Critical Context

Arrow of God has been the subject of extremely contrasting commentary. It is Achebe’s most complex exposition of traditional Igbo religious beliefs, and in it he makes extensive use of Igbo proverbs. Some critics have responded to this effort by calling the novel obscure or suggesting that his gnomic method is unintentionally humorous. His digressive manner of building an awareness of Igbo culture has caused others to see Arrow of God as an example of Achebe’s poor narrative skills. Yet many critics believe that Arrow of God is Achebe’s masterpiece, a work in which he fully realizes the Igbo culture while thoughtfully exploring the universal question of authority. Undoubtedly, Arrow of God reflects Achebe’s rejection of the European stereotype of the alienated artist, for in this work, as in his other novels, he attempts to create art that is communal, functional, and utilitarian.

Although Achebe returned to a historical setting in Arrow of God after portraying contemporary Nigeria in No Longer at Ease, the problems that afflict Umuaro and the Chief Priest of Ulu related directly to the duality of the newly independent Nigeria in which Achebe wrote his novel. To this extent, therefore, Arrow of God is a compromise between the historicism of Things Fall Apart and the contemporaneity of No Longer at Ease.

In 1966, Achebe published A Man of the People, a satiric attack on the corruption of Nigerian politics, a novel which depicts the problems that led to the Nigerian Civil War. After reunification, Achebe turned away from the novel and focused his energies on essays, lectures, poetry, and some short fiction.