The protagonist of the novel, Obi is a young Nigerian man who is given a scholarship to study in London. His acceptance of a bribe constitutes the main conflict of the story. Obi is prideful, ambivalent about his culture, naïve, and selfish. He is not self-reflective and finds it difficult to take control of his life.
Obi's enigmatic Nigerian girlfriend who is hampered by her family's osu past. She is a nurse, but there are suspicions of prostitution. She is cool and moody, but is ultimately a sympathetic character, especially after her abortion. She leaves Pbi and Lagos after the procedure.
Obi's snooty and prejudiced English boss, who enjoys condemning Nigerians but also enjoys the vestiges of the colonial system, as it results in his racial supremacy. Obi notes he is hardworking, diligent, and dutiful, but is not quite sure what motivates him.
President of the Union
He finds satisfaction in helping young men from the Village attain success, although it seems his efforts are often frustrated by both the men and the overall system.
Obi's father who converted to Christianity and likes the ways of the white man. Obi was always closer with his mother, but still sought his father's approval.
Obi's quiet and loyal mother who converts to Christianity for her husband but retains aspects of her own culture, such as a reverence for folk tales and firm views on Obi not marrying an osu. She threatens to kill herself if Obi does marries an osu, which is one example of how their relationship is close but dysfunctional.
An old friend of Obi's and a clerk in the Survey Department. He is in awe of Obi, but also disapproves of him.
Obi's economist friend whom he met in London. Christopher is a womanizer.
A young Englishman who is an adminstrative officer in Northern Nigeria. Obi meets him on his ship returning to Nigeria and they become friends.
Hon. Sam Okoli
A rich and handsome politician in Eastern Nigeria and Lagos, he becomes a friend of Clara and Obi's. He lends Obi money for Clara's abortion.
One of the Village elders, who claims Obi is like his grandfather and claims that there are no great Nigerians anymore, as "greatness is now in the things of the white man" (62).
One of Obi's sisters.
One of Obi's sisters.
One of Obi's sisters; he does not get along with her very well.
One of Obi's sisters.
The Inspector of Schools when Obi was a young man. He was white, and Obi remembered how the black headmaster threw him to the ground after he had enough of the man's bluster and rage.
A young man who was fired from his job for being caught sleeping; the Union is hearing his case at one of the meetings Obi attends. They decide to assist him monetarily and see if they can help find him a new job.
Miss Marie Tomlinson
Mr. Green's friendly and talkative secretary, whom Obi is initially wary of but eventually befriends. She possesses negative attitudes about Africans, but cloaks them in cheerfulness and concern.
A young man who attempts to bribe Obi on behalf of his sister, who wants a scholarship to study in England.
A young woman who wants a Federal Scholarship to study in England. Her brother comes to Obi first, intending to bribe him, but is refused. She speaks to Obi personally at his apartment, insinuating she will sleep with him if he helps her. He does not end up recommending her.
A messenger in Obi's department who asks Obi if he can borrow thirty pounds, and then has trouble paying it back. He is viewed by Mr. Green as a typical African.
One of the young women Christopher goes about with. She attends a double date with him, Clara, and Obi.
A young woman, whom Christopher swears he wants to marry.
The man who agrees to perform Clara's abortion for thirty pounds. He is a rather insincere and slippery character.
No Longer at Ease Questions and Answers
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I think we can sympathize with Clara. She is ultimately a sympathetic character, especially after her abortion. We want her to catch a break in life, away from men who treat her badly. She leaves Pbi and Lagos after her abortion.
Obi's acceptance of a bribe constitutes the main conflict of the story. Obi is prideful, ambivalent about his culture, naïve, and selfish. He is not self-reflective and finds it difficult to take control of his life.
This question calls for your opinion, there is no right or wrong answer. The picture of Lagos I envision is a dangerous one..... a place of excess and corruption. Note, however, that this is the description of the white man's Lagos.... Achebe...