What is the primary conflict the headmaster faced in the story "Dead Men's Path"?

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The man versus society conflict is most easily identified in Achebe's short story, "Dead Men's Path." The headmaster, Michael Obi, faces extreme tension with the people of the village. Due to his closing of the footpath through school grounds, the villagers become infuriated because they see the footpath as the route of arriving babies and of departing elders. When a mother dies in childbirth in the village, the villagers are so outraged that they destroy many things at the school. So, we have a man and his wife at odds with the entire village in which they live and work.

However, on a deeper level, Obi is merely a representation of progress and modernization in stark contrast to the traditionalist village. Therefore, the seemingly unresolvable conflict can also be understood as one of ideas rather than man versus another force. As is true with many of Achebe's stories, he makes the motif of convention and change a central idea of the story. This motif is clearly demonstrated through Obi's conversation with the priest. Although the priest advises him to "let the hawk perch and let the eagle perch," Obi cannot bring himself to compromise any of the modern beliefs that he holds so dearly, nor can the villagers abandon the ways of their ancestors. Thus, the reader is presented with an illustration of the unavoidable conflict between ideas that occurs with tradition and progress.

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The primary conflict that Michael Obi faces in Achebe's short story "Dead Man's Path" is a Man vs. Society conflict regarding the issue of whether to reopen the ancestral footpath that runs through his school's compound or keep it closed and risk upsetting the villagers. Michael Obi is depicted as a proud man, who is a staunch proponent of modernity and opposes traditional African culture and beliefs. Michael Obi is compelled to close the villagers' ancestral footpath that leads through the school's compound because he feels that it is a distraction and opposes his stance on modernity and contemporary values. The conflict arises after Obi closes the path and refuses to compromise with the village priest. It is considered a Man vs. Society conflict because Michael Obi opposes the entire village, which is in favor of opening the footpath. After a woman dies during childbirth, the villagers destroy the school's grounds and Michael Obi is fired from his position as headmaster.

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This is primarily a man versus society conflict. In the story, the protagonist is Michael Obi; his main conflict is with the villagers of Ndume.

While the villagers cherish their time-tested and revered religious traditions, Michael views these beliefs as antithetical to modernization and progress. As the new principal, Michael hopes to restructure the academic programs and to revolutionize teaching methods at Ndume Central School.

Michael is enthusiastic about Ndume's future, but he fails to take into account the deep respect for tradition among the village people. In a conversation with a teacher, he laments the use of an unsightly footpath that crosses the school grounds. The teacher relates that the footpath joins the village shrine to a traditional burial place, but Michael ignores the import of what the teacher tells him. He commissions heavy sticks to be deposited at the entrance and exit sections of the footpath, and he orders both sections to be reinforced with barbed wire.

Meanwhile, the village priest begs Michael to reconsider his unforgiving stance. He tells Michael that the dead walk the path to the afterlife by it and that revered ancestors visit the living by it. He also reiterates that newborn children enter the world through the foot path. Michael scoffs at what he considers backward superstitions that have no place in a modern world.

The priest ominously proclaims that both should agree to "let the hawk perch and let the eagle perch." However, Michael is resolute in his stance; he refuses to compromise on the situation.

The impasse is resolved the next morning when Michael wakes up to find the school grounds vandalized, the flower beds destroyed, and one of the school buildings torn down. So, Michael's modernization efforts fail because he neglects to show respect for the entrenched beliefs of the villagers.

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