Prose: Dead Men's Path By Chinua Achebe

This piece was originally published in 1953, and was later published in Literature: A Pocket Anthology, 4th Edition. The full document linked below also provides Achebe's perspective on a 'crossroads of culture' — that is, the juxtaposition of indigenous traditions, language and religions against modernity and colonial influences. Image: Romare Bearden. 

Michael Obi’s hopes were fulfilled much earlier than he had expected. He was appointed headmaster of Ndume Central School in January 1949. It had always been an unprogressive school, so the Mission authorities decided to send a  young and energetic man to run it. Obi accepted this responsibility with enthusiasm. He had many wonderful ideas and this was an opportunity to put them into practice. He had had sound secondary school education which designated him a ”pivotal teacher” in the official records and set him apart from the other headmasters in the mission field. He was outspoken in his condemnation of the narrow views of these older and often less­ educated ones.

”We shall make a good job of it, shan’t we?” he asked his young wife when they first heard the joyful news of his promotion.

”We shall do our best,” she replied. “We shall have such beautiful gardens and everything will be  just modern and  delightful . . . “ In their two years of married life she had become completely infected by his passion for “modern methods” and his denigration of “these old and superannuated people in the teaching field who would be better employed as traders in the Onitsha mar­ket.”

PDF version sourced from journal (unknown) via Sabanci Universitesi (online).


Other works that explore these crossroads:

Achebe's Things Fall Apart and Arrow Of GodNdibe's Arrows Of Rain