Arrow of God

Chinua Achebe

Heinemann 1974
A book review by Danny Yee © 2007
Ezeulu is the chief priest of Ulu, the leading deity of a group of Ibo villages. He seems secure in his position, but contact with the British colonial administration becomes the catalyst for a power struggle within the community that will unseat both him and his god. Arrow of God is a classical tragedy: Ezeulu is unlucky in facing challenges outside his experience, but his fall is also the result of his pride and his refusal to take advice from friends and family.

Arrow of God is notable for a wealth of minor characters, including Ezeulu's wives, sons, and daughters and his rivals and friends, and for its ethnographic richness, describing the ordinary life, religious rituals, and social stresses of an Ibo village; it is the story of a community as well as of an individual. Achebe inserts us into this world naturally and without any direct explanation, however, to the extent that it is the British characters who seem strange and out of place. Nor is there an idealisation of traditional life, or any simplistic anti-colonialism.

A powerful and evocative novel, Arrow of God deserves its place in the canon of Nigerian and African writing.

May 2007

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%T Arrow of God
%A Achebe, Chinua
%I Heinemann
%D 1974
%O paperback, 2nd edition
%G ISBN 0435900161
%P 230pp