Appropriating Writing in Chinua Achebe’s Arrow of God


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.

If the inline PDF is not rendering correctly, you can download the PDF file here.

  • Achebe, Chinua. Arrow of God. Oxford: Heinemann, 1964. Print.

  • Achebe, Chinua. Things Fall Apart. Oxford: Heinemann, 1958. Print.

  • Achebe, Chinua. No Longer at Ease. Edinburgh: Heinemann, 1960. Print.

  • Achebe, Chinua. The Education of a British Protected Child. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2009. Print.

  • Ashcroft, Bill, Gareth Griffiths and Helen Tiffin. The Empire Writes Back. 2nd Ed. New York: Routledge, 1989. Print.

  • Bhabha, Homi. The Location of Culture. New York: Rutledge, 1994. Print.

  • Cirlot, J. E. A Dictionary of Symbols. New York: Dover, 2002. Print.

  • Davidson, Basil. The Black Man’s Burden: Africa and the Curse of the Nation State. Suffolk: James Currey, 1992. Print.

  • Derrida, Jacques. On Grammatology. Trans. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak. Baltimore: Baltimore University Press, 1997. Print.

  • Greenblatt, Stephen. Marvelous Possessions: The Wonder of the New World. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991. Print.

  • Killam, Douglas and Ruth Rowe (Eds.). The Companion to African Literature. Oxford: James Currey, 2000. Print.

  • Marx, John. “Postcolonial Literature and the Western Literary Canon.” The Cambridge Companion to Postcolonial Studies. Ed. Neil Lazarus. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004. 83-96. Print.

  • Ong, Walter J. Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word. London: Methuen, 1982. Print.


Journal + Issues