"Dead Men's Path" is a short story by Chinua Achebe . It tells the story of Michael Obi, the new headmaster at Ndume Central School. Michael is young and zealous about dismantling the school's old traditions. The conflict of the story revolves around a path that the villagers...
"Dead Men's Path" is a short story by Chinua Achebe. It tells the story of Michael Obi, the new headmaster at Ndume Central School. Michael is young and zealous about dismantling the school's old traditions. The conflict of the story revolves around a path that the villagers have used for centuries. The path has ritualistic importance, as it's said to be how old spirits reach the afterlife. It goes through the school grounds, and Michael orders that it be shut down. A village priest comes to convince him otherwise, but Michael is unmoved. After shutting the path down, a young woman dies while giving birth. The town consults a diviner, who says that heavy sacrifices are needed to satisfy spirits who are angry that the ancient path has closed. The next morning when Michael gets to the school, he finds the grounds completely ruined. The flowers have been trampled, hedges are torn up, and a school building has been pulled down.
This story is an interesting look at the differences between extremism and compromise. I would describe Michael Obi as an extremist. He believes that his way is the only way. This belief in an absolute, immovable truth is a major part of what makes an extremist an extremist. Still, having strong beliefs doesn't make someone an extremist on its own. Extremists also refuse to compromise because of the zeal they feel for their beliefs. They essentially tell others how it has to be and don't make any attempts to meet in the middle.
The priest represents compromise. He asks Michael to work with him to keep the path open. However, Michael looks at him with smug satisfaction and insults him. He says the school's purpose is to eradicate beliefs like the priest's.
In the end, Achebe shows us the perils of extremism. Michael's life's work is torn up and trampled on by the villagers when he refuses to compromise. If he would have been willing to work with them, then his dream would still be alive. I think the author is trying to show us that even when an extremist gets his way, forcing his viewpoint upon others will eventually blow up in his face.