Straddling the Fence
One obtains a better understanding of the short story “Dead Men’s Path”, after reading other works from famous Nigerian author Chinua Achebe — notably “The Education of a British-Protected Child” and “Colonialist Criticism”. These two works help us further our comprehension of the story by distinguishing the middle ground of a disagreement. The priest bears a resemblance to Achebe in his essay from 1975, through his openness to change, while maintaining some aspects of the cultures that were set in place before. Also, in the piece he wrote in 2009, he speaks about middle ground found between the colonizers and the natives, which in turn helps us grasp the motivations of the priest.
In “The Education of a British-Protected Child”, Achebe mentions ‘middle ground’ several times, but there is a passage that stands out, when he says “I am also fascinated by that middle ground I spoke about, where the human spirit resists an abridgement of its humanity.” (Achebe 2009: 23) This shows that some were resisting to the colonization and straddled on the fence. These people are similar to the priest in “Dead Men’s Path” in that he does not oppose to what is happening around him, though he does not agree with its entirety. The priest knows that there are new customs, and post-traditional is taking over, but his ambition is to preserve some of his fathers cultures. The priest gives in to the coming of modernity, “What you say may be true,” (Achebe 2008: 267), but simply wants to follow his beliefs and stay true to his forefathers.
Chinua Achebe straddled the fence, and carries a great resemblance to the priest. He says “no matter how much the native was exposed to European influences he could never truly absorb them.” (Achebe 1975: 7) He is explaining that even though many natives were acquiring a European education, and in a sense becoming Europeanized, they would remain natives when “the crucial hour came to reveal his true face.”...