Study Guide

No Longer At Ease Chapter 12

By Chinua Achebe

Chapter 12

  • Obi's father sends a letter to ask Obi to come home for a visit, not only to visit his mother, who is ill in the hospital, but also to discuss an urgent matter.
  • Obi realizes that means they have finally heard about Clara, and know she is an osu.
  • At work, Obi is distracted by the letter, no matter how hard he tries to forget it. He starts to call Clara, then hangs up and watches as Mr. Green dictates a letter to Marie.
  • Then Mr. Green turns to Obi and tells him that he doesn't understand the "so-called educated Nigerian," who has unrealistic expectations that his government job should give him great luxury, not only for himself, but also for his girlfriend.
  • What is this education for? So that the educated can become even greedier?
  • Obi calls Christopher and they go to play tennis with two teachers, Nora and Pat, at a local convent. Two weeks earlier, they had gone out with the girls, dancing and kissing. (Note: Obi loves Clara but it doesn't stop him from making out with a white girl.) This had been followed by a couple of tennis dates.
  • But today, when they arrive at the convent, they are greeted by a grim-faced Mother. They go upstairs where the girls are having tea, but it is awkward. They have tea together but the girls ignore Christopher and Obi's tennis rackets. Finally, they admit that they can't go out with them; the Mother had chided them about hanging out with African men. It was better if they didn't come again.
  • On the way home, they stop to see Christopher's other girlfriend Florence, who is about to leave for England to study nursing. But she is gone, so they try Bisi. She is also out.
  • Christopher wonders whether he should try to convince Florence not to go to England, but Obi advised him against it because Florence might resent it someday.
  • Obi tells Christopher about Elsie Mark, who offered to have sex with him if he could get her an interview with the Board for a scholarship to England. She got the scholarship, even though Obi didn't sleep with her.
  • Christopher tells Obi that he's dense, insisting that sex isn't bribery.
  • Obi says it's wrong to take advantage of a girl who just wants an education.
  • But Christopher replies that Obi is being na├»ve; a girl who offers to have sex with somebody so she can continue her education is not an innocent little schoolgirl.
  • Obi says that even though she probably slept with the other board members, she'll always remember that there was at least one man who had principles.
  • No, Christopher says, she probably thought Obi was impotent.
  • Then he defines bribery as "improper influence" and says that if you slept with the girl who is already getting to appear before the Board, there's no influence at all.
  • Likewise, Christopher continues, if you accept money from somebody who already is getting the job, that's not bribery either, since the person is already getting the job.
  • His final argument is that if you accept money, you make a man poorer; but sleeping with a girl doesn't take anything away from her, so what's the harm?
  • They argue for a long time, but as soon as the argument is over, Obi can't help but think about his father and the letter.