Thursday, September 21, 2006

Green the extreme or Green the American

In No Longer at Ease, the character of Mr. Green is an example of an extreme response to the character of Obi and Obi's situation. However, I think it is also important to view Green as an example of what many would consider the American way. The reactions that Mr. Green has are not dissimilar to those of many Americans, including us college students. One being his response to race in his office. Another being his reaction to Africa as a country. And finally, the question of how much effort he should put into helping those people who are less fortunate than he is.

The response that Mr. Green has to the African race is one of the more harsh scenes within the text. "'The African man is corrupt through and through...I'm all for equality and all that. I for one would hate to live in South Africa. But equality won't alter facts.'"(3-4) This reaction the African's situation seems to be one that has been echoed throughout United States history. This can be clearly seen in the court case, Plessy V. Ferguson, where, although the United States want thing to be "fair" for African Americans, they would not allow them to integrate with Caucasian students. This is only one example of this sort of outlook. One of the major purposes of the Civil Rights movement was to create equality between blacks and whites, even though slavery had been illegal for almost one hundred years. Many Americans believed that despite being granted human rights, the African did not deserve to be completely equal the Caucasian man.

Or for a more recent controversial issue, one could compare Mr. Green to a proponent of stronger immigration laws. "Education for what? To get as much as they can fro themselves and their family. Not the least bit interested in the millions of their countrymen who die every day from hunger and disease,"(132). By twerking this speech by only a few words, one could easily see how this could apply to an American man discussing the immigrants from Central and South America, who have recently been such an issue within the US Congress. Mr. Green may be seen as an extreme in Obi's case but the similarities he has to many American men and women makes him less of an extreme and more of an American reality.

A final strong example of similarities between Mr. Green and many United States citizens is his reaction the entire country of Africa. "It was clear he loved Africa, but only Africa of a kind; the Africa of Charles, the messenger, the Africa of his gardenboy and steward boy...He must have come originally with an ideal-to bring light to the heart of darkness,"(121). Many seem to believe that this is the view the United States has on many countries, especially, most recently, Iraq. Many believed that the United States would overthrow Saddam Hussein, show the citizens what democracy was like, and they would automatically love it and the United States would have saved the day, bringing light to Iraq's darkness. However, although we now know that this is not the case, there are still many who believe they alone can change the world. Even within service and volunteer opportunities, many come into a non-profit agency thinking that they will "make it work". Again, this proves that although Mr. Green may have been an extreme response to Obi's situation, he might not have been as extreme as we would like to believe.

Although when one reads Achebe's book, No Longer at Ease, and has such a strong and adverse reaction to the character of Mr. Green, it would not be very long to see that this is not an entirely fictional character. Clearly Achebe might have experienced a Mr. Green in his life. And that would make the reader feel a little bit better, because, yes, that might have been Achebe's reality, but we know better in the United States. However, that does not seem to be the case. Although Obi was facing extremes in Nigeria, it seems that the United States has a few of its own extremes to face.