious. Ulu had taken sides with them against Ezeulu, his priest. No man ever wins against the entire clan.
  • If true, it was a bad time for Ulu to decide to do that. By destroying Ezeulu, he has destroyed himself. A few days later, the Christian harvest is full of people. Men sent their sons to the church with yams. And after that, all those yams are harvested with the name of the sons.

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