A story about the clash of two sets of values
This story by Chinua Achebe presents the conflict between world-views
and value systems. Dead Man's Path is set in Nigeria in 1949. It is on
the subject of a man named Michael Obi who is the new, enthusiastic
and wholehearted headmaster of an underprivileged and disadvantaged
school. This story explores the effects of European customs and
beliefs on traditional African culture.
Michael Obi is the new headmaster of Ndume Central School. The Mission
authorities selected him for the job as they wanted a "young and
energetic man" to administer it. Michael is a married twenty-six year
old man. His wife, named Nancy, is slightly egotistical but
nevertheless very kind and considerate towards her husband:
"For a few minutes she became sceptical about the new school, but it
was only for a few minutes. Her little personal misfortune could blind
her to her husband's happy prospects."
Michael is a very passionate person with many ideas that could help
transform the school. He believes in the modernisation and
transformation of old beliefs. He seems to have been 'infected' by
European customs. The word 'infected' is used, as it may have been
thought of a bad thing then, in African culture, to believe in modern
"In their two years of married life she had become completely infected
by his passion for 'modern methods'."
Michael had two aims for the school: A high standard of education for
the children, and for the school compound to be turned into a place of
beauty. He also decided what sort of ...
... middle of paper ...
... for Michael to reflect on what he has just said.
A few days later a woman died while giving birth to a child. A diviner
(spiritualist) prescribes heavy sacrifices to propitiate ancestors
insulted by the fence. This therefore means that the diviner is angry
that the path has been closed, and blames the death of the women on
the closing of the path. The diviner believes that ancestors and dead
people have been insulted by the blocking of their path. Thus,
Michael's modernised school is pulled down and the gardens are
trampled upon. The inspector then came to visit and wrote a very mean
report about the school and the situation between the school and the
This story shows us how modernisation can clash with traditionalist
values. The closure of the path clashes with the views of the people
and the priest.
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