How do the stories "Dead Men's Path" by Chinua Achebe and "The Man to Send Rain Clouds" by Leslie Marmon Silko use setting to create conflicts for their characters?
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The two stories “Dead Men’s Path” by Chinua Achebe and “The Man to Send Rain Clouds” by Leslie Marmon Silko focus on two opposing ideas that the main characters find difficult to mesh. When cultures clash or generations do not understand each other, the consequences may be long-lasting.
“Dead Men’s Path” takes place in French colonized West Africa. Missionaries were sent to expand the educational system on a local level. Michael Obi, a young educator, has exciting ideas to modernize the school of which he has been assigned to be the headmaster.
Initially, Obi seems to be making great progress. He is looking forward to his supervisor's visit to show him what progress has been made. One of the ideas that Obi had was to improve the looks of the school. He planted several areas in the compound with flowers which made the school much more attractive.
Obi runs into problems when he ignores the religious practices of the villagers. Without knowing it, he blocks off a spiritual crossing path which leads to the graveyard. The path has been used for generations. He sees an old woman using the path and is appalled when she treks across the school compound. To prevent the use of the school yard as a path, Obi makes a plan.
Heavy sticks were planted closely across the path at the two places where it entered and left the school premises. These were further strengthened with barbed wire.
An old priest comes to reason with the schoolmaster. The priest warns that if Obi prohibits the use of the path, then Obi will cut "the path of children coming in to be born." Obi ridicules the elder, informing him that the purpose of the school is to eradicate such beliefs and to "teach our children to laugh at such ideas.”
One day, the headmaster discovers that the gardens have been destroyed and one of the buildings has been brought down. The supervisor visits on that day. He criticizes the look of the school and the headmaster for not working with the people.
The themes of traditions versus modern ideas struggle to work together. Change is hard to accept. The headmaster needs to work harder to satisfy the people who live in his village.
“The Man to Send Rain Clouds” centers on cultural conflicts. An old shepherd dies with his herd. His grandsons come to take him home to bury him. They prepare his body in a traditional way with colors and feathers.
The grandsons do not really trust the Catholic priest who inquires about their grandfather. They do not tell him that he is dead. When they arrive at home, with their wives, they prepare the old man for his funeral. All of the Native Americans come to the funeral. It is winter and the ground is hard. After the funeral, the men go to dig his grave.
One of the wives feels as though the ground should have holy water placed on it. The grandson agrees to go to talk to the priest. At first, he refuses to use the holy water. Then, he realizes that his may be a way to break through the barrier between their beliefs, so the priest goes and puts holy water all over the grave.
The priest really does care for the Native Americans in his parish. He wants to be a part of their lives. He chose to work with the people. This may bridge the gap to bring more Indians into his church.
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