Explain the conflict of reality versus perception in "Dead Men's Path."

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The conflict of reality versus perception in "Dead Men's Path " seems simple enough at first. It certainly appears simple to Michael Obi. In his view, he is the reforming headmaster who has come to enlighten the backward people of Ndume and teach their children to laugh at their...

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The conflict of reality versus perception in "Dead Men's Path" seems simple enough at first. It certainly appears simple to Michael Obi. In his view, he is the reforming headmaster who has come to enlighten the backward people of Ndume and teach their children to laugh at their superstitious beliefs. The reality is that dead men and unborn children do not require a footpath, and it is only the warped perception of the village priest and his followers which makes them cling to this foolish belief.

However, Michael Obi fails to appreciate that, whatever the truth of the belief, the people's attachment to and veneration of that belief is a reality, for which they are prepared to fight. Obi's perception is actually less realistic than that of the village priest, who advocates tolerance and pragmatism. The priest does not attempt to convince Obi that the local beliefs about the path are true. Indeed, he may not believe them himself. Instead he points out that allowing the people to use the path will cost very little, while creating conflict may cause disaster. This is realistic and wise. Michael Obi, in sharp contrast, is a zealot who believes that his perception is the only possible reality, a mistake which brings about his downfall.

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