How are Micheal Obi and the priest different in "Dead Man's Path"?   

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The entire conflict of this incredibly short story comes from the clashing viewpoints of Michael Obi and the priest of the village near his school. When Obi constructs his school, it is a source of personal pride—the likes of which he has never felt before. He has his wife plant all manner of gardens on the campus, and he is extremely agitated when he sees an old villager walking through the campus on the ancestral footpath.

Obi is guided by an intense zeal for progress. He isn't necessarily wrong, but he has no patience for beliefs that he considers to be nothing more than laughable superstitions. He even tells the priest that the entire purpose of his school is to teach children to laugh at such quaint notions. The priest doesn't necessarily disagree with him but understands the importance of preserving tradition, particularly for people who have operated by it their whole life. Both men want what is best for the village, but the priest is respectful of the established beliefs of his people.

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The most obvious differences between Michael Obi and the priest lie within their worldviews. Michael is a man of modernity who believes that progress and forward-thinking take precedence over traditional worldviews. That being said, Michael's progressive mentality leaves him rather closed-minded and insensitive to traditional beliefs, as he believes that his school's duty is to "teach your children to laugh at such ideas."

As opposed to Michael's more contemporary mindset, the priest is a traditional man whose beliefs are grounded in spirituality and the customs of the past. While Michael believes that his school is of the utmost importance to the village, the priest contends that the path that connects the village shrine to the burial grounds is central to the village. The priest is also of a more respectful disposition, as he states that does not wish to quarrel. He simply wants the path to be restored out of respect for the village's traditional ways.

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Michael Obi is depicted as a young, enthusiastic headmaster who is determined to change the culture of the traditional African village by eradicating ancestral customs and beliefs. He is a strong proponent of modernity and wishes to make the Ndume Central School a contemporary learning institution. After closing the ancestral footpath, which runs through the school's compound, Obi reveals his authoritative, intolerant personality by refusing to listen to the village priest's suggestion to reopen the path.

In contrast, the village priest is portrayed as a wise, respectful man who reveres his traditional culture and beliefs. When he petitions Michael Obi to open the village footpath, he demonstrates his tolerant personality by saying, "let the hawk perch and let the eagle perch" (Achebe, 3). Unfortunately, Michael Obi is too stubborn and arrogant to reopen the footpath, which results in the destruction of his school's grounds.

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Michael Obi and the priest from the village near the school are similar in that both want what is best for the village and the people in it. They differ in what they believe is best for the village and how they approach changing their community.

Michael Obi represents contemporary culture. He is, as Achebe says, "young and enthusiastic." He wants to change the school, which has always been "unprogressive." Unsurprisingly, Michael believes in progress, and in progressive changes. He wants things to be modern. He thinks that means things should be rational. This means there should be explicit reasons for things, private property should be respected, and the superstitions of the past (like the path walked by the dead) should be rooted out and abandoned.

The priest represents continuity, history, and community. He wants the people of the village to be able to do what they have always done. Of the two, the priest shows more respect for others and their beliefs.

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