AD's English Literature : Clara, the Osu, Caught in Taboo Igbo Cultural Traditions in No Longer at Ease

Clara, the Osu, Caught in Taboo Igbo Cultural Traditions in No Longer at Ease



Chinua Achebe’s second novel No Longer At Ease, which is a study of post independent Nigeria and its expectations and failures, however, reveals Achebe’s increasing preoccupation with women studies. The heroine of the story, Clara’s position in the story is not luminary or peripheral. Her story is intricately interwoven into Obi Okonkwo’s experience and a relatively positive strength of character is revealed in her. One observes some measure of self-esteem, which is a preamble to self-definition in Clara who is an osu. Achebe also consider Igbo cultural traditions that make some groups of people, or some individuals, "taboo" because it's forbidden in Igbo culture to marry an osu, since the osu class is dedicated to a particular god because of religious, cultural, socioeconomic, racial, or other reasons. Now the question raised if is it a necessary part of human social systems or is it always wrong?
The reality that has been dealt in Achebe’s story is that Clara and her family is taboo. If Obi who is a British graduate marries her and has children, what will happen to those children, socially and culturally? Obi may feel that the time is ripe to end certain cultural customs, but he has failed to understand how some traditions are so important to people that they cannot change overnight. Clara is a practical girl, not to mention smart and hard working. Though she is Igbo, she is educated in the Western tradition and lives a modern lifestyle. Clara was right when she first told Obi that he didn't really love her and she would regret giving in to his flattery. Soon we discover she has a secret. Her secret is culturally specific – something only another Igbo would care about. She is an osu, part of a social caste forbidden to marry because one of her ancestors was dedicated to a god. They are considered taboo. As Isaac points out, marrying her would be like marrying a leper. Once Clara admits this to Obi, she tries to break up with him. She says it's not fair to keep the relationship going; she doesn't want to come between Obi and his family.

 Clara knows that Obi's parents will never accept her as a daughter-in-law, even though they are Christians and should, theoretically, disagree with a tradition like this. However, Clara seems to lack the disdain Obi has for traditional culture. Every fault Obi has, Clara counter-balances.  Clara's parents are Christians, too, but that hasn't changed their status as osus or the fact that they are outcasts, even in the church. Clara keeps trying to break up with Obi because of this fact, and Obi keeps stubbornly refusing to be broken up with, the relationship's demise is clear, at least to her. Clara understands what Obi isn't saying – that his parents will never accept their relationship. She breaks up with him. It was, however, discovered that she's pregnant. At the abortion doctor's office, the doctor asks Obi why he doesn't marry Clara. She's just sorry, in the end, that she didn't do something about it before she ended up pregnant. That is what makes her bitter. Clara says she has no interest in marrying Obi. Clara's abortion turns septic and she is hospitalized. Though Clara was educated in England, and probably wonders about the justice of her taboo status, she never voices those thoughts aloud. Instead, it's clear that she understands how deeply these traditions run. Clara sees the end is near. Achebe’s account of Clara makes a penchant voice against such practices of osu but at the same time trough deep contemplative moods.
On the other hand, No Longer At Ease, Achebe shows how in corrupt Nigeria women offer their bodies, in return for favors and services. It is evident in scholarship interview where a girl offers her body to earn the scholarship. 

 Ardhendu De


Arthur, Gakwandi, Shatto. Novel and Contemporary Experience in Africa. Holmes & Meier Publishers Inc, 1981.
E. Modupe Kolawole, Mary. “Mutiple Inscriptions and the Location of Women in China Achebe’s Novel”. Chinua Achebe An Anthology of Recent Criticism. Ed. Mala Pandurang, Pencraft International, Delhi, 2010.
Sircar, Rupali. “Masculinity, Femininity and Androgyny: Igbo Culture in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart”. Chinua Achebe An Anthology of Recent Criticism. Ed. Mala Pandurang, Pencraft International, Delhi, 2010.
Pandurang,   Mala. “Chinua Achebe and the ‘African Experience’: A Socio-Literary Perspective”. Chinua Achebe An Anthology of Recent Criticism. Ed. Mala Pandurang, Pencraft International, Delhi, 2010.
Booth,   James. Writers and Politics in Nigeria. Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1981.

1 comment:

  1. Kindly provide some suggestion on Set exam and books to be followed for that.

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