Thursday, September 21, 2006

Ibo vs. English

Chinua Achebe’s motif of language is a major theme in No Longer At Ease. Obi is torn between the two languages of Ibo and English, on a larger scale: his native culture and the English culture. It is referenced numerous times that Obi is much more comfortable speaking his native language with his native Ibo people, than being submitted to the English language. When Clara firsts speaks Ibo to Obi, he interprets what she has said to “we belong together: we speak the same language” (Achebe 29). Toward the beginning of the novel, one can see how he has close ties to his home, but as the novel progresses, although he tries to hold on to some Ibo traditions, he ends up sacrificing and cutting ties with what he once had believed in, or what his people still believe in.

Obi forfeits Ibo morals including allowing Clara to have an abortion and wanting to marry her in the first place. Obi’s mind is set to marry Clara, even though she is an osu. Obi is determined to argue with his father with the language of Christianity, something he feels his father will relate with, to convince him to let him marry Clara, and to prove that it is something that is not wrong. “I don’t think it [marrying an osu] matters. We are Christians” (Achebe 151). Obi criticizes his ignorant grandfathers similar to when he criticized the ignorant colonialists.

When the world seems to be against Obi, he starts loosing his roots. Submitting to accepting bribes, he lives comfortably and forgets his guilt and his morals as an Ibo. When he admits how he has been living is wrong, he is arrested. Caught in the middle of two cities, languages, and cultures, it seems as if Obi has lost and compromised his morals. I do not believe that all has been lost. Obi was just confused with his double heritage of Ibo and English.