examine conflicts between tradition and modernity, with an eye toward dialogue and understanding on both sides
Dead Men’s Path”, a short story, highlights the conflicts between traditional Nigerian culture and beliefs and the modern, westernised ideology, wrought by European colonialism.
Michael (“Mike”) Obi is the protagonist of the story, and his name, representing an equal blend of European and African origins, is the first thing that appears in the story. If the story contains no stated moral, the biblical warning that “Pride goeth before a fall” is implicit throughout, especially in the visions of the future possessed by Michael Obi and his wife Nancy. Michael represents, in small scale, the excesses of governmental bureaucracy; his stated agenda is to inflict his “modern methods” on his colleagues and neighbors with little attention to the cultural realities of the community around him. His high-handedness turns on itself in the story’s conclusion, and he is amply paid back in his own arrogant coin. Achebe’s use of detail, the barbed wire that blocks the path and the comments of the Supervisor (who is, ironically, white) that Michael has precipitated a “tribal-war situation” may be Achebe’s sly way of telling us that the conflict between established tribal customs and “modern methods,” so trivial here, may in fact lie behind the devastating civil wars and tribal genocide that have plagued Africa since the end of the colonial period.
Achebe's biography can help explain some of the cultural and historical conflicts he may be addressing through the story. On a...