In "Dead Men's Path," why does the priest insist on keeping the path open?

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In "Dead Men's Path," the village priest gives a number of reasons why the villagers should continue using the path. He says that the whole life of the village depends on it. Dead relatives depart and the villagers' ancestors visit them by it. It is also the path of children coming in to be born.

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The path of the story's title is a longstanding fixture of the village. It's more than just a path, though: it's a physical expression of the villagers' traditional beliefs. As such, it must be protected from those like Mr. Obi who have nothing but contempt for the old traditions.

This young teacher, imbued with progressive ideals, has closed the path in order to prevent people from walking through the school gardens. As one can imagine, the locals take offense at this interference with their ancient spiritual beliefs.

In his conversation with Mr. Obi, the village priest tries to convey to him the immense spiritual importance of the path. He argues that the whole life of the village is dependent on it. Furthermore, dead relatives depart this mortal world via the path, and ancestors visit through it. Most importantly of all, the path is the path of children coming to be born.

One can see from this exchange just how important the path is to the local villagers. It provides a symbolic connection between past, present, and future, the endless cycle of death and rebirth.

Mr. Obi, however, isn't impressed. He sees the villagers' beliefs as just so much superstitious nonsense, which he intends to eradicate through education.

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