No Longer At Ease

Chinua Achebe

Chapter 5

Summary Chapter 5

Obi not only differs in opinion with the man in the wagon but also with his own friend, Joseph. For example, early in the chapter, after Obi has had his interview, Joseph tells Obi that he should not have become angry in the interview because he was looking for a job and someone in his position cannot afford to become angry. Obi claims that this is a "colonial" mindset, which is an insult. Achebe is particularly upfront in his social and political criticism of colonialism in this chapter. The aforementioned statement on Obi's behalf is one example. Another example occurs when Obi is back in Umuofia and, while thinking to himself, says inwardly that the British should "come and see men and women and children who [know] how to live, whose joy of life had not yet been killed by those who claimed to teach other nations how to live." This is a harsh criticism of England's empire and her colonial pawns.

Again, it is obvious that there is no set place for Obi to fit in. He must forge his own way, but it is difficult and almost impossible. In fact, his fate may very well be like the nature of tragedy he discusses in this chapter. During his interview for the Public Service Commission, Obi says "tragedy is never resolved." Perhaps, as it will be seen later in the novel, that is Obi's plight. Perhaps his plight is to live a life of struggle where he is never "at ease." Perhaps it is because he is at an in-between through which he must suffer, making an easier path for the generations that are to follow.

Finally, there is the issue of Christianity that arises at the end of the chapter. The people of the town do not understand Obi's father's beliefs and think that he should be taught a lesson for not giving an offering to the town's rainmaker so that it would not rain on Obi's homecoming. However, Obi's father does not believe in such traditional practices because he has converted to another religion, the religion of the colonizer, in fact. One of the most beautiful and humorous episodes in the book arises out of a moment of mixture and compromise. An elder uses the kola nut as an offering, but he incorporates Obi's father's ways and offers it in a Christian fashion. Although it may seem somewhat mocking at the beginning, it is more a playful and united conglomeration of the two cultures. The moment is illustrative of what can save someone like Obi and the generations that are to follow: an embracing of differences. Instead of being ill at ease in the in-between, one can survive and be happy in finding the beauty inside the complexity of two cultures combined.