Throughout the years, the culture of various populations has changed many times, in many ways, causing negative reactions from some and acceptance from others. Cultures are set in a way that even if changes occur, they keep the fundamental value of the previous culture and add a touch of new beliefs from a new era. In Chinua Achebe’s “Dead Men’s Path”, Michael Obi, the headmaster of a progressive school, has different religious beliefs from the village he lives in.
Obi wishes to close the path leading to the village’s burial grounds, but the villagers oppose this action since it compromises their heritage and culture. One’s approach and character in imposing modernization over traditional beliefs can give rise to conflicts and could result in consequences. In “Dead Men’s Path”, Achebe uses symbols in the setting and characterization to express the theme. Firstly, there are many symbols that demonstrate culture in Achebe’s short story’s setting. The main one he uses is the path. It is a connection between the village shrine and their place of burial.Order now
In the story, the priest states to Obi: “This path was here before you were born and before your father was born. The whole life of this village depends on it. Our dead relative of the villagers depart by it and our ancestors visit us by it. It is the path of children coming in to be born”. Therefore, the path represents the heritage of the village, their traditional way of life. In addition, the demolition of one of the school buildings and the garden by the villagers indicate revolting and fighting to keep their rights, values and freedom of their culture.
The use of symbols in this short story shows the reader the consequences of opposing the beliefs of a majority and going against their will. Secondly, the author employs characterization to communicate his thesis. The protagonist of the story, Michael Obi, represents the modern traditions with narrow-minded beliefs. In an opposite way, the antagonist of the story, the priest, denotes the traditional customs and the native whose heritage is jeopardised.
Moreover, the closure of the path by the headmaster indicates the modern ways overcoming the traditional ones and conflict between different cultures and beliefs. To make the characters more representative and easier to understand for the readers, the author uses an action/reaction way of writing. For example, when an old woman hobbles right across the compound of Obi’s school, Michael is frustrated and wants to close the path. The old woman is seen as the heritage of the village and the school as a new beginning.
It would therefore mean that the new start opposes what was there before, the established roots and culture, that it does not recognize the past. Using characterization, the author demonstrates the relationship between different ways of life and expresses the problem linked to those differences. In conclusion, symbols and characterization were exploited by the author to communicate a message. Consequently, if individuals have problems with a certain culture, they must respect it even though it doesn’t correspond to their point of view. Therefore, in order to adapt, adjustments may have to be made.