Arrow of God by Chinua Achebe

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Summary and Analysis of Arrow of God by Chinua Achebe

“Arrow of God” is a novel by Chinua Achebe, a Nigerian author and literary giant best known for his works exploring Nigeria’s cultural and political history. The novel was first published in 1964 and is set in the late 1920s, during the period of British colonial rule in Nigeria. It tells the story of Ezeulu, the chief priest of the god Ulu, and his struggle to maintain his authority and traditional way of life in the face of the encroachment of European colonialism and Christianity.

The novel begins with Ezeulu, the chief priest of the god Ulu, who is a powerful and respected figure in his community. He is a man of great dignity and wisdom, and he is deeply committed to preserving the traditions and rituals of his people. However, Ezeulu is also a man of great ambition, and he is determined to maintain his power and influence within his community. As the novel progresses, we see Ezeulu struggle to balance his desire for power and commitment to his people and their way of life.

Major Themes in the Novel

One of the major themes of “Arrow of God” is the conflict between traditional African culture and the modern, Western ways of the British colonial authorities. Throughout the novel, we see Ezeulu and his people struggle to maintain their traditions and way of life in the face of the influence of European colonialism and Christianity. The British authorities, represented by District Commissioner Winterbottom and the Reverend James Smith, are determined to impose their own culture and religion on the community’s people, and they see Ezeulu and his traditional ways as a threat to their efforts to “civilize” the native population.

Another major theme in the novel is the role of religion and faith in shaping people’s lives and communities. Achebe explores the relationship between Ezeulu and the god Ulu and how Ezeulu’s faith and devotion to Ulu shape his actions and decisions. At the same time, the novel also examines how the Christian missionaries seek to convert the people of Ezeulu’s community to their own faith and the conflicts that arise.

Throughout the novel, we see Ezeulu struggle to balance his desire for power and commitment to his people and their way of life. On the one hand, he is determined to maintain his authority and protect his people’s traditions, even if it means going against the wishes of the British authorities. On the other hand, he also realizes that he must adapt to the changing world around him to survive, and he begins to embrace some of the modern, Western ways of the British colonial authorities.

Ultimately, “Arrow of God” is a powerful and thought-provoking novel that explores the impact of colonialism and cultural change on traditional African society. Through the struggles and triumphs of Ezeulu and his community, Achebe brings to life the complex and often conflicting forces that shape people’s lives and communities and how people navigate these challenges to find their place in the world.

Arrow of God by Chinua Acheb

The second novel in Chinua Achebe’s masterful African trilogy, following Things Fall Apart and preceding No Longer at Ease

Poetic Devices Used In Arrow of God by Chinua Achebe

Poetic devices are literary techniques used in poetry to create specific effects and convey meaning. Here are ten poetic devices that are used in Chinua Achebe’s novel Arrow of God:

  1. Allusion: Achebe refers to other works of literature, history, or myth to add depth and context to the novel. For example, the novel alludes to the Biblical story of Joseph (Chapter 4) and the myth of the Greek hero Achilles (Chapter 5).
  2. Alliteration: Achebe repeats the same sound at the beginning of multiple words in a line or phrase to create a musical effect. For example, the novel describes how “the messenger panted and puffed as he ran” (Chapter 1).
  3. Hyperbole: Achebe uses exaggeration to create a more vivid and expressive description. For example, the novel describes how Ezeulu’s “feet pounded the ground as if they would never stop” (Chapter 1).
  4. Imagery: Achebe uses vivid and descriptive language to create mental pictures for the reader. For example, the novel describes the “shining white walls of the new jail” (Chapter 2) and the “green leaves of the mango tree” (Chapter 4).
  5. Metaphor: Achebe compares one thing to another to create a more vivid and expressive description. For example, the novel describes the main character, Ezeulu, as a “great tree” (Chapter 1) and the colonial authorities as “a swarm of locusts” (Chapter 3).
  6. Onomatopoeia: Achebe uses words that mimic the sounds they describe to create a more expressive and vivid description. For example, the novel describes how “the cocks crowed” (Chapter 1) and how “the drums thundered” (Chapter 2).
  7. Personification: Achebe gives human qualities to non-human things to create a more vivid and expressive description. For example, the novel describes how “the sun slowly climbed the sky” (Chapter 3) and how “the wind blew gently over the fields” (Chapter 6).
  8. Repetition: Achebe repeats words or phrases to create emphasis and to convey the importance of an idea. For example, the novel repeatedly refers to Ezeulu as the “greatest of all the gods” (Chapters 1 and 2).
  9. Symbolism: Achebe uses symbols to represent abstract ideas or themes in the novel. For example, the novel’s title’s arrow symbolizes authority, power, and tradition.
  10. Simile: Achebe uses the words “like” or “as” to compare one thing to another, often to create a more vivid and expressive description. For example, the novel describes the main character’s son as “like a ball of fire” (Chapter 4) and the conflict between the colonial authorities and the indigenous people as “like a storm” (Chapter 5).

Major Characters in Arrow of God

The following are the major characters of the novel.

  1. Ezeulu: Ezeulu is the novel’s main character and is the god Ulu’s chief priest. He is a strong-willed and proud man who often clashes with the British colonial government and the Christian missionaries. An example of Ezeulu’s pride is when he refuses to attend a meeting with the District Officer, stating that he is a chief and does not need to attend.
  2. Nwaka: Nwaka is a wealthy man with a title from Umunneora, one of the villages in Umuaro. He is a strong opponent of Ezeulu and has a contentious relationship with the Chief Priest due to his friendship with Ezidemili, the priest of the god Idemili. Ezidemili feels that Ezeulu and his god hold too much power and authority over his own deity. Known as the “owner of words” by his friends, Nwaka is a skilled speaker and often challenges Ezeulu’s authority during meetings about whether to go to war with Okperi. He also speaks against Ezeulu before the Chief Priest’s trip to Okperi to meet Winterbottom.
  3. T.K. Winterbottom: Wintabota, also known as the British District Officer in the region, has earned the nickname “breaker of guns” due to his efforts in ending the conflict between Umuaro and Okperi by destroying the Africans’ guns. Despite the criticism of his superiors, he still follows their orders. Winterbottom holds a harsh view of Africans, believing them to be inherently savage and corrupt, yet he respects Ezeulu for his honesty in the land dispute between Umuaro and Okperi, even though Ezeulu testified against his own people.
  4. Okike: Okike is Ezeulu’s second son and is a more traditional and religious man. He is chosen by Ezeulu to be the next chief priest, causing tension between him and Okafo. An example of Okike’s traditional beliefs is when he protests the British government’s decision to build a road through the sacred forest, stating that it is an affront to the gods.
  5. Nwakibie: Nwakibie is the wealthy and influential leader of the neighboring village of Mbanta. He often clashes with Ezeulu over political and religious issues. An example of Nwakibie’s wealth and influence is when he offers to pay the fines for Ezeulu’s refusal to attend the meeting with the District Officer, stating that he has the money to do so.
  6. Oduche: Oduche is Ezeulu’s youngest son and is a rebellious and impulsive man. He often challenges his father’s authority and makes rash decisions. An example of Oduche’s rebellious nature is when he refuses to participate in the traditional sacrifice to the gods, stating that he does not believe in their power.
  7. Obika: Obika is the village messenger and is loyal to Ezeulu. He often carries out Ezeulu’s orders and mediator between him and the other villagers. An example of Obika’s loyalty is when he risks his life to warn Ezeulu of a plot against him by the neighboring village of Mbanta.
  8. Okoli: Okoli is a Christian missionary who tries to convert the villagers to Christianity. He often clashes with Ezeulu over religious beliefs and practices. An example of Okoli’s missionary work is when he builds a chapel in the village and holds regular services, trying to persuade the villagers to abandon their traditional beliefs.
  9. Ulu: Ulu is the god worshipped by the villagers and is represented by a stone idol. Ezeulu serves as the chief priest of Ulu and is responsible for performing traditional sacrifices to the god. An example of Ulu’s role in the village is when Ezeulu consults with the idol to determine the cause of a recent drought, hoping to find a solution to the problem.
  10. The Commissioner: The Commissioner is a high-ranking British colonial government official responsible for overseeing the colony’s affairs. He often clashes with Ezeulu over issues of authority and control.

Conclusion

In the end, Arrow of God tells the story of a man torn between two worlds. Ezeulu is a man of great power and influence, but he is also a man of great complexity and inner conflict. He is deeply connected to his traditional Igbo culture, but he is also drawn to the modern world and its opportunities. Ultimately, Ezeulu must choose between these two worlds and decide which path will lead him to true fulfillment and meaning. Despite his challenges, Ezeulu ultimately remains a strong and resilient figure, standing tall as a symbol of hope and strength for his people.

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