Last Updated 17 Nov 2022

An Analysis of Dead Man’s Path by Chinua Achebe

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The title of this story Dead Mans Path foreshadows the series of events about to take place in the story. Dead Mans Path does not only refer to the ancestral pathway but also refers to Obis choice of action. His path by not compromising has made him a Dead Man. Dead in this context is not death, but is referring to his failure. His dream died. The title also foreshadows dark events that would occur in the story. Meaning this story has quite a sad ending to it, not at all a happy story. In this story Dead Mans Path, Chinua Achebe gives the protagonist Michael Obi, a 26 years old secondary school teacher, a great chance of fulfilling his dream. He was appointed by the Mission Authorities to be the headmaster of Ndume Central School in Nigeria. Mission Authorities are Christian Missionaries who were also the authorities in Africa. They are foreigners who have been sent everywhere around the world to teach Christianity. This is actually a foreshadowing that this story will touch on religion and beliefs. The Mission Authorities might have sent a modern man like Obi to this backward school to teach the people there about Christianity as Obi said; Our duty is to teach your children to laugh at such ideas. He, with the support of his wife Nancy, wants to make everything in the school perfect and modern.

They decided to plant a garden, unfortunately, across and ancient footpath used by the natives he is supposed to teach. Michael Obi portrays the modern culture with his disbelief of superstitions unlike the antagonists, which are the villagers led by the village head priest. The point of conflict is introduced at Paragraph 12 One evening as Obi was admiring his work, he was scandalized to see an old woman from the village hobble right across the compound, through the marigold flower-bed and the hedges. Although explained by a teacher that this footpath is vital to the villagers, Obi ignored and built a barrier out of sticks and barbed wire closely across the path where it enters and exits the school compound. Following that incident, the village priest came to see the headmaster. Their meeting was an argument of the traditional and modern- notice these two totally opposite values- thinking. The priest wanted the superannuated people and the modernpeople to cohabitate so that they would not have anything to quarrel about. However, Obi would not compromise. He still blocks the path off. When explaining about the importance of that path to Obi, the priest did mention that most important, it is the path of children going to be born. This is a foreshadow that there is going to be a newborn child in the village. Two days later, a woman died of childbirth. This somehow have relation to the path because the path is blocked, therefore the woman died in childbed.  The story reaches its climax when “a young woman in the village died in childbed. This happened two days after their meeting. The diviner prescribed heavy sacrifices to propitiate the ancestors insulted by the barrier. The next morning, Obi wakes up to find the entire school ground trashed and destroyed including his flower garden and one of the school buildings. The loose ends were taken care of at the end of the story when the Government Education Officer came that day to inspect ad found the school a total mess. Nasty reviews were made of that school especially on the “tribal-war situation developing between the school and the village, arising in part from the misguided zeal of the new headmaster.

 

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