In the short story “Dead Men’s Path” by Chinua Achebe, the theme is focused on the conflict between religious tradition and the progress of new beliefs. In many cultures, when changes to tradition occur, normally, the core of the tradition would remain, and it would be accompanied by a new idea. Whereas, in “Dead Men’s Path”, Michael Obi, the headmaster of a school, has different religious opinions than the villagers he’s surrounded by. Therefore, would like the progression of his school to be represented by these new beliefs that inspire him. The characteristics of Michael Obi and the priest, the path, and the flowers and barbwire are all representations of the conflict in this short story.
The characterizations of Michael Obi and the priest are used to portray the conflict. Michael is well educated, progressive and modern oriented. But, most of all, he believes that moving forward with new beliefs is better than living in tradition, and this is represented when Michael states, “ The whole purpose of our school, is to eradicate just such beliefs as that” (Achebe 270). While Michael is talking to the priest, he’s trying to convey that living in the past is undesired by him, and should be by all villagers, therefore, the path passing through the school, should be reconstructed around the yard. This could result in a more modern lifestyle for the village. Michael doesn’t like living within tradition. Michael’s way of thinking is conflicted when he’s speaking with the priest. The priest is traditional and open-minded. Although he doesn’t see eye to eye with the headmaster, he’s a receptive person. The priest said, “Let the hawk perch and let the eagle perch”(Achebe 270) to Michael; meaning, let one believe in what they want to believe in, even if you do not agree. The priest is telling Michael they’ll have nothing to dispute over if the path gets re-opened. He explains, “we follow the practices of our fathers” (270), so, for that reason, they live within the...
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