“Chike’s School Days” and “Two Sisters”

In “Chike’s School Days”, I believe language, education and upbringing are major themes when one delves into the significance of this piece. From the very start of the story, the reader understands that Chike was the first son born into a family of daughters. It is because of this reason that he was given the name “Obiajulu”, one of three names given at his baptism that means he was either the only child or the only son. It is also important to note that he was raised in the manner of a white man which is interesting being he is Nigerian. However, what is more interesting is the way in which he views his own kind now as he was raised to shun old Nigerian religious and cultural practices. He even goes as far as saying that “we don’t eat heathen food” (pg. 828), as his friends mother offered him something to eat. This resulted in an outrage, as the mother could not believe that this young child had similarities to that of an old white colonist. It is also fascinating to note that his father married a woman of the lowest class in Nigeria. However, as the story continues, Chike finds a love for literature and English words fascinate him even though he doesn’t know what most of them mean. Chike studies the dictionary and quickly picks up on elaborate words such as “periwinkle” (pg. 829) Furthermore, I believe the author moves back and forth in time to show the beauty of his native language as he blends it with the English language. At the end, Chike fantasizes with a song he came up with consisting of random long words. I believe he uses the English language to find an escape from his world into something that relates to him more.

In “Two Sisters” I believe there is a contrast in the way in which the two sisters behave. Mercy is unmarried and materialistic and gets the things she wants from dating older men. However, her sister Connie is married and disapproves with this lifestyle. “They are selfish.” “No, it’s just that women allow them to behave the way they do instead of seizing some freedom themselves” (pg. 997). This shows that Mercy has no problem with this behaviour and a question is raised whether it is ok to use someone in order to get something, even if they are being used themselves. I also believe that there is a fine line between getting manipulated and being the manipulator in this context as they could both be married and know their husband is having affair or date an older man in order to get what they want.

3 thoughts on ““Chike’s School Days” and “Two Sisters”

  1. I definitely agree with you how Chinua Achebe provides the boy with three different names, which each is to demonstrate a different culture, or as you mentioned, upbringing, language and education. The author himself grew up in Ogidi, a town of Eastern Nigeria, in which two different cultures coexisted. One traditional with African social norms, and one with the British colonial authority. You mentioned in your post the part from the novel which explains that Chike was raised in the manner of a white man in an African society. Perhaps Achebe’s own upbringing inspired him to this story, in which we can observe the conflict of cultures. Overall, I think you nicely summed up “Chike’s School Days” based on your close reading and delivered the main points of the novel.

  2. I agree that there is a contrast in the way in which the two sisters behave. Connie is a representative of that kind of traditional woman, who loves and obeys one man(her husband), and who values highly of family. While Mercy is the other kind of women, as she says by herself,”I am sure that I can love several men at the same time.”(997) She also wants to get material profit from those powerful men. But it is interesting that in “Two Sisters”, even Connie, a woman holds traditional sexual value, cares about the country’s policy. The conversation between she and James after the coup reflects that she knows the politic situation. I think it is because that she is well-educated and she is a teacher, thus actually Connie is not very traditional women who just cares about the family, to some extent she has a open mind. As for Mercy, definitely she is a modern girl, she breaks the sexual rule. However, though she has a job as a typist, she always depends on powerful men. On this point she is not that modernism. Even suffering the coup, she still wants to profit from the relationship with another big man. Mercy tries to pursuit sexual liberation, but she fails.

  3. I hadn’t even thought about the manipulation part until I read your blog. That’s a great point. But in this story, does it really matter who’s the one getting manipulated? The older guy gets to have a beautiful girlfriend, and the girl is getting materialistic things that she want. As pointed out by Connie’s husband, James, he would’ve done the same if the roles were reversed. I believe it’s human nature to do whatever it takes to get what you want. Connie, Mercy’s sister, looking down upon Mercy’s action represents society’s judgmental views.

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