Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Augustine and Achebe

Achebe’s novel, No Longer at Ease, mainly focuses on two distinct places, the village in Nigeria where the Ibo tribe lives and the city of London, England. In the excerpt we read on Augustine’s City of God, Augustine describes the city of Jerusalem as an earthly city pointing toward the heavenly city. Later in the essay he describes how each earthly city is mirrored after the heavenly city. During my reading of Achebe’s novel I attempted to discern which city or place that Obi resides in mirrors the heavenly city more strongly.

The village of Ibo, with the exception of Obi’s family, believed in pagan gods. Though they believed in pagan gods rather than the Christian God that did not make them any less religious. They displayed genuine concern for others and took death very seriously. The God that Augustine discusses in his essay is the God of Christianity and the God that Obi’s family believed in. This fact elevates them closer to the heavenly city in Augustine’s beliefs, yet ultimately doesn’t make them any more or less religious than those tribesmen who celebrated the pagan gods. The city of London had lost much of its religion the elevation of importance of the business place. When Obi returns from London he states that, “he had very little religion nowadays” (27.) To the European men such as Mr. Green, money is much more important than religion.

I thought it was very interesting, while looking at this comparison, how the village of Ibo looked upon the city of London versus how the city actually was. Most of the Ibo people did not have enough money to reach London so they believed it to be the land of opportunity, similar to how the pilgrims in Augustine’s essay viewed the heavenly city. The tribesman believed that anyone could be someone here and for that reason they praised Obi once he returned from the promise land. In opposition to the tribesmen the readers understands that all is not gained while in London.

The city of Anastasia (12) in Calvino’s Invisible Cities describes a glittering, golden city which “appears to you as a whole where no desire is lost and of which you are a part, and since it enjoys everything you do not enjoy, you can do nothing but inhabit this desire and be content.” This view of Anastasia is the same view the Ibo tribesmen have of London, and European cities in general. In actuality Anastasia was the “treacherous city” in which you work “eight hours a day” and “believe you are enjoying Anastasia wholly when you are only its slave.” Mr. Green, Obi’s boss, exemplifies the “slave” talked of in Anastasia. He believes that he is so righteous and superior to the Nigerians he works with but in actuality is just a slave to money. Though the Ibo village did not possess Western education or religion I found it to more closely mirror the heavenly city. The people of the tribe devoted their lives not to material possessions but to each other.