Study Guide

Home and Exile

by Chinua Achebe

Home and Exile Summary

Summary (Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

The title Home and Exile summarizes the essence of this work: Achebe’s discovery of Igbo values and ways as his true home, despite years abroad, an exile paralleling the Igbo experiences with oppressive European literature undermining their sense of worth, defining them as primitive savages, and justifying European ways as superior. The book consists of three lectures delivered over a three-day period, December 9-11, 1998, at Harvard University: “My Home Under Imperial Fire,” “The Empire Fights Back,” and “Today, the Balance of Stories.”

The first essay records Achebe’s youthful discovery of Nigeria as his spiritual and intellectual home when his missionary family retired and returned to their ancestral home. Achebe developed a love of Igbo ways and a deep-seated desire to attack denigrators. He rejects the word “tribe” as a racist misnomer, asserting that the Igbo are neither “primitive” nor bound by blood ties, with their language complex, including major and minor dialects, and their sociopolitical identity purposefully defined by disdain for the concept of a single ruler. He finds the term “nation” more appropriate for a loose federation of people with strong individual identities, loyalty to independent towns or ministates, a love of competition and controversy, and a marketing network for disseminating goods and news. He emphasizes the Igbo love of song, dance, proverbs, and storytelling and so deep-seated a tolerance of...

(The entire section is 587 words.)