Story opens with Obi being portrayed as a very smart young kid in his village school. He is then chosen by his own people, loaned money and sent abroad to study. His time abroad to a large extent was a failure.

“The impatient idealist says: ‘Give me a place to stand and I shall move the earth.’ But such a place does not exist. We all have to stand on the earth itself and go with her at her pace.” ― Chinua Achebe

Upon return, he still holds a lot of promise and is poised to succeed amongst his people.

With ambivalence towards his traditional culture and customs, he attempts to emulate idealistic European customs to demonstrate he is ‘advanced’.

As a person, Obi was a man of admirable ideals; but when tempted and challenged by his surroundings, his values were broken and he himself got corrupted. He took bribes and followed the norms of the society, which eventually led to his inevitable downfall.

The story overall symbolizes the pressures and difficulties faced by someone who appears to embody an African success story. Yet, the person is inevitably taken down by the adherence to strong cultural norms, the magnetic propensity for corruption, and the strict obligation to support one’s clan, community and people.

As novel begins, we are introduced to a scene in the courtroom where a well trained man, well educated and with a good job face such a fate is being charged and tried by his people.

>> Obi is a very talented, well intentioned and educated graduated returning studies in England. He had gone there through scholarship (loan) money from this village people.

>> Upon return, he had to establish a life for himself and repay that money.

“The impatient idealist says: ‘Give me a place to stand and I shall move the earth.’ But such a place does not exist. We all have to stand on the earth itself and go with her at her pace.” ― Chinua Achebe

>> Obi into the system of his country, and despite his good intentions, circumstances after circumstances started going wrong for him.

>> Holding strong to his ideals, he attempts to defy tradition in order to find his true love. With time, relationship with his fiance crumbles and his financial situation is a complete disaster.

“Women and music should not be dated.” ― Chinua Achebe

>> Despite his good job, at the end of the month he barely has money to live to the expectation of his class, not to talk of paying his loans and giving back to his family.

>> Obi employs strict austerity measures too, stops paying his back his scholarship loans and lives on a tight budget at home, but that doesn’t help either. Soon he find himself digging deeper into one hole after the other.

>> Despite his bad romantic and financial situation, corruption around him continues and the temptation grows even bigger.

“But take one of these old men. He probably left school thirty years ago in Standard Six. He has worked steadily to the top through bribery—an ordeal by bribery. To him the bribe is natural. He gave it and he expects it. Our people say that if you pay homage to the man on top, others will pay homage to you when it is your turn to be on top. Well, that is what the old men say.”― Chinua Achebe

>> Obi caught between two world and two realities. He either stays true to his ideals and struggles through all the hardship that befalls him, or give in and take bribes as quick way to resolve issues.

>> The pressure eventually gets too much, he caves in and takes bribe. One, then two, then many to take care of his financial situation.

>> Still sticking to his ideals, Obi never felt comfortable with the situation, was ready to stop.

“When a coward sees a man he can beat he becomes hungry for a fight.”  ― Chinua Achebe

>> Just then, as he took the last bribe, he was caught in a sting operation, and his whole world comes crashing before him.

And so, we begin to wonder. Is it possible to have the world at your feet, but still be able to screw things up?

“I am against people reaping where they have not sown. But we have a saying that if you want to eat a toad you should look for a fat and juicy one.”  ― Chinua Achebe

A highly nuanced topic, with blurred lines and plenty of lessons to be learned. Again, we are made to wonder, why does a man that is trained, well educated and with a good job, face such a fate? That’s a question we all can ask, and answer for ourselves.

Amazon Link

Pin It on Pinterest