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No Longer At Ease

Chinua Achebe

Chapter 3

Chapter 2

Chapter 3, page 2

page 1 of 2
Summary

This chapter goes back in time to Clara and Obi's meeting. They first meet in London at a dance organized by the London branch of the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons. Obi finds her incredibly attractive, but they do not interact much with each other. They have one dance together—Obi is fluttering and nervous, stepping all over Clara. Nevertheless, eighteen or so months later, they meet again because Clara is on the same ship home to Nigeria as Obi.

They meet at the docks but Clara is unreceptive. The trip goes smoothly, at first, and Obi, although he is not receiving Clara's attention seems to be happy about his first sea voyage. He looks out onto the water and enjoys his meals, wishing however, for Clara's attention. After a while, Obi becomes seasick and Clara, who has paid him no attention until then, appears at his cabin door with some tablets for his seasickness. He is appreciative and surprised and is quite happy, even though he is trying his best to employ a rehearsed calm. Clara speaks to him and Obi, and when Obi shows concern for her not having enough tablets for herself she explains that she is a nurse and has already given them out to two other passengers.

The next morning Obi thanks Clara again as he looks out onto the sea. As Clara and Obi exchange greetings Mr. Macmillan, another passenger, falls on the deck. Obi tells Macmillan not to worry, that he himself had almost fallen earlier, and they become friends after that.

Obi and Macmillan converse, have drinks, and discuss Clara and Obi's education, among other things. Macmillan asks him what his name means because he has heard that African names all mean something. Obi tells him that he cannot say for all African names, but Ibo names are often long sentences; however, Obi never tells him directly what his own name means.

The boat anchors, and two young men appear on a small boat and claim they will dive for money. The people on the boat throw the money into the sea, and the boys catch every single bit of it. Later, after dinner, they all (Clara, Mr. Macmillan, and Obi) go ashore together at Funchal in the Madeiras. While ashore they drink wine and see gardens and parks, Macmillan buys trinkets for home, and Clara and Macmillan are formally introduced.

Upon their return to the ship, Macmillan says he must write some letters. Clara says she will write letters too, but Obi tells her that she has time since letters to Nigeria cannot be posted until Freetown anyway. Clara and Obi are, therefore, left alone and have their first kiss. It is Obi who kisses Clara first, but she is, for some reason hesitant. She kisses him a second time but tells him he must leave because people are coming. She also seems to want to say something that she cannot.

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