Study Guide

No Longer At Ease Chapter 7

By Chinua Achebe

Chapter 7

  • Obi's first day at work reminded him of his first day of school.
  • On that particular day many years ago, the Inspector of Schools, Mr. Jones, arrived unannounced. Mr. Jones wasn't pleased with something the headmaster, Simeon Nduka, had done and yelled at him. But when he tried to slap Nduka, who had been an excellent wrestler as a young man, he quickly ended up on his back.
  • Mr. Green, Obi's boss, greeted him by saying that he'd be okay in his job if he wasn't too lazy and if he used his brain. Then he chastised the Administrative Assistant, Mr. Omo, for not doing something. Mr. Omo turned around and chewed out a junior assistant.
  • Obi was shadowing Mr. Omo that day and he decided he didn't like Mr. Green and that Mr. Omo was one of the "old" kind of Africans he had been criticizing, incompetent and prone to corruption.
  • Mr. Green called for Obi at that moment and asked Obi if he had received a formal offer. When Obi says no, Mr. Green tells him that he is supposed to use the word sir when talking to superiors. Then he hangs up the phone.
  • Obi buys a nice car – a Morris Oxford – a week later when he learns that he has enough credit to buy a car as a civil servant. And he gets sixty pounds to buy new clothes. So he takes Clara out in style for drinks at the Hon. Sam Okoli's house.
  • Obi liked the Hon. Sam Okoli, who wasn't trying to seduce Clara away from him.
  • As they have drinks, Okoli shows Obi his new recording machine and shows how he can use it to record their entire conversation.
  • Into the recorder, Okoli makes a comment about how the white man doesn't belong in Nigeria. He adds that he had a Nigerian assistant who was not smart, but now he has an assistant who is a white man and says "sir" when he talks to Okoli. "Our people have a long way to go," Okoli concludes.
  • On the way home, Clara is clearly upset about something and Obi works hard to get her to confide in him.
  • In the past, when Obi told a girl he loved her, half of him was whispering that he was being silly. But with Clara, he really loved her, with his whole being.
  • Clara tells him that he can't marry him. And then, sobbing, she finally admits why: she is an osu.
  • Obi tells her not to be ridiculous.
  • Joseph wakes up when Obi gets home and Obi tells him that Clara is an osu.
  • Joseph tells him not to worry, that he found out in time, before he actually married her.
  • But Obi insists that he's going to marry Clara after all.
  • Joseph is shocked and says Obi must not know what an osu is but Obi stubbornly insists that he knows "more" about osus than Joseph himself. Joseph gives up and goes to bed.
  • Obi thinks to himself that it is about time that the concept of osu is abolished in the modern Nigeria. (An osu is a person that has been dedicated to serving a god; that person's descendents are part of a "forbidden caste" and can't marry non-osu)
  • The next day, Obi takes Clara to Kingsway to buy an engagement ring and, at Clara's prompting, a Bible to go with the ring.
  • At home, Joseph asks how Clara was, and Obi tells him how he and Clara tried to have a private conversation in the car.
  • They parked it and sent the driver away. But they were alone for only a few minutes when a policeman arrived and assumed that Clara was a prostitute and they were in the car for a good time. Then Obi tells Joseph that he and Clare are now engaged.
  • Joseph tells him to think more carefully about this. Obi's decision concerns not just himself but all his descendents and, in fact, his entire family. His decision to marry an osu will make his family outcasts as well. Perhaps in the future, marriages of these kinds will be possible but for now, they clearly are not.
  • But Obi says that he is just being a pioneer.
  • Joseph says that his decision will also anger and shame the men and women who gave money so that Obi could be educated in England.
  • Obi knows that his family will oppose his marriage to an osu. He thinks his only hope is if he convinces his mother that it's a good idea.