Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

No Longer at Ease is set in colonial Nigeria on the verge of independence, primarily Lagos, an urban world that has been fully infected by European culture. Yet this does not mean that the traditional influences have disappeared. Umuofians who live and work in Lagos attempt to preserve the traditional unity of the clan through the Umuofian Progressive Union. The result of this mixture, as seen through the consciousness of Obi Okonkwo, is an urban jungle in which the worst aspects of Western culture and traditional culture predominate. In Lagos, urbanization has resulted in filth and crowding. The centralization of government has led to inefficiency and corruption. The traditional communal action of Igbo society has become a narrow pursuit of advantage that condones corruption if it is done for the good of the group. In short, the coherent system of values that existed in precolonial Nigerian cultures has been shattered.

In Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe dramatizes the initial encroachments of Christianity, but in No Longer at Ease, the Christian ideal is being replaced by the matched goals of education and power. In effect, out of the struggle between two value systems, a culture without values has appeared. It is therefore fitting that Achebe’s title is drawn from William Butler Yeats’s “Sailing to Byzantium,” in which the wise men return to mundane reality, for, like the wise men, Obi and the nation are trapped...

(The entire section is 469 words.)