Chinua Achebe's 'Dead Men's Path'

Is a story that references the conflict between traditional and modern values, the Christian principles that get introduced to the villagers of Ndume by Michael Obi and his wife result in an act of resistance. The story encompasses the struggle in early colonialism and the fight for the ancient cultural and religious beliefs to remain in a modern world. Michael Obi, a blend of African and European origins, proven in his name, is the protagonist of “Dead Men’s Path.” Obi had very progressive international standards and a strong history and connection to local customs.

Michael, on a small scale, represents the excess of government bureaucracy in his time.  He was able to see the increasing presence of European culture in Africa and, to increase his stature, he created an agenda to inflict “modern methods” on his community with a disregard for their cultural realities.

Michael Obi’s view of the world is rational, and he is more comfortable living in abstract thought compared to reality, unaware and incapable of understanding emotion, intuition, and custom.

He is unaware of people’s emotions; for example, Obi attempts to eliminate a footpath that crosses through school property by building a fence which Priest Ani and the locals see as a trail used for the dead and unborn to enter and exit the village. With his rationality and lacking, empathy Obi brings the conversation to Priest Ani, who is more rational and open-minded than Michael himself. Priest Ani responds to Obi with patience and clarity, stating, “What you say may be true, but we follow the practices of our fathers.

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”  Priest Ani is a man of patience, empathy, self-awareness, and rationality. Ani was able to be humble in saying that Obi’s claims may be credible and state that his values and those he preaches will not change.

In reaction to Obi’s refusal to remove the gate he is extremely patient and gives Michael multiple opportunities to respect the religious beliefs of his village and work around them. The Priest was not opposed to Michael’s promotion of new, modern ideals in school, he allowed it to be taught. Michael fails with his colonization of Nudme because he cannot comprehend how deep these traditional beliefs are rooted in the villagers’ minds that in trying to eradicate and replace them with his European Christian ways he is faced with an overpowering resistance lead by Priest Ani. His lack of respect for their values stirs up a huge conflict which leads to the failure of his project and proving disastrous for both the school and his career. Priest Ani and Michael Obi share a similar value system. They both differ in what they believe is best for the villagers, Obi wanting them to encompass a new lifestyle involving modern ideals and the Priest, believing that their culture and traditional lifestyle is one not in need of change.

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Chinua Achebe's 'Dead Men's Path'. (2021, Dec 17). Retrieved from

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