Dead Man's Path - Chinua Achebe

school_in_africa.jpgChinua Achebe was born in Ogidi, Nigeria, the son of a teacher in a missionary school. A Nigerian novelist and poet, whose works explore the impact of European culture on African society. Achebe's unsentimental, often ironic books vividly convey the traditions and speech of the Ibo people. Born in Ogidi, Nigeria, Achebe was educated at the University College of Ibadan (now the University of Ibadan).

He subsequently taught at various universities in Nigeria and the United States. Achebe wrote his first novel, Things Fall Apart (1958), partly in response to what he saw as inaccurate characterizations of Africa and Africans by British authors. The book describes the effects on Ibo society of the arrival of European colonizers and missionaries in the late 1800s.

Things we will be practicing as we look at this piece are...

Analyzing an Author's Argument and Analyzing a Character's Development







Analyzing a Character's Development

As we look at the character of Michael Obi, we see him developed throughout the story as we learn more about his character. We want to look at what he thinks, does, feels, what affects him, and how he affects people and his environment. Then breaking the story in beginning middle and end parts, we can trace what we see changing or developing in his character in these areas. Here are some of the observations we made about what we saw of Michael Obi's character.

Part 1: Michael Obi in the beginning is a man accomplished beyond his years. He has an air of authority and attractiveness about him. He is British educated and values the modern colonial establishment and its progressive attitude. He sees himself on the side of this establishment and has been rewarded by the establishment for his accomplishment and skill. He seems like a person who takes pride in his ability, is enthusiastic, and is excited about the "modern" ways of the colonial culture.

Part 2: As he moves into the school, he is industrious and he accomplishes what he sets out to do. He is a strong leader and casts a vision for the teachers in the school. He discovers that a flower bed that he has planted is in the way of a pathway for the local villagers ancestors to pass through. Michael Obi is unwilling to bend to the villagers request to use this path, and erects a barrier, showing that he is rigid and uncompromising in his valuing of the modernization of the school. This shows Michael Obi as proud, but he is also motivated by fear of the Education Officer's visit and a fear of the primitive ways of the local tribal Nigerians.

Part 3: The local villagers destroy his school in propitiation for what they see as a slight to their ancestors. At this point the white supervisor visits and writes a scalding report of Obi, and his over zealousness. Although we do not see Obi's response to this we can infer what his response to this would be and how his character changes in understanding, feeling, and thought from the beginning of the story.

In this way, we can trace the arc of Obi's character as he moves through the story.


Analyzing an Author's Argument

So what is Achebe's point with this story? To help understand this I would posit the question - Why is Michael Obi destroyed?

Why is Michael Obi destroyed at the end of this story?