Study Guide

No Longer At Ease Chapter 2

By Chinua Achebe

Chapter 2

  • This chapter skips around in the past, but effectively takes us through the four years Obi Okonkwo spent in England.
  • During that time, Obi finally learned what Nigeria meant to him – it is home.
  • But when he returned, it wasn't to the Nigeria he had remembered or imagined during his exile.
  • Before he left for England, he had spent a few days with his friend Joseph in Lagos.
  • It was his first trip to Lagos and his impression of the city had been formed by soldiers who had visited his village when he was young and told tales about electricity and the omnipotence of the white man, who could do everything except create human beings.
  • Joseph told Obi all about film and dancing and politics. Most important, he told Obi all about women – and how loose they were in Lagos. On an outing with Joseph, he sees a heavily made-up woman on a Lagos street. He doesn't like the way she looks.
  • When Obi returns several years later, he finds himself waiting for his girlfriend Clara in one of poorer neighborhoods in Lagos. He notices the same vibrant life juxtaposed to the dirty smells of the city and he realizes, "This is the real Lagos."
  • Obi recalls a poem he'd written during his time in England, a nostalgic poem about the beauty of Nigeria and the laziness of rural life – and he realizes with disgust that his poem bears little resemblance to the dirty street scene confronting him now.
  • As he drives away, Obi almost hits a man on a bike who is carrying a bag that proclaims his career of choice: FUTURE MINISTER.
  • As they drive away to the sterile, formerly white neighborhood where Obi lives, Obi and Clara fight because Clara wanted to go to the movies and Obi didn't want to go.
  • We see their problematic relationship in the way they negotiate what they want: Clara refuses to directly ask for what she wants. Obi says no but after Clara sulks, he pretends to surrender, to do what she wants, knowing she won't make him do it.
  • We get the sense that their relationship seems based on doing things they don't want to do. Clara listens to the poems he reads, spends time with his friends when she doesn't want to.
  • For example, she suffers through a lunch with Obi's friend Christopher, who talks politics with Obi.
  • Obi argues that corruption in Nigeria's political scene is a result of experienced but uneducated men taking the top posts. They worked their way to the top through bribery. He thinks a university educated man with even just a little bit of experience is better suited to fill those posts and less corruptible. Because education allows them to go to the top more quickly, they don't need to bribe their way.
  • As they talk, Clara calls Zacchaeus, Obi's cook, and requests more soup. Zacchaeus obeys but resents it.