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Obi’s Struggle

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Obi’s Struggle

Obi’s Struggle

Obi Okonkwo was a young man born in Ibo in the eastern Nigerian village of Umuofia. He was a well educated man who received a scholarship from the Umuofia Progressive Union (U.P.U.), to study law in England, a scholarship that he must pay back when he returns. He eventually changes his course of study to English and abandons law. After four years in England he returns to his native country to find more of a colonized world in which some ways he is repulsed by but has no choice in which to cope with. Since he is an educated man, he is given a “European Post”, and he works in an office in which he has no respect for their ways. He stands strong against the bribery that goes on and is opposed to his boss, and English colonial man named Mr. Green. Obi finds himself in a constant battle between coping with inferiority by the presence of the English and the original traditions of the world he once knew.

Obi finds himself at the beginning of a generation of change, caught between two worlds. He is unable to marry the woman that he loves because she is considered an outcast. He claims to want to marry her anyway because by the time he has children, the world will have changed, and it will not matter. Still, Obi loses his fiancйe, and his mother, and finds himself in serious debt through out the novel. He must pay back his scholarship loan and is responsible for sending money home. Eventually, Obi breaks under all of this pressure and gives in to the bribery he had stood against, but he does not give in without feeling absolutely guilty. Bribery is portrayed as socially acceptable to people who are in horrible situations as Obi was in, and he even claims to be done with bribery, right before he was caught. Somehow it is too late, and his situation, his position of being caught between two shifting worlds, becomes almost impossible. He finds himself in a downward spiral in which puts him in a place of mental turmoil.

Language is an issue that arises out of all colonized countries because the colonized are educated in the language of the colonized. The issue arises time and time again in Achebe’s novel. When Obi returns from England, the members of the U.P.U., are not impressed by Obi’s English because it is too casual. They like English to be spoken in full as the president of the U.P.U. speaks it. There is a certain amount of pride, ironically, in the language of the colonizer. This may be, however, because those admiring this English are from an older generation.

The younger generation of Obi and Christopher, plays with language much more easily. For instance Christopher speaks different kinds of English, depending on what he is talking about and to whom he is talking to. Obi claims that most educated Africans participate in this playfulness with language. Obi has his own problems with language as is evidenced when he attempts to speak or read for his family in his own language and finds it difficult. He is able to translate his new language into Ibo which is much more easy for his family to understand. Nevertheless, Ibo is still a special language. The language from home, and the language that Clara speaks to him when they are alone for the first time, and it is the language he longs for while he is across the sea in England. With a changing world and a changing culture, a changing language is just another step to cope with in the colonization of an old society.

“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 (Achebe, pg. 14).” This is a quote in the second chapter by the narrator. Achebe is saying that it is only when obi is away from Nigeria that Nigeria becomes important to him and he has the colonizer to thank for this. He is being educated in the language and in the ways of the colonizer but, 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 language. He longs for home and even tries to speak Ibo whenever he can. He starts to believe that with all of his new education that he will return to Ibo and make things better. This is ironic because it is an image put fourth by the colonizer. England gave him an education and a need for home.

Chapter 4 is a great chapter in which you can see many of the changes and new barriers that Obi has to cope with. This chapter highlights the differences between Obi and his fellow countrymen on his return from England. First, there are the mistakes Obi makes at his reception. First he arrives informally dressed and then he speaks in an informal English. Obi does not realize that he must dress a certain way and because it is hot, he simply wears short sleeves. He speaks English with less formality because he is used

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