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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

Michael Obi is a young, zealous headmaster who is enthusiastic about modernizing the Ndume Central school and eradicating the traditional beliefs and customs of the local villagers. He takes his position as headmaster seriously and is completely intolerant toward the “superannuated people.” Achebe describes Michael Obi’s passion for reforming the school and elaborates on his main goals by writing,

Ndume School was backward in every sense of the word. Mr. Obi put his whole life into the work, and his wife hers too. He had two aims. A high standard of teaching was insisted upon, and the school compound was to be turned into a place of beauty.

After Michael Obi blocks the villagers’ ancestral footpath, which travels through the school’s compound, the village priest, Ani, petitions him to reopen the path. When the village priest explains the footpath’s significance to the villagers, Michael Obi illustrates his intolerant personality by saying,

The whole purpose of our school . . . is to eradicate just such beliefs as that. Dead men do not require footpaths. The whole idea is just fantastic. Our duty is to teach your children to laugh at such ideas.

The village priest responds to Michael Obi's prejudiced comments by using a powerful metaphor to describe the ideal, tolerant relationship between modernity and traditional beliefs. The village priest tells Michael Obi, “let the hawk perch and let the eagle perch.”

After Michael Obi refuses to reopen the ancestral footpath, a woman dies during childbirth, and the villagers destroy the beautiful compound grounds. The next day, a white supervisor visits the Ndume Central School to conduct an inspection and witnesses the destruction. He proceeds to write a scathing report about the “tribal-war situation developing between the school and the village, arising in part from the misguided zeal of the new headmaster.”

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