Unlike his great-grandfather, the Okonkwo of Things Fall Apart, Obi is a passive man. Whereas Okonkwo aggressively struggled to make his way in the world and impose his will upon it, Obi is indecisive, unable to free himself from the conflicting influences of the people and events around him.
To a large extent, this passivity is a result of Obi’s alienation. He has been shaped by the traditional Igbo culture of Umuofia, the Christianity of his father, the idealism of English literature, and the corrupt sophistication of Lagos, but he is at ease nowhere. As a child in Umuofia, he dreams of the sparkling lights of Lagos. In England, he writes pastoral visions of an idealized Nigeria. Disillusioned by the corruption of Lagos, he returns to his home village only to witness a lorry driver attempting to bribe a policeman and to be greeted by his parents’ rejection of his proposed marriage. Obi naively tries to maintain the idea of his own integrity as a detribalized, rational, thoroughly modern man, but his reintegration into Nigeria is a failure, because he is unable to assimilate successfully any of the competing cultures through which he passes. He finds it impossible to mediate the conflicting duties that are thrust upon him, and his steady progress in the novel is toward despair and withdrawal.
Obi’s paralyzing cultural ambivalence leaves him hanging between the traditional Igbo acceptance of communal needs and the European...
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