dead men s path by chinua achebe n.
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Dead Men’s Path By Chinua Achebe . Chinua Achebe was born in a village in eastern Nigeria in 1930. He was the son of a missionary school teacher. He was raised as a devout Christian, with the traditions of a local tribe.

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dead men s path by chinua achebe

Dead Men’s Path By Chinua Achebe

Chinua Achebe was born in a village in eastern Nigeria in 1930.

He was the son of a missionary school teacher.

He was raised as a devout Christian, with the traditions of a local tribe.

He was educated in London, but returned to Africa to complete his education in 1953.

plot summary rising


Michael Obi is appointed to headmaster of the unprogressive Ndume Central School.

Mr. Obi is excited about this opportunity b/c he wants to prove his ability by making the school modern.

Mr. Obi has two goals: implement a high level of education and make the school beautiful.

Later in the story we find Mr. Obi is making great progress towards his goals.

plot summary climbing

The conflict begins when Mr. Obi sees an old village women walking through the flower beds to get to the other side of the campus.

  • After inspecting where the woman crossed he finds a seldom used path.
  • After speaking to a fellow faculty member, Mr. Obi discovers that the path leads from the village to the burial grounds. He also finds out that the school had tried to close the path in the past and some conflict occurred.
  • This part of the story also illustrates the importance of the path to the villagers.
plot summary climbing1

After closing the path a priest comes to speak with Mr. Obi. The priest tells Mr. Obi to reopen the path, saying that the path is important b/c it’s the path for the dead and the new life entering the world.

  • Obi refuses to open the path so the priest leaves.
  • Later in the story a village women dies in child birth, the villagers blame the death on the closed path.
plot summary climax

The villagers destroy the campus as a sacrifice for the death of the woman and child, and to appease their ancestors.


  • The inspection officer comes to the school the day after the night of vandalism.
  • He writes a letter to the state describing the “tribal war” caused by the new headmaster.
  • The reader is lead to believe that Mr. Obi is removed from his position as headmaster of the school.

Tradition is the main theme of Dead Men’s Path.

  • Irony, Symbol, Characterization, and Setting are used to illustrate the theme of this story.
  • Characterization- The main character is Mr. Obi who is highly educated and a little arrogant about his ideals.
  • Setting- The story is set in rural Africa, where it is common to have old fashioned of even superstitious beliefs.
  • Symbol- is illustrated by the path that signifies how traditions play an important role in the villagers lives. For Mr. Obi, the path symbolizes what needs to be changed.
  • Irony- is illustrated by the fact that Mr. Obi is hired because of his modern ideals but also gets him removed for the same reason.

The protagonist is Mr. Obi, the antagonist is the cultural values of the villagers, which is best represented by the priest. Minor characters include Mr. Obi’s wife, the old village woman, Mr. Obi’s colleague, the inspector that writes the letter and the village women & baby that die and triggers the villagers uprising.

  • The characters are important to the story b/c it’s Mr. Obi’s narrow point of view about the cultural importance of the path that causes the “tribal war” between the school and the villagers.

The place is important to the story b/c only in an “unprogressive” part of the world would you encounter people who hold such value on the path, and be unwilling to compromise a new route to their burial grounds.

  • The time is also important b/c villagers at that time might still be untrusting of the new ways of thinking that modern education brings.
  • Time of year is important b/c it lets the reader know some time has passed. When Mr. Obi arrives at the school it’s winter time when growth is stagnant. Several months go by and we find the new gardens are in bloom with Mr. Obi making great strides towards his goals.

The main symbol in Dead Men’s Path is the path itself. The path represents beliefs and traditions that the villagers follow.

  • The villagers believe that the path is the link to new life and also their connection to their past.
  • To Mr. Obi the path represents the “backward” beliefs that he hope the school will abolish.
  • Another symbol can include the old village woman at the beginning of the story who to Mr. Obi insults the essence of modernization encapulated in his school.
  • The symbols represent the clash of values/traditions both Mr. Obi and the villagers hold.

The irony is important to the story b/c it illustrates the central theme of respecting long held traditions. Irony also provides a style for the authors writing and give the story a circular movement to the plot and reinforces the theme.

  • The irony of the story is that Mr. Obi is hired as headmaster because of his modern ideas to implement change for this unprogressive school. His arrogance and lack of sensitivity for the villagers traditions lead to him being dismissed as headmaster. So in essence he’s fired b/c of his modern beliefs.