In The Great Ponds, Elechi Amadi depicts a conflict between two Nigerian villages, Aliakoro and Chiolu. This conflict begins as a dispute over fishing rights in a pond and is largely based on the pride and egotism of the leading members of each community, all of whom consider it shameful to back down or negotiate. As the conflict escalates, the first battles are portrayed in a Homeric light, with the opportunity to display courage and win glory. However, the war between the two tribes quickly becomes much more squalid and destructive, ending in misery for both sides.
The book is an intricate depiction of two traditional Nigerian societies in peace and war. However, it also reflects wider society, since the dynamics of conflict and tribalism are much the same everywhere. First, conflicts of ego between those in high places often have dire consequences.
Second, it is a well-attested phenomenon that societies that have not endured a war for a long time are often eager to start one and that they generally do so in a flurry of romantic patriotism. The experience of war, however, quickly sours the mood. Tribalism is also a feature of every society in the world, with political conflicts often marked by mindless tribal loyalty on both sides, regardless of the rights and wrongs of the matter.