No Longer At Ease


No Longer at Ease, which received the Nigerian National Trophy for Literature, focuses on a young Nigerian man, Obi Okonkwo, who has lost connection with his African heritage and develops almost a hatred for the ruling elite, of which he's a part. After going away to England to get an education he hopes he can use to benefit all Nigerians, he returns home and finds that the country has lost all that he believed in. Because of walls set in front of him such as, the neo-colonial values of the Europeans, he wasn't able to do the things he wanted to for his people. No Longer at Ease is a sequel to "Things Fall Apart", another novel written by Achebe.

Born November 16th, 1930, Chinua Achebe was destined to write inspiring, meaningful, and mind-blowing novels. He attented the University at Ibadan where he realized "...the story we had to tell could not be told for us by anyone else no matter how gifted or well intentioned." ( "Name for Victoria")


The theme of No Longer at Ease derives from the legacy for African cultures of colonial domination by Europeans. No Longer at Ease brings to life a character that receives a European-oriented education that buries his culture, forcing him to loose sight of where he comes from, who he is, and where he's going. No Longer at Ease shares a relationship with Things Fall Apart, in that, it is the ending to Okonkwo's ( the main character in both "No Longer at Ease" and "Things Fall Apart") experiencing some trouble conforming to the changes brought by the Europeans. In Things Fall Apart, Okonkwo struggles to understanding those changes and the fact that things aren't as they always were.

Achebe emphasizes how Europeans thrust their ways, traditions, and values, upon Africans and the distruction and dislocation the colonial process brought.


Albert Chinualumogu Achebe wrote the novels,Things Fall Apart, No Longer At Ease", and "Arrow of God" into an "African Trilogy" (BBC Education) that tell the early history of British colonialism in Nigeria from an afro-centric perspective. Because of their realistic cultural themes, these novels would are good choices for teachers or students to gain a better understanding of the indigenous Afrians and reasons for their struggle.


"Forgetting region, tribe or speech, But caring always each for each" (Achebe 103). This line stood out in the novel because it was so honest and true and a desire of anyone who just wanted nothing more than reconciliation.

This novel, like many of Achebe's others, discusses the difficulty of the post-colonial legacy, particularly the African's. Achebe, who is considered to be the finest of the Nigerian novelist tells the story in a "holding my head up high in the face of defeat" kind of way. Christian and Nigerian, Obi Okonkwo is stuck. He returns home only to find that there is an even stronger push to accept European values. Now he has a westernized education that landed him a job that pays well but he has all the expectations of his people on his back. Also he has fallen in love with an osu woman --that just makes matters worse while he struggles to pay bills and repay money he's borrowed. Not only that but his mothers takes ill and he's faced with committing the sin of giving in to temptation. Obi has to put his priorities in order but can't decide because of the traditions of his people and the new ways of the Western world.

Many of his people have just let down their guard, couldn't resist anymore and have allowed corruption to take place. He doesn't hold on much longer after they fall. Okonkwo's situation caught between two cultures in Things Fall Apart, establishes what's ahead for this next generation of Nigerians. To understand or feel what Obi was going through with his people, is to put yourself in the modern African dilemma. The English language novel also enacts this dilemma, as Achebe provides us as reader's a window to Nigeria through the language of the colonial power. Yet, even in this English language novel, Nigerian customs are conveyed and national history is told. Achebe develops the Nigerian hold on their cultural history and heritage and the rich sense of unity that bonds their culture.

Nigerian's Cultural Values and Influences

The Nigerian heritage dates back to over 2000 years ago. "The Nigerian's cultural heritage is influenced by various other indigenous ethnic groups and importantly European and Arab influences." Their great respect for elders is said to be to the point of "...semi-verneration..."


Ibo mask, Ibo drumb, Ibo Maternity Figure

The masks are face masks to be worn by the special individuals who preform sacred rituals for the welfare of the tribe. Some are hung on the walls of the chamber they're used in. In Africa the artist who does the handcrafting and carving may have to work for two or three years in the studio of a master carver and pay him for his apprenticeship. Usuallly this tradition of carving is passed down from father to son. "When an Ibo potter accidently struck a second hole in one of his pots, he discovered a resonant sound from the clay vessel and the drum came to be used in Ibo ceremonial music."


**"Crisis in the soul"

African Post-colonial Literature that discusses Achebe's "No Longer at Ease". Also gives a good summary of his background and inspirations.

***Achebe's essays on "Things Fall Apart"

Gives good help for writing essays about Achebe's novel and a better understanding of "Things Fall Apart" and events leading to "No Longer at Ease".



Reading list for class use.

Ranging from authors like Achebe, Ambrose Bierce to E.M. Forster to Washington Irving. It can be used with high school or college level classes.

Ancient Africa

A site for teaching about the history behind ancient tribal masks of Africa. Includes Ancient African links!

African Children's Literature and South African Children Literature

Sites for resources on studies in Africa for elementary grade levels.

Paper Topics:

  • The Indigenous People of Africa
  • African under British Colonial Power

Discussion Questions:

  • How does the tension between the Europeans and Africans concerning the culture and traditions continue after the formal colonial period is over?
  • Achebe emphasizes the fact that when Obi returned home, from getting the "good" education, he had a hard time adjusting to the big changes that were made while he was gone. If someone today were to go away like Obi did and come back home to find that everything he's ever known had been changed how do you think he would react? Would he share the same feelings Obi did? Would it have the same impact on his life as well as his culture?
  • Nigerians feel that it is important to know your heritage and to always be able to define the ethnic culture in Nigeria. Why do you think they value their culture so highly? Do Americans value their culture in the same way? Is this different for minority and majority groups?


  • ojare / leave me alone
  • akara / bean cakes
  • 'aso ebi'/ identical dress
  • garri or qgusi / a kind of soup
  • aghada / European suit
  • chi / personal god
  • ndo / used to greet man whose returned from a long journey; if not heard he feels a if he never returned.
  • osu / town in Accra, Ghana, divivded into four sections
  • Ibo / African Tribe in Nigeria





Colonial & Postcolonial Literary Dialogues

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Page Created by: Nicole Hamilton

Last Updated: March 27, 2002