Study Guide

No Longer At Ease Chapter 14

By Chinua Achebe

Chapter 14

  • During evening prayers, Isaac prays against the devil and his works. Obi is pretty sure Clara is included in that.
  • After prayers, Obi sits down with his father for a serious talk.
  • Obi soon realizes that his father's strategy had included giving in to the girls singing heathen songs the night before, so that Obi's guard was down.
  • Obi can see that his father is getting old when his hands shake as he pours the kerosene in the lantern. But it is also clear that his father still sees Obi as a child and that Obi still sees himself as a child: Obi doesn't offer to do it for him, knowing his father would never let children pour kerosene into a lamp.
  • His father asks how their fellow villagers in Lagos are doing, and Obi admits that he hasn't seen them in a while, despite the regular Union meetings.
  • His father chides him lightly, indicating that it is important to be with one's brothers when away from home.
  • Then Isaac asks about Obi's girl.
  • Obi says that he has no money but he wants to go meet her people and start negotiations for marriage.
  • Then Isaac asks if they know where this girl comes from and Obi says yes, she is the daughter of Okeke from Mbaino.
  • Isaac says it is surely not the retired teacher and Obi confirms that it is, indeed.
  • Isaac laughs. He says a lot in that laugh – it is the kind of laugh that an ancestral spirit might laugh when talking with a lowly human who needs to be put in his place. Then Isaac tells Obi that he can't marry Clara because she is osu.
  • Obi says he didn't think that mattered, since the Okonkwos are Christians.
  • They argue.
  • Isaac says they cannot go against this tradition, and Obi uses all the biblical arguments against isolating members of society. Obi argues that Christ had abolished these sorts of social and class distinctions, and that this kind of discrimination belongs to the old ways and the old religion.
  • But Isaac will have none of it.
  • He responds by saying that even great men in the Bible could be lepers. Osus are lepers in Igbo society. If Obi marries this girl, he will bring the shame of leprosy, not only into his own house, but also to his children and his grandchildren.
  • Obi argues that this will change in time.
  • Obi doesn't sleep that night, playing the argument over in his head. He knows he hasn't won –but he knows his father hasn't won either.
  • And he's happy, not because of the argument but because he feels like he had a real conversation with his father for the first time in his 26 years.
  • In the morning, he talks with his mother Hannah.
  • Hannah tells him she had a dream one night. In the dream, she is sleeping in bed and wakes up to realize that termites had eaten the bed up from under her. She wondered what the dream meant. That same day, they received a letter from Joseph, telling them that Obi was going to marry an osu.
  • At that moment, she knew what the dream meant. Then she tells Obi that if he is going to marry Clara, to wait until she is dead. If he does not wait, she will kill herself.
  • Obi stays in his room that day. He does not even see the visitors who come to bring him wishes and greetings; they go away, offended.
  • He does not go to evening prayers.
  • His father comes in. Obi is lying on the bed and he waits to hear Isaac speak. He realizes that he wants another fight with his father, so he can beat him.
  • But Obi also realizes that he has nothing real or good or honest to use as weapons to challenge his parents in this matter.
  • Isaac is silent, so Obi finally tells him that he is returning to Lagos in two days.
  • Isaac tells him that he was just a kid when he left his father's house to become a Christian. His father put a curse on him. He says that is a terrible thing to do to a child. Then his father killed himself and Isaac refused to go to the funeral. He says he gave up everything to become a Christian, so he knows more about Christianity than Obi can ever understand.
  • Obi thinks about his grandfather and reflects on a particular story.
  • His grandfather had killed Ikemefuna, a boy that had been given in exchange for the life of a woman who had been murdered. His grandfather had raised Ikemefuna as a son for some years before he killed him. Everybody knew it was a terrible thing to do, to kill a boy who called you father.