Arrow of God by Chinua Achebe
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
An interesting final book of a series of Achebe's tragedies, said in Achebe's introduction the book he is "most likely to be caught sitting down to read again." Arrow of God is saturated in traditional themes and tensions from colonial influence and has some great proverbs! My favorite proverb was that "a man who asks questions does not lose his way" (204). There seems to be a lot of truth in that. I think that many of the themes in this book can be tied up in the proverbs, which is part of a rich cultural heritage.
At first I struggled to understand the basic plot, but after keeping a list of the character names and vocab that kept popping up I was able to sort it out. I highly recommend doing that if you are having a difficult time. It is worth the extra bit of effort.
One of the best parts about this book is the way Achebe is able to juxtapose the colonial voice with this traditional village in Nigeria. Certain points from drinking views to thoughts about eating chicken are viewed one after the other in different chapters through the different characters, forcing us to reconcile with the fact that both paradigms have serious shortcomings in their own areas. However, in many of the cases, the very ones that the British claimed superiority over were the ones that they were guilty of, such as drinking, morality, and civility. It is clear that Achebe had to spend a serious amount of time in the Western world to be able to articulate these misconceptions and the mannerisms of the British in this novel.
Even though I think this is a serious critique of the colonial influence, I also think that it a smack down on Ezeulu, the Ulu Chief Priest of the village, the main character in the novel. It seems that his inability to adapt and let down his pride was what resulted in the ending tragedies, the death of his son, but also the mass of conversions to Christianity.
Overall I really enjoyed this book. I do have a lot of questions remaining, particularly what Achebe is hoping to say through writing such a book, as that proverb I mentioned earlier says, by asking questions I hope to find my way through this book and the rest of the trilogy.
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