Appropriating Writing in Chinua Achebe’s Arrow of God

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Abstract

This paper examines the appropriation of writing as an integral part of the colonial encounter in Achebe’s Arrow of God (1964). Achebe’s hero (Ezeulu) realizes the pitfalls of orality in the confrontation with Europeans who are equipped with writing and its accompaniments. The coming of the West is therefore welcomed as Ezeulu quickly sides with them to empower himself against the contending forces of a disintegrating society. I argue that, as the Chief Priest of Ulu, Ezeulu is aware of the flaws in the oral nature of his religious pantheon and by sending his son Oduche to learn the art of writing he appropriates the technology of writing in order to prevail against his enemies and ineluctably allows his god’s surrender to the Christian God. This absorption into a greater pantheon is facilitated through the appropriation of writing and the sacred book.

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