No Longer At Ease

Chinua Achebe
Main Ideas

Themes

Main Ideas Themes

Another important aspect of education, aside from the contradictions mentioned above, is the fact that Obi's generation uses its education as a tool, paradoxically, against colonialism. Sam Okoli, the Minister of State and also an educated man, verbalizes the position of the populace by saying that, yes, the white man has brought many things to Africa, but it is time for the white man to go. In other words, a man like Obi can use his education to take his country back into his own hands, even if his education is something that the colonizer gave him. It is important to remember that the only way to survive in a world where two cultures have met is to allow a certain amount of mixture to be used in a positive regard.

Tradition versus Progression

While Obi is in England he misses his home, longs for his family, and writes nostalgic poetry about Lagos and the sun and the trees of his homeland. He even begins to feel a certain degree of guilt, at times, for studying English and not being in Nigeria with other Ibo people. Nevertheless, this "English" has become a part of him, one that he cannot erase when he arrives back in Nigeria.

Obi is in love with his native tongue, and it holds a place in his heart. At the same time, however, he is also comfortable with the English language. The struggle of language is just one of the many examples of how African tradition and English culture collide in this novel. Obi loves his family dearly, and since his family is symbolic of his roots, it can be said that he loves his roots dearly. This is not to say, however, that he will not rebel against his roots because of things he has learned elsewhere. Obi possesses the more liberal, and even "European," belief that he may marry anyone he wishes, even though his family and his countrymen are opposed to it. And, even though he wishes to marry Clara in the end, despite her history, he is tied to his mother a symbolic traditional root … his blood.

It is this struggle between tradition and European ways that is evidenced throughout and that is further amplified by the European presence of characters like Mr. Green. And, aside from the obvious Mr. Green, there are also the more subtle presences of Europeans at lounges and restaurants throughout Nigeria serving English food and importing European beers. Some of these colonial importations and introductions are good, as is evidenced by the scene about the radiogram between Obi and the Minister of State. Nevertheless, the struggle exists, and it is obvious that Achebe has a strong negative opinion about colonialism as a whole.