No Longer at Ease

No Longer at Ease Essay Questions

  1. 1

    What marks Obi's moral downfall?

    Obi is depicted as a young and foolish man from the very beginning of the novel, but the decisions he makes over the course of the novel reinforce the understanding that Obi lacks a strong moral center. His treatment of Clara is one example, as he claims he loves her but fails to fight for her and allows his pride to come before her. His treatment of his mother is another example, as he claims to love her very much but does not return for her funeral and finds himself over her death within a matter of days. The bribe also constitutes a major breach in Obi's moral code, as it reveals that he lacks principles and has succumbed to the norms and "values" of the colonizer's world.

  2. 2

    What are the tone and style of the novel?

    Achebe's tone is ironic and satirical, as he is obviously skeptical about Obi, his motivations, and his choices. He has opinions about Obi but he is rather detached and dispassionate in his literary treatment of his protagonist. His style is straightforward and simple. His sentences are short and his prose lucid.

  3. 3

    What stance the novel take towards on civil servants?

    The novel seems to be rather critical of civil servants, as he sees that they are all liable to corruption. White, black, young, old -- they are all privy to abusing their office. Corruption is so endemic that no one seems particularly passionate about routing it out, and the prosecution of Obi is very, very hypocritical. Mr. Green, Obi's boss who is so proud of his duty to the colonial regime, gives voice to this hypocrisy when he complains about Obi taking time off but ignores the fact that this circumstance was implemented by the English when no Nigerians were in the civil service.

  4. 4

    What is the role of the English literature that is so beloved by Obi?

    There is certainly nothing inherently wrong with the works of Eliot, Housman, Auden, and Greene; their novels and poems represent some of the greatest literary works of the West. However, as they figure into Nigerian culture, their meanings and lessons are somewhat skewed because of the colonial system that brought them there. Western literature does not speak to the history, religion, norms and mores, and traditions of the Nigerian people. Thus, it represents a potentially problematic outside influence on impressionable young men such as Obi, who prefer to find applicable lessons within the works of an outside world at the expense of a connection to his own heritage. Achebe does more than just paint the works of the West as reasons for his protagonist's moral downfall, but also specifically compares his protagonist to those in those other works. Again, he seems to respect and admire some of those works but knows that they can lure Nigerians away from their own culture.

  5. 5

    What role does family play in the text?

    Famiy is interpreted differently by the different groups in the text. The world of the white man favors the idea of the nuclear family, whereas in Umuofia, family is much broader and expansive. All of the various people who support Obi in his stages of his career, especially the Union, are considered family. Obi seems to be caught between these two definitions of family. He is annoyed by the burdens his family places on him, financially and emotionally. However, by ultimately rejecting Clara and sticking to his mother's conception of family, he reveals that he has deeper connections to his Umuofian heritage than he may have thought.

  6. 6

    What role does religion play in the text?

    Religion is another point of contention in the text, and another area in which Obi is torn between the European world and that of Nigeria. Obi's own parents split on the issue of religion, with Isaac wholeheartedly embracing Christianity, and Hannah, while playing the role of the good Christian wife, clearly has deeper ties to the religion of the Igbo people. As for Obi, he is not particularly religious at all. He dutifully follows along with his father when they discuss religion, and then tries to manipulate his father with religion to make his tepid case for Clara, but has no strong feelings for either of his parents' religion. Indeed, Obi's lack of religious beliefs is unsurprising as Obi seems to have passion for nothing at all.

  7. 7

    For what is the passage in the novel about the three types of dancers a metaphor?

    When Obi is at the club with Christopher and the girls, he notices three types of dancers: those who seemed to move in an alien, awkward fashion; those who danced close together, barely moving; and those who danced ecstaticly and freely. There are perhaps multiple interpretations of this scene, but a compelling one is that the dancers represent the ways in which one lives their life. The first group of dancers, which Achebe tellingly says are Europeans, appear stilted, false. Their dancing is off-putting. The middle group causes no problems or appears conspicous; they live their lives close to the vest and play it safe. The third group, though, truly lives life -their zest, their passion is palpable. As for Obi, all he does is watch, and it is implied that he is not part of any of the types of dancers. Sitting passively on the sidelines is all Obi can muster,

  8. 8

    What is the symbolic significance of scene with Obi's mother cutting herself with her son's razor?

    In one of the more bizarre and symbolic moments of the novel, Obi's mother accidentally cuts herself with her son's razor and he subsequently associates her with the shedding of blood. This is quite telling, as it foreshadow's Obi's betrayel of her through his embrace of Western values and culture. It is notable that the razor sharpens pencils, which are part of the white man's culture (European education requires writing with these implements), and go along with Obi and his father's love of the written word. Obi's mother is thus literally and figuratively wounded by her son.

  9. 9

    How is Obi like T. S. Eliot's Prufrock?

    The critic Philip Rogers ably demonstrates how Obi is very much like one of his favorite poet's most famous creations: J. Alfred Prufrock. Rogers notes that Obi has a similiar prissiness, and problems with anxiety, self-consciousness, and indecisiveness. Prufrock watches people come and go, and Obi, specifically, watches Clara drive away with the doctor. Rogers finds other small similiarities, such as "Prufrock frets about his bald spot; Obi imagines his fly to be unzipped." Both men cannot find success or passion in their personal and professional lives, and nervously approach every situation with advance preparation about how to look, what to say, etc. Achebe's comparison is an effective way to read Obi, the young Nigerian so entranced by Western culture, as an example of its deleterious effects.