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No Longer At Ease

Chinua Achebe

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Plot Overview

Chinua Achebe was born in Eastern Nigeria in 1930, in the village of Ogidi. He was the fifth child of Isaiah Okafo Achebe, his father, a catechist for the Church Missionary Society, and Janet N. Hoegbunam Achebe, his mother. Achebe's having grown up in a Christian family in Nigeria is one of the many facts the author draws upon to create the background of his protagonist, Obi Okonkwo, in No Longer At Ease. Obi's father is also a catechist, and Obi is also from a small town, or village rather, in Nigeria.

Achebe began his education at the age of six and continued on to a Government Secondary School in Umuahia, after which he won a scholarship to study medicine at the University College in Ibadan. However, after a year of Medicine, he decided that the practice was not for him, and he changed his course of study to literature, obtaining his Bachelor's Degree in 1953. Similarly, Obi Okonkwo received a scholarship to study law but changed pursuits to English. The difference between author and protagonist, however, is that Obi studied in England, and Achebe remained within Africa, which adds another layer to the novel and the problems that arise within it.

After receiving his B.A., Chinua Achebe taught and joined the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation in Lagos in 1954. In 1961, he was appointed director of External Broadcasting but resigned in 1966 to dedicate himself full-time to writing and teaching. Since then, he has taught at many universities around the world including African, American, Canadian, and British insitutitions. He has received a vast number of awards and honorary degrees and has come to be considered one of the leading African writers of his time.

The most important aspect of Achebe's writing is his dedication to the socio- political fabrics of the societies in which he lives and has lived—that of a colonial and post-colonial African society. Throughout the 1940s, fifties and sixties, there was a growing sense of self-determination among the African people who had been colonized by the English and French. It was evident that a new era would arise in which the colonized would want to claim their independence. And, those who were writers would want to "write back" to the colonizer. In other words, because the English in Nigeria, for example had instilled the English language and the tradition of English literature, Nigerian writers were beginning to write in the very same language of colonial rule, making the writing both more complex, and, in many ways, more powerful in its intent. However, this was no longer a literature about England—it was now a local African literature written in the complex tongue of the ruling English.

Significantly, No Longer At Ease was published in 1960, the year of Nigeria's independence from England. This is significant because it is a novel that pertains to a trend of literature called post-colonial literature that still survives. There are many issues that arise out of post-colonialism, issues that authors and writers around the world have had to deal with. Africa, India, and the West Indies all have come out of the colonial era with a new literature that must address the problems that colonialism left behind. Some of the problems in post-colonial regions concern language, education, the conflict between traditional ways and Western or European ways, the presence of the English, and corruption. Those who later moved into the land of the colonizer (for instance, Obi, while studying in England) experience an entire set of new problems such as nostalgia for home, memory, and the desire for the homeland.

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