Arrow of God - Paper

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Afrika Focus, Vol. 5, Nr. 3-4, 1989, pp. 153-165

Owen G. MORDAUNT English Department University of Nebraska at Omaha Omaga, Nebraska 68182-0175 USA

SUMMARY Mordaunt describes how the Nigerian author Chinua Achebe deals with the problem ofpersonal conflict in his novel "Arrow of God". The main character in this novel is Ezeulu, who is chiefpriest of the god Ulu, of the village of Umuaro. Ezeulu comes into conflict with himself in a quest to hold on to power despite his high age and the break-through of the British colonial administrators. Ezeulu wants to control both his people and the British administrators. Ezeulu believes the clan will silently follow him and the British will respect him. Hereto he sends his son to the white man's missionary school where the boy adopts the new religion and sacrileges his own. Ezeulu will not punish him despite the wishes of the clan. Achebe's novel shows that men cannot fight societies' will and that the latter can bring a man to insanity.

KEYWORDS: English literature, Literature, Nigeria, Psychology.

As a foremost African novelist, Achebe has been of interest to several African literary critics, thus the plethora of works of criticism on his four novels, Things Fall Apart. Arrow of God. No longer at Ease, and A Man of the People. Among the best known critics are Obiechina, Bemth Lindfors, Abiola Irele, David Carrol, David Cook, G.D. Killam, G-C. M. Mutiso, Peter Nazareth, 153

Emmanuel Ngara, Benedict Chiaka Njoku, Eustace Palmer, and Shatto Gakwandi. Critics have looked at setting, style, conflict and characterization in terms of cultural, political and religious considerations. The internal conflict of central characters, one of Achebe's achievements, lies in his skill at the externalizing the conflict of his characters. To measure the quality of Achebe's accomplishments, I will examine his second novel Arrow of God in some detail with reference to the central character. Arrow of God is not so much concerned with the society as with Ezeulu himself. He is established in a closely-knit society, and it is in his relationship with this community and also with other elements or factors in this setting that we are able to comprehend the problem that he is faced with. Ezeulu and his culture are one. There exists a genuine struggle between Ezeulu and his rivals in his own tribe, the British administrators and Christian missionaries. But the struggle does not get down to the root of the matter: Arrow of God is not so much concerned with inter-tribal conflict, but with the chief priest of Ulu who is in conflict with himself. Whatever external forces are brought to bear upon his life are there only as objectifications of what actually goes on inside him. The story is set in an Igbo village in Nigeria during a time when colonial influence-British colonial rule and the inroads of missionary activity- is beginning to be felt. This is the milieu in which we find the main character, Ezeulu, the chief priest of Ulu, the most powerful god of his Umuaro people, and, therefore, he is designated a special status in the society. He is part and parcel of this society, and it is difficult to study him apart from it. With such a rich and complex story, it is easy for the non-African reader to get lost in the forest of cultural verbiage and miss the focus of the story, thus interpreting it as a story whose main focus is village life as sugessted by the Times Literary Supplement (26). True, there does seem to be a preponderance of village life, but this is the setting in which the central figure expresses his character, it is in this role, that of interpreting to Umuaro the will of the god and performing the two most significant rituals in the life of the people-the festivals of the Pumpkin Leaves and the New Yam. Ezeulu, the intermediary, is half black and half white, thus bridging the spirit and the human world (151). The novel opens...
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