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African novel, Post-colonial novel
Third-person omniscient narrator
The narrator often merges with the voice and opinion of the main character Obi Okonkwo, but also moves in and out of that voice in order to explore other factors and issues within Nigerian society.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
After Obi loses Clara and his mother dies, he goes through a period of mental turmoil. Eventually, he moves through it into a strange sense of calm and complacency that leads him to allowing himself to take bribes, though with guilt. 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.
The fact that Clara and Obi met on water, on a boat.