What does the garden in "Dead Man's Path" symbolize?

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gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The garden inside the Ndume School's compound symbolizes Nancy and Michael's dream of reforming the old school by making it modern and beautiful. Achebe writes that Nancy's "dream-garden" had various plants, which immediately blossomed with the first rains of the season. One day, an older woman from the village walks directly through the marigold flowerbed and the hedges as she follows the ancestral village path to the traditional burial grounds. Walking through the garden symbolizes how the villagers do not respect or share the same dreams as Michael and Nancy. Michael Obi then blocks the walking path to prevent villagers from crossing through the school's property. After the village priest visits Michael Obi and attempts to persuade him to open the walking path, a young woman dies during childbirth. In order to appease their ancestors, the villagers tear up the hedges, destroy the garden, and pull down a school building. The torn hedges and destroyed garden symbolize the end of Michael and Nancy's dream of reforming and modernizing the school.