Year of Publication: 1964
Arrow of God, republished by Anchor in 1989, is Achebe’s third novel following after Things Fall Apart and No Longer at Ease. The first paragraph in the novel starts thus:
‘This is the third nightfall since he began to look for signs of the new moon. He knew it would come today but he always began his watch three days early because he must not take a risk. In this season of the year his task was not too difficult; he did not have to peer and search the sky as he might do when the rains came. Then the new moon sometimes hid itself for days behind rain clouds so that when it finally came out it was already halfgrown. And while it played its game the Chief Priest sat up every evening waiting.’
One might wonder who is the “he” being referred to, and, indeed, the novel centers around this person called Ezeulu, who is the chief priest of the god of Ulu – the same god worshipped in the six other villages of Umuaro. Arrow of God tells the story of this man, Ezeulu who suffers dearly at the hands of colonialism.
At the start of the book, Ezeulu and his people (the people of Umuaro) are preparing for fight with Okperi, a village close by. In the heat of the conflict, a white man intervenes and so things are brought to order.
The white man brings with him into the village of Umuaro a Christian religion and at the same time gradually establishes an administration. Many of the villagers lose their own faith in Ezeulu and instead run to embrace what the white man has brought into their village. But how was the white man able to succeed in the land of Umuaro?
This is a good read. It is populated with many proverbs which I enjoyed. I liked the way Achebe contrasted the traditional African forms with those of the West. Ezeulu’s characterization suits the book’s title, specifically the way he compares himself to an arrow in their god’s bow. This is a must read book. Highly recommended!