Study Guide

No Longer At Ease Chapter 1

By Chinua Achebe

Chapter 1

  • Mr. Obi Okonkwo enters the courtroom for his trial.
  • One of his lawyers is late – his car broke down on the way – and gets a reprimand from the judge.
  • The courtroom is full of idle spectators, all anxious to hear the verdict.
  • Obi himself is indifferent, until the moment when the judge asks how such a promising young man could have done what Obi did.
  • Obi feels the sting of tears in his eyes. He had prepared for this moment, and planned to avoid crying, but now he is unable to help himself.
  • We then leave the courtroom and jump to the club bar. Mr. Green, Obi's boss, has a drink at the club bar after playing tennis. He strikes up a conversation with a British Council man.
  • The British Council man says he doesn't understand why Obi "did it."
  • But Mr. Green knows why: he claims that Africans are thoroughly corrupt. All the education in the world, he says, doesn't change that fact.
  • In Lagos, the Umuofia Progressive Union holds an emergency meeting. Umuofia is Obi Okonkwo's hometown and the Union is meeting to discuss Obi's case again.
  • They quibble over the facts of the case again: they gave him 800 pounds to study in England but he ruins himself over a girl. Should they continue to support him, since he is a brother, or should they let the case go?
  • What they don't understand, most of all, is how he could get caught.
  • Most people don't accept bribes themselves. They go through other people, so that it can never be traced to them.
  • Everyone now wonders how Obi could have acted so foolishly? What good was that college education if he does things like this?
  • Ultimately they decide that it is not their desire to wish harm on others, but if a man wishes harm on them, then they don't mind if he is ruined.
  • The implication is clear: Obi is such a man.
  • We then go back to the time when the Obi's village decided to send him get an education.
  • After the village of Umuofia had scraped together the money to send one of their citizens to get a college education in England, Obi had been the village's first choice. His grades were the highest in his province.
  • When Obi went to England, everybody in Umuofia got excited.
  • The priest at the Anglican Church quoted a Bible verse about Jesus to show that this was the fulfillment of prophecy – that somehow Obi would help his people.
  • Obi's father, Isaac, threw a huge feast.
  • The pastor told Obi that in the past, the village would have required him to be a fighter, a man of military prowess, to protect the village. Instead, the pastor went on, Obi would help his village by bringing knowledge back to them.
  • The women, led by Mary, sang hymns, said goodbye to Obi, and sent him on his way – having sacrificed a great deal to pay for his education.