Character and Theme Analysis of No Longer at Ease

You may want to read the summary of the book No Longer at Ease, before continuing with the character and theme analysis of No Longer at Ease. This book is a triology with Things Fall Apart and A Man of the People – by Chinua Achebe.


No Longer at Ease

Character and Theme Analysis of No Longer at Ease


Obi Okonkwo

Born Obiajulu in the novel, Obi is the protagonist of the story. He is the son of Isaac Okonkwo and a grandchild of Okonkwo – the protagonist in Things Fall Apart. The story begins with Obi’s prosecution for his role in a sting operation after returning from his study in an oversea country. 

Obi went to study law at a college in the UK on a scholarship by Umuofia Progressive — a course he dumped for English. The union had hoped he would come back to represent them in the British Nigeria colonial legal system. After he spent four years studying a course different from the one expected of him, he returned to Nigeria, where he got a job to work for the Scholarship Board. 

At his new job, he was confronted with corruption eating up Nigeria as soon as he returned from the Uk. Everyone, from the British colonizers to an average Nigerian, seemed to see bribery as a short route to get a favor. The idealist obi hoped Nigeria would one day get over corruption through well-educated people like him. However, he found himself in a condition stifling for him, which made him indulge in bribery. Unfortunately, Obi was caught in the act as he warmed up to stop accepting bribery.

Obi was in love with Clara Okeke, whom he met at a dance show in the UK. However, he did not approach her on their first encounter but coincidentally met her on a ship back home. His parents learning Clara is an osu opposed his relationship with Clara, even though Obi insisted on the marriage going through. Obi’s mother threatened to commit suicide if he married an osu.

When Obi told Clara his parents’ stand on their relationship, Clara decided to end the relationship but got hooked up with him after learning she was pregnant for him. Obi persuades her to abort the pregnancy, despite abortion being illegal in Nigeria. Clara agreed. The abortion was in a private clinic at a high cost, but the process got complicated, further affecting Obi’s life.

Obi found himself uneasy due to his abroad education. He loathed how he spoke English and his dressing sense. He was chastised for speaking casual English instead of more advanced English, which will show off that he indeed studied in an English-speaking country.

Obi saw himself as hopeless after facing financial ruin caused by Clara’s abortion and the entitlement mentality of his siblings. The Umuofia Progressive Union were mounting more pressure on him to repay his scholarship loan, especially when they learned that he was planning to marry an osu. 

His condition worsened after the death of his mother, making him decide to stabilize himself financially by indulging in bribery. He collected bribes, although he did it with a sense of guilt, but came to see it as a way of the world. He got used to accepting bribes till he got caught.


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Isaac Okonkwo

 He is Obi’s father. He estranged himself from his father because he wanted to follow the white man’s religion. Despite how much he detested the African traditions, he still opposed Obi’s plan to marry an osu.

Clara Okeke

She also studied abroad at the same university as Obi. Obi first met her at a dance show in the UK university but lacked the guts to approach her till they met again on a ship on their way back home. Clara was not an intellectual, although she graduated as a nurse. She is a hard-working woman. She often supported Obi financially. Clara’s relationship with Obi was pushed to the brink because of her osu lineage. An osu is an outcast in Igbo culture, meaning Obi cannot marry her, leading to the collapse of their relationship.

Joseph Okeke

He was Obi’s friend who worked in the Survey Department. Joseph, like Obi, is from South East Nigeria. He sheltered Obi for a while in his Lagos apartment when he first returned from the UK. Joseph frequently offered some pieces of advice to Obi. He reported Obi to Umuofia Progressive Union over his relationship with an osu (Clara) because he believed it was socially wrong to marry an Osu.

Hannah Okonkwo

She is Obi’s mother and also a Christian. She had a lot of influence on Obi, her son, with whom she had a blood covenant. When she learned Obi was dating an osu, she threatened to kill herself if Obi dared marry Clara.

Mr. Green

He is a British colonizer who held a high position in the Nigerian Civil Service. He was very critical of Africans, whom he saw as corrupt and primitive. However, Obi made him know the bribe tradition was a European thing. Mr.Green asserts that colonialism brought civilization and education to Africa, so when he learned Nigeria was about to get independence, he threatened to resign his position. Mr. Green is a colonial symbol in the novel, although the book doesn’t portray him as an all-time white supremacist. The story, at a point, brought him out as a benevolent European who pays the school fees of his steward sons.


Themes in No Longer At Ease


Corruption became prevalent in Nigeria’s Civil Service right from 1950 and benefited everyone, including the whites. Mr.Green often accused Africans of being inherently corrupt, something Obi challenged as he hinted it was among the colonial vestiges in Africa. Even Obi, who initially wished to abolish corruption by replacing the aged people in the system, ended up indulging in bribery. Obi was tempted to accept a bribe several times; he declined it, although he eventually resorted to it for financial healing.


No Longer At Ease is set towards the end of British rule in Nigeria, which made Achebe embroid colonial symbols into his work. Mr. Green, who Achebe depicts as a beneficiary of colonialism in the novel, represented colonialism.

Identity Crisis

Obi was born into a communal village where loyalty and tradition are valued. However, Obi detested his people’s old ways of life because of the education he acquired abroad. He decided to marry an osu against his people’s will and rejected bribery. However, he succumbed to his family’s pressure not to marry an osu and accepted bribery against his initial will, making him contradict himself. Obi lacks the morals to stand up for himself.


Education occupies an important position in the novel. Obi went to study abroad because he was believed to be able to stand for the village in times of trouble after his education. People adored him due to his education. These could be seen when he returned to Umuofia after his study abroad. His people welcomed him with a reception by UPU. People expected certain traits from him. Obi’s education makes him uneasy about himself. It had set him apart from his people’s communal and traditional life. When he got caught for his involvement in the string operation, people were shocked and asked why someone with such educational qualifications would indulge in such a crime.



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