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No Longer At Ease

Chinua Achebe

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full title ·  No Longer At Ease

author ·  Chinua Achebe

type of work ·  Novel

genre ·  African novel, Post-colonial novel

language ·  English

time and place written ·  The novel was finished in 1960, in Nigeria. Achebe had, however, been traveling through the late 1950s (including several visits to London).

date of first publication ·  1960

publisher ·  Published in the United States by Random House through an arrangement with Reed Consumer books.

narrator ·  Third person omniscient narrator

point of view ·  The narrator often merges with the voice and opinion of the main character Obi Okonkwo but often times moves in and out of that voice in order to explore other factors and issues within Nigerian society.

tone ·  The tone of Achebe throughout the novel is that of social and political criticism. Though the main character, Obi, may seem confused and often even indifferent, Achebe always knows what he is doing—he is writing a novel about what is going on in Nigeria and in much of Africa, for that matter, during the end of the 1950s.

tense ·  The novel fluctuates between present and past tense. It begins at the trial of Obi Okonkwo and is constantly moving backward in time to explain how Obi got to where he is.

setting (time) ·  Late 1950's, around 1957 (when the narrator is about twenty-six years old). However, the novel also moves backwards to describe the time when Obi was growing up and when he has won a scholarship to study abroad in England.

setting (place) ·  Nigeria; specifically, Umuofia and Lagos. Sometimes the action moves back to London, but only briefly.

protagonist ·  Obi Okonkwo

major conflict ·  The fact that Obi is caught between two worlds: that of a traditional Africa and that of a changing and new world that lives amidst two cultures (the English and the African). The major conflict is that of a young man caught in between tradition and the ways of the West in his homeland, toward the end of a colonial reign. There is also the more concrete struggle with corruption in the civil service and Obi's opposition and eventual giving in to bribery.

rising action ·  Obi's fiancée is an osu, which causes problems in their engagement because she is an outcast; Obi finds himself deeper and deeper in financial hardship; people tell him that taking bribes is not a "big deal; Clara has an abortion with complications; he eventually loses Clara; and Obi's mother dies.

climax ·  There are two climaxes in the novel. The first is when Obi finds himself in mental turmoil right at the point where he has lost Clara and his mother had died and the second is when he is arrested for having taken a bribe.

falling action ·  After Obi loses Clara and his mother dies he goes though a period of mental turmoil and eventually finds himself out of it through a strange sense of calm and complacency that leads him to eventually allowing himself to guiltily take bribes. After he takes the bribes, he is taken to court, and he seems to be unmoved by the actions, but when his promise and education are mentioned he finds himself in tears.

themes ·  The corruptibility of civil servants; the influence of education; tradition versus progression

motifs ·  Song and poetry; proverbs; language.

symbols ·  The Umuofian Progressive Union; Mr. Green; and Mr. Omo.

foreshadowing ·  The fact that Clara and Obi met on water, on a boat.

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