Study Guide

No Longer At Ease Chapter 18

By Chinua Achebe

Chapter 18

  • Clara is in the hospital for five weeks. She is given 70 days' leave so she leaves Lagos.
  • Christopher advises Obi to wait before trying to see her; if Obi gives Clara time she will come back to him.
  • Obi had planned to pay back the fifty pounds he owed her, but then he received his income tax bill. 32 pounds. Marie advises him to pay monthly installments.
  • Then Hannah Okonkwo dies. He sends as much money as he can, but the people of Umuofia say she should have had a better funeral, given that her son has a European post. It was shameful, one attendee told the Umuofia Progressive Union. It was clear Obi spent all his time and money on fast living.
  • Then they discuss how he never comes to the Union meetings anymore, that he seems to have abandoned his family and kinsmen (i.e., his friends and fellow citizens from Umuofia.) They discuss how the apple seems not to have fallen far from the tree: Isaac Okonkwo did the same thing, abandoning his own father for Christianity.
  • Obi is stricken with grief at the news of his mother's death. Mr. Green gives him a week's leave, but Obi only takes two days. He doesn't even go to Umuofia, knowing she would already have been buried by the time he arrives.
  • But at home, when he is alone, he cries and cries. Then he sleeps without waking, something he could not remember happening to him for many years.
  • He wakes up and feels shame and guilt again. He thinks about how alone his father will be without his mother.
  • As he begins his daily ablutions, he accidentally brushes his teeth with shaving cream.
  • Joseph arrives in a taxi. He brings a dozen bottles of beer.
  • Obi is wondering why, but soon Umuofia's expatriates appear to bring their greetings to Obi and show honor to his mother. Over 25 men come to be with Obi.
  • They use the beer to entertain. Joseph says Obi should use eight bottles today, and save the rest for those who will come tomorrow.
  • The mourners gossip and talk, and in silence, everybody hears one of the mourners, Nathaniel, telling a story about Tortoise who told his people not to send for him unless there was something new that happened. When his mother died, the people wondered how they could get him to return for her funeral, so they told him that his father's palm tree had miraculously sprouted fruit form the end of its leaf. He went home to see it and ended up attending his mother's funeral.
  • Everybody, including Obi, hears the tale. They are silent, and embarrassed.
  • Obi sleeps that night and feels guilty again in the morning when he wakes up. But the ache he feels is beginning to leave. In fact, he feels calm. Peace even.
  • He eats a lot, and remembers how King David in the Bible refused to eat when his son was sick but as soon as he heard his son was dead, he got up and ate. He also must have felt peaceful in the wake of grief.