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Published: 11-11-2019

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"Dead Man's Path" by Chinua Achebe

This story by Chinua Achebe presents the conflict among planet-viewsand value systems. Dead Man’s Path is set in Nigeria in 1949. It is onthe topic of a man named Michael Obi who is the new, enthusiasticand wholehearted headmaster of an underprivileged and disadvantagedschool. This story explores the effects of European customs andbeliefs on classic African culture.

Michael Obi is the new headmaster of Ndume Central School. The Missionauthorities selected him for the job as they wanted a “young andenergetic man” to administer it. Michael is a married twenty-six yearold man. His wife, named Nancy, is slightly egotistical butnevertheless quite kind and considerate towards her husband:”For a couple of minutes she became sceptical about the new school, but itwas only for a handful of minutes. Her little personal misfortune could blindher to her husband’s content prospects.”Michael is a extremely passionate individual with numerous ideas that could helptransform the college. He believes in the modernisation andtransformation of old beliefs. He seems to have been ‘infected’ byEuropean customs.

The word ‘infected’ is employed, as it may possibly have beenthought of a undesirable factor then, in African culture, to think in modernmethods:”In their two years of married life she had turn into entirely infectedby his passion for ‘modern methods’.”Michael had two aims for the college: A higher normal of education forthe young children, and for the college compound to be turned into a spot ofbeauty. He also decided what sort of teachers ought to be employed atthe college. He chose that all teachers need to be young and unmarried.He believed that this way, all the teachers would place all their timework and energy in to their job and not be distracted my othercommitments and individuals.

His wife Nancy was against this thought as shewanted the teachers to be married so that other wives could “envy herposition” and “she would set the style in everything.” This is a keyexample of Michael’s wife’s self-centredness.Michael managed to transform the school gardens into a location ofbeauty. 1 day although he was admiring his work, he saw an old womanwalking along a disused path that ran by way of the college compound.This annoyed Michael and he inquired 1 member of his staff about it.He located out that this path is apparently quite important and blessedas it connects the village shrine to the cemetery. Michael was veryselfless at this moment and decided to close down the path, as in afew days a “white inspector” would be coming to pay a visit to the school.Michael felt that the college couldn’t be employed as a ‘through fare.’Soon the path was closed, and blocked of with barbed wire.

A couple of days later the village priest called upon the headmaster. The priest talkedwith Michael for a although. He wanted Michael to reopen the path. Youget the impression from the priest that he is a really frail and elderlyman who doesn’t want to start off argument, but merely get his opinion andthoughts across to Michael. The priest believed that the path was verysacred as ‘our dead relatives depart by it, and our ancestors visit usby it.’This is a essential instance of traditionalist values: the path is ancientand sacred and dates back a lengthy time it is of wonderful value tothe village as it is a link from the dead relatives to the villageshrine.Michael responds to the priest with a ‘satisfied smile’ upon his face.He tells the priest that the whole thought of a ‘dead man’s path’, is specifically what he is teaching the young children not to think in.

Michael believes that the entire thought of a dead man’s footpath is completelyfictional, imaginary and ‘fantastic.’ The priest responds by tellingMichael some words of wisdom:’Let the hawk perch and let the eagle perch.’ This is fundamentally sayingthat if you do what I say, we shall be at peace. The path does noharm you carry on with your college, and let the path be reopened. Thepriest then leaves Michael alone. I believe he does this as he wishesfor Michael to reflect on what he has just mentioned.A couple of days later a woman died although giving birth to a youngster. A diviner(spiritualist) prescribes heavy sacrifices to propitiate ancestorsinsulted by the fence. This therefore implies that the diviner is angrythat the path has been closed, and blames the death of the girls onthe closing of the path.

The diviner believes that ancestors and deadpeople have been insulted by the blocking of their path. As a result,Michael’s modernised college is pulled down and the gardens aretrampled upon. The inspector then came to visit and wrote a quite meanreport about the school and the situation in between the college and thevillage.This story shows us how modernization can clash with traditionalistvalues. The closure of the path clashes with the views of the peopleand the priest.
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