Achebe’s Big Message in a Short Story

“Chike’s School Days” by Chinua Achebe is one of the shortest stories Inhave ever read. Although, I enjoyed reading it, after my first read, I was clueless as to what the purpose of this story really is because there wasn’t exactly any conflict nor a climax of any sort. After reading it again with detail, I realized that this story does so much more than tell a story of one person. Achebe managed to give so much insight about his culture implicitly. Achebe used a boy named Chike to be the eyes of the readers.

Chike also has two other names, one of them being John. This is one of those examples where Achebe says so much with such little words. Chike also having a common American name, John, showed how modernized his family was. Achebe goes on forward with more detail about the marriage between Chike’s father and mother. They both came from different backgrounds, and although Achebe pointed out that society looked down upon such an action, he managed to give us a very positive feeling about this anecdote, secretly condoning such behavior.

One thing that really stood out to me in this story was the way Chike viewed the American culture, specifically the English language. Even though, he was nowhere near fluent in English “He liked particularly the sound of English Words, even when they conveyed no meaning at all” to him (Achebe 830). This fondness with American culture is something that I can relate to. Growing up in Pakistan, I was the same way. In fact, almost everyone in my grade put the English language on a pedestal. This may seem harmless, but what I came to realize is that worshipping another culture usually leads to looking down on your own. Just like how Woolf didn’t believe men were the cause of gender inequality, but still held them responsible for it because of their instinct for superiority, I believe the same applies when Chike started to fall in love with American culture, and slowly started losing his own cultural values.

3 thoughts on “Achebe’s Big Message in a Short Story

  1. Yes, this is a short story but full of messages. I’m with your ideas presented above.

    There is another point that impresses me in this story. This family was going through transformation out from tradition, which can represent what the whole native society was undergoing. The traditional traits rooted in this family can be shown in the birth of Chide, when his parents had 5 daughters before him and finally in the state of “Obiajulu”. This native word, as one of the 3 names of Chide, means “the mind at last is at rest” and “anyone hearing this name knew at once its owner was either an only child or an only child or an only son”(827). We can interpret this name, this native, traditional word, as the expression of the traditional idea of sex preference.

    But “Chide was brought up ‘in the ways of white man’, which meant the opposite of traditional”(827). This kind of digression from tradition could even be traced back to his father’s marriage to his Osu mother into a lower caste, which was opposed by his Christian mother. Chide went to religious school but he was able to “the mysteries of white man’s learning”(829). In his school learning, the contrast between his fondness in English and his indifference in native language, which seemed an inevitable tendency that English was gonna be the ruler of the world in the 20th century even though “Caesar was no longer the ruler of the world”(329).

  2. I agree that this idolization of Western culture by Chide is representative of larger problem of Post Colonialism. It imposes Western ideals and cultures on others, in order to create a false general belief of the superiority of Western culture, which intern creates a negative internalization of inferiority in others. Also, because Chide has grown up in a multi-cultural environment, he also has a multi-cultural identity that has created an internal conflict within him, and in his environment. It is also evident that the existing cultural conflict within Chide is reflective of the one existing within his family life. Because this conflict is so ingrained within Chide due to his upbringing, it is evident that he is not consciously aware of its existence.

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