No Longer at Ease | Study Guide

Chinua Achebe

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Course Hero. "No Longer at Ease Study Guide." Course Hero. 1 Nov. 2019. Web. 28 July 2021. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/No-Longer-at-Ease/>.

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Course Hero. "No Longer at Ease Study Guide." November 1, 2019. Accessed July 28, 2021. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/No-Longer-at-Ease/.

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Course Hero, "No Longer at Ease Study Guide," November 1, 2019, accessed July 28, 2021, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/No-Longer-at-Ease/.

No Longer at Ease | Chapter 10 | Summary

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Summary

It has been a year since Obi started work and a year since he bought his car. Now, his £42 annual car insurance fee is due. Mr. Green had mentioned this to Obi at the start, but Obi forgot about it. Now, Obi doesn't have enough money in the bank to pay the fee. A messenger at the office, Charles Ibe, owes him the paltry sum of 30 shillings. Obi decides to ask his bank for an overdraft of £50 the next morning. Meanwhile, he thinks over all his debts. Last month, he had to send £35 for a hospital bill of his mother's. If he had gotten the four months' grace period from the Umuofia Progressive Union, he might not be in such a fix now. There is also the upkeep of his civil-servant lifestyle, including the car and its driver.

The next day, when he comes back to the office after visiting the bank, the electric bill waits for him. He wants to cry. Thoughts of other expenses come crowding in, such as new tires for the car. The narrator remarks that in six months' time there will be an income-tax bill, which Obi doesn't even realize yet.

Obi lunches at home, and then he tells his steward they need to start economizing. Obi will take cold baths, eat less meat, and turn off the refrigerator at night. When he sees Clara that evening, they quarrel. He admits he has money troubles on his mind, and he goes home. At home, he looks at a volume of poetry and at Clara's photograph. When he opens the book of poems, a slip of paper falls out. On it is a poem Obi wrote about Nigeria while he was in London in 1955. He smiles, and then he settles back to read his favorite poem, British poet A.E. Housman's (1859–1936) "Easter Hymn" (posthumous).

Analysis

This chapter demonstrates the grinding anguish of money problems. As soon as one expense occurs to Obi, others crowd in. The next day when yet another expense crops up, the electric bill, it blindsides him. The narrator usually sticks close to Obi's perspective, but here the narrator intervenes to point out that Obi's financial situation is even worse than he realizes, because he hasn't taken account of income tax.

Chinua Achebe makes the decision to reproduce, in full, the letter from Charles Ibe asking for a loan of 30 shillings. This is surprising because Charles Ibe is not an important character and this amount of money can make no difference to Obi. But the way Charles Ibe grovels in the letter to his perceived superior, Obi, is instructive. It mirrors the position Obi will soon be in, asking a bank manager for an overdraft. In fact, since the scene with the bank manager is not dramatized, Charles Ibe's letter stands in for that scene. In the spectacle of Charles Ibe prostrating himself before Obi, one can imagine echoes of the scene between Obi and his bank manager. Obi would not use Charles Ibe's clumsy and servile language: "It is absolutely deplorable to me hence I have to beg you respectfully to render me with help." But both men suffer under the same illusion. They think if they appeal to the right authority, their situation will change. But just as Charles Ibe's life is unlikely to be changed by 30 shillings, the £50 overdraft won't permanently change Obi's situation.

When Obi gets home after arguing with Clara, he encounters two poems: his own "Nigeria" and A.E. Housman's "Easter Hymn," which is Obi's "favorite poem." Housman's "Easter Hymn" is addressed to Jesus Christ, though it does not address him by name. The poem has two stanzas or strophes. In the first stanza, the poem's speaker speculates that Jesus might be dead, might not have been raised from the dead. In the second stanza, the speaker speculates that Jesus might be alive, resurrected. In the first stanza, the speaker says that if Jesus doesn't know he is "dead in vain," then Jesus should go on "sleeping." His death would have been in vain because the world is not saved but corrupt. In the second stanza, the speaker says if Jesus is resurrected, then he should come down "hither out of heaven and see and save."

The speaker in "Easter Hymn" is consistent in both stanzas: the world needs saving. The speaker is like Clara in Chapter 9, who said, "Na so this world be." The world is corrupt, according to the speaker of Housman's poem. Even if Jesus were resurrected, according to the speaker, there is plenty left for him to do. The world has not been saved yet, according to Housman's poem.

Obi's poem, written out in full in Chapter 10, is superficially similar to Housman's. It also has two stanzas, and it is addressed to God. However, the speaker of this poem does not present two different viewpoints. In both stanzas, he asks God to bless Nigeria. Obi wrote this before he became an atheist. The poem also ends with Obi's vision of a united Nigeria, free of corruption and tribalism: "Forgetting region, tribe or speech / But caring always each for each." Just as Obi's religious faith has already come apart, his faith in society is about to be tested. Also, the story of Obi resembles the structure of Housman's poem, in that Obi moves from one perspective on faith to another.

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