In No Longer at Ease, set in Nigeria just prior to independence, Achebe extends his history of the Okonkwo family. Here the central character is Obi Okonkwo, grandson of the tragic hero of Things Fall Apart. This Okonkwo has been raised a Christian and has been educated at the university in England. Like many of his peers, he has left the bush behind for a position as a civil servant in Lagos, Nigeria's largest city. "No Longer at Ease deals with the plight of this new generation of Nigerians, " observes Eustace Palmer, "who, having been exposed to education in the western world and therefore largely cut off from their roots in traditional society, discover, on their return, that the demands of tradition are still strong, and are hopelessly caught in the clash between the old and the new." Many, faced with this internal conflict, succomb to corruption, Obi is no exception. "The novel opens with Obi on trial for accepting bribes when a civil servant, " notes G.D. Killam, "and the book takes the form of a long flashback."
Achebe carefully shapes the language in this novel, to inform, but also to transport the reader to Africa. "It is through [his characters'] use of language that we are able to enter their world and share their experiences," writes Shatto Arthur Gakwandi in The Novel and Contemporary Experience in Africa. Gakwandi adds, "Through [Achebe's] keen sensitivity to the way people express themselves and his delicate choice of idiom, the author illuminates for us the thoughts and attitudes of a whole range of Nigerian social strata," The impact of Achebe's style is such that, as John Coleman observes in the Spectator, his "novel moves towards its inevitable catastrophe with classic directness. Nothing is wasted and it is only after the sad, understated close that one realizes, once again how much of the Nigerian context has been touched, from the prejudice and corruption of Lagos to the warm, homiletic simplicities of life."
[from Contemporary Authors]
Last Modified: 12 March 2002