No Longer At Ease

Chinua Achebe
Quotes

Important Quotations Explained

Quotes Important Quotations Explained

It was in England that Nigeria first became more than just a name to him. That was the first great thing that England did for him.

This is said by the narrator in the second chapter, while beginning to retrace Obi's life, from the time he receives his scholarship to the moment when he is put on trial. Here Achebe is saying that it is only when Obi is away from Nigeria that Nigeria becomes important to him and he has, ironically, the colonizer to thank for this. He is being educated in the language and in the ways of the colonizer but, again ironically, that brings him closer to home.

While in England, Obi feels like a stranger, and, even though he speaks the same language, it is not his native tongue. He longs for home and even tries to speak Ibo whenever he can. He even writes poems about Nigeria. And so, he begins to believe that with all his newfound education he will "go back" and make things better. This is ironic because it is very much a colonial mindset. It is what the English thought they were doing by giving Africans education and what they called "civilization." However, the difference here is that Obi is an insider, he is not, like the English, an outsider trying to impose foreign rules. Nevertheless, he is using the "tools" of that self-same outsider. This is what England has "done for him"—it gives him an education and a need for home that becomes problematic.

This quote can also relate to Achebe himself, as a writer, who took the tool of the English language and wrote back to the colonizer in the very form of the novel—the "English novel"—making that novel his own. He used those tools to bring light to the problems of a colonial and post-colonial world so that Nigeria would become "more than just a name."