05 November 2012
Modern Views vs. Tradition
Modern society often teaches “newer is better.” What happened to the value of history and tradition? In Dead Men’s Path, by Chinua Achebe, readers find out what happens when one disregards and disrespects the tradition of another. Achebe uses symbolism, character, and irony to show how important it is to respect others’ beliefs even if one does not understand or agree with them. Achebe uses a few symbols to reveal the fight between modern culture and tradition. The most obvious is the footpath. The priest reveals its history and importance. “…This path was here before you were born and before your father was born. The whole life of this village depends on it. Our dead relatives depart by it and our ancestors visit us by it. But most important, it is the path of children coming in to be born…” (Achebe 176) This path obviously means a lot to the villagers but does not fit into Obi’s vision of “progression”; therefore, he has it blocked with barbed wire. The blockage also symbolizes the Headmaster’s state of mind. Even though he was most likely brought up with similar traditions, he has constructed barriers in his mind that have closed him off to believing in his heritage. Another symbol is Obi, himself, and his wife. They represent the views of modern society: out with the old, in with the new. They show little appreciation for the culture they have the privilege of witnessing. His wife even says, “…everything will be just modern and delightful...” (Achebe 175) The narrator further stresses the importance of respecting tradition through the character Michael Obi. He reveals how Obi condemns the narrow views of the “older” and “less-educated” headmasters. Instead of building a better future with insight from elders and their traditions, he looks down on them and pays their superstitions no mind. Obi even goes so far as to mock the villagers, “…I don’t suppose the...
Cited: Achebe, Chinua. "A Dead Man 's Path." Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. Ed. X. J. Kennedy and Dana Gioia. 9th ed. New York: Longman, 2005. 174-77
_The New King James Bible_. Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1982.
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