“Dead Men’s Path” by Chinua Achebe is a story that juxtaposes the traditions of an African village with the contemporary ideas of the new, young schoolmaster, Michael Obi. The language used by the narrator emphasizes this divide. Michael is strong in his convictions, which is evident early in the story when the narrator says, “He was outspoken in his condemnation of the narrow views of these older and often less educated ones.”
These views are exposed when Obi speaks to one of his teachers about the ancient path through the schoolyard even though the teacher attempts to explain how the path is significant to the villagers. In his sarcastic tone, Michael Obi makes it clear that it is unacceptable. The teacher informs the headmaster that there was trouble the last time they tried to close the path.
“It amazes me,” said Obi to one of his teachers who had been three years in the school, “That you people allowed the villagers to make use of this footpath. It is simply incredible.”
When Obi meets with the village priest, who is an old man, the younger man once again shows his distain saying about the seldom use path, “We cannot allow people to make a highway of our school compound.” As the priest tries to explain why the path is necessary Michael listens with a smug look on his face and then, tells the priest in emphatic language that his forward thinking school cannot tolerate such beliefs.
Michael Obi sarcasm and air of superiority are emphasized through his dialogue with people and his distain is repaid with disaster.