Study Guide

No Longer At Ease Chapter 9

By Chinua Achebe

Chapter 9

  • Obi strikes up a friendship with Mr. Green's pretty English secretary, Miss Tomlinson, who is constantly criticizing her boss behind his back.
  • Obi thinks it's possible she's a "plant" intended to get him in trouble but soon he finds himself responding to her overtures of friendship. When he introduces Miss Tomlinson to Clara, Miss Tomlinson is very friendly and talks about nothing but how beautiful Clara is for the rest of the day. Obi decides he likes Miss Tomlinson a lot.
  • A gentleman comes to see Obi. His name is Mr. Mark and he hopes that Obi can put in a good word for his sister, who wants to apply for a scholarship to go study in England. He tries to be discreet in offering Obi a bribe, but Obi – who is still convinced that he can remain uncorrupt and pure – quickly gets rid of him. He pretends he doesn't know what Mr. Mark is talking about and bids him good-day.
  • Obi is excited by how easy it was to say no to a bribe, and how easy it was to get rid of Mr. Mark.
  • This feeling reminds Obi of the first time he had sex; the woman told him she felt "like she had been attacked by a tiger" (9.41).
  • He feels like a tiger now, and reflects about how easy it is to remain pure and aboveboard. But though it is easy, he realizes that there is some temptation, since he finds it harder to live on the 47 pounds leftover after he sends 20 to the Union and another 10 to his parents. In fact, he wonders how he would find money to pay for his brother John's school fees for the upcoming term.
  • Later that day, Obi hears a taxi pull up outside his apartment and wonders who it could be. Not Clara, who is working. Maybe Joseph. Obi had stopped visiting Joseph since the December Union meeting, and Clara didn't want to see Joseph ever again.
  • But it is not Joseph. It is a young pretty girl: Elsie Mark. She apologizes that her brother came to his office.
  • Elsie is here to make sure she is selected to appear before the Board, so that she can have a shot at getting the scholarship. She says that although her grades are good, she knows she will never have a chance of getting it unless she sees all the members at home. She tells Obi that she will do whatever he asks, if he will help her.
  • Obi says he doesn't know what he can do. At that moment, Clara comes rushing in. She sees Elsie, asks how she is doing, then establishes that she is mistress of Obi's heart by asking Obi if he liked the soup she made.
  • Miss Mark says she needs to go.
  • Obi gives her a lift to town. On the way back home, Clara apologizes for arriving and ruining Obi's good time.
  • When Obi explains Mr. Mark's visit, and Miss Mark's visit, Clara says he was too hard on Mr. Mark.
  • Bribing with money, Clara says, is not as bad as bribing with one's body. Yet he treated Mr. Mark badly, and gave Miss Mark a drink and a lift back to town.